AlterNet.org: Pepe Escobar http://www.alternet.org/authors/pepe-escobar en The Amazing Inside Story of How Erdogan and His Allies Blocked a Sophisticated Coup Attempt http://www.alternet.org/world/turkey-coup-inside-story <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Erdogan called the coup &quot;a gift from God.&quot;</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_400785730.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>When Turkish President/aspiring Sultan Recep Tayyip Erdogan landed at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport early Saturday morning, he declared the attempted coup against his government a failure, and a “gift from God.”</p><p>God apparently uses Face Time. It was via that iconic iPhone footage from an undisclosed location shown live on CNN Turk by a bewildered female anchor that Erdogan managed to call his legion of followers to hit the streets, unleash People Power and defeat the military faction that had taken over state TV and proclaimed to be in charge.</p><p>So God does work in mysterious mobile ways. Erdogan’s call was heeded even by young Turks who had fiercely protested against him in Gezi Park; were tear-gassed or water-cannoned by his police; think the AKP governing party is disgusting; but would support them against a “fascist military coup.” Not to mention that virtually every mosque across Turkey relayed Erdogan’s call.</p><p>Ankara’s official version is that the coup was perpetrated by a small military faction remote-controlled by exiled-in-Pennsylvania cleric Fethullah Gulen, himself a CIA asset. As much as responsibility remains debatable, what’s clear is the coup was a Turk remix of The Three Stooges; the actual stooges in fact may have been the already detained 2nd Army Commander Gen. Adem Huduti; 3rd Army Commander Erdal Ozturk; and former Chief of Air Staff Akin Ozturk.</p><p>As over-excited former CIA ops were blaring on US networks – and they do know a thing or two about regime change — rule number one in a coup is to aim at, and isolate, the head of the snake. Yet the wily Turkish snake, in this case, was nowhere to be seen. Not to mention that no top generals sounding convincingly patriotic went on the TRT state network to fully explain the reasons for the coup.</p><p><strong>(Erdogan) love is in the air</strong></p><p>The coup plotters did aim at the intel services – whose top positions are at Istanbul’s airport, the presidential palace in Ankara and near the ministries. They used Cobra helicopters – with pilots trained in the US – against these targets. They also aimed at the army’s high command – which for the past 8 years is designated by Erdogan and is not trusted by many a mid-ranking officer.</p><p>As they occupied the Bosphorus bridges in Istanbul they seemed to be in touch with military police – which is spread out all over Turkey and have a solid esprit de corps. But in the end they did not have the numbers – and the necessary preparation. All key ministries seemed to be communicating among themselves as the plot developed, as well as the intel services. And as far as Turkish police as a whole is concerned, they are now a sort of AKP pretorian guard.</p><p>Meanwhile, Erdogan’s Gulfstream 4, flight number TK8456, took off from Bodrum’s airport at 1:43 A.M. and flew for hours over Turkey’s northwest with its transponder on, undisturbed. It was from the presidential plane, while still landed, that Erdogan had gone on Face Time, and then, on the air, managed to control the countercoup. The plane never left Turkish airspace – and was totally visible to civil and military radars. The coup plotters’ F-16s could have easily tracked and/or incinerated it. Instead they sent military choppers to bomb the presidential abode in Bodrum a long time after he had left the building.</p><p>The head of the snake must have been 100% sure that to board his plane and stay on Turkish airspace was as safe as eating a baklava. What’s even more startling is that the Gulfstream managed to land in Istanbul in absolute safety in the early hours of Saturday morning – despite the prevailing notion that the airport was occupied by the “rebels”.</p><p>In Ankara, the “rebels” used a mechanized division and two commandos. Around Istanbul there was a whole army; the 3rd command is actually integrated with NATO’s rapid reaction forces. They supplied the Leopards positioned in Istanbul’s key spots – which by the way did not open fire.</p><p>And yet the two key armies positioned in the Syrian and Iranian borders remained on “wait and see” mode. And then, at 2 A.M., the command of the also key 7th army based in Diyarbakir – in charge of fighting the PKK guerrillas – proclaimed his loyalty to Erdogan. That was the exact, crucial moment when Prime Minister Binali Yildırım announced a no-fly zone over Ankara.</p><p>That meant Erdogan controlled the skies. And the game was over. History does move in mysterious ways; the no-fly zone dreamed by Erdogan for so long over Aleppo or the Syrian-Turkish border in the end materialized over his own capital.</p><p><strong>Round up the usual suspects</strong></p><p>The US position was extremely ambiguous from the start. As the coup took over, the American embassy in Turkey called it “Turkish uprising”. Secretary of State John Kerry, in Moscow to discuss Syria, also hedged his bets. NATO was royally mute. Only when it became clear the coup was in fact smashed President Obama and the “NATO allies” officially proclaimed their “support for the democratically elected government”.</p><p>The Sultan went back to the game with a vengeance. He immediately went live on CNN Turk demanding Washington hands over Gulen even without any evidence he masterminded the coup. And that came with an inbuilt threat; “If you want to keep access to Incirlik air base you will have to give me Gulen”. It’s hard not to be reminded of recent history – when the Cheney regime in 2001 demanded the Taliban hand Osama bin Laden over to the US without offering proof he was responsible for 9/11.</p><p>So the number one eyebrow-raising possibility is a go; Erdogan’s intel services knew a coup was brewing; and the wily Sultan let it happen knowing it would fail as the plotters had very limited support. He also arguably knew – in advance — even the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), whose members Erdogan is trying to expel from parliament, would support the government in the name of democracy.</p><p>Two extra facts add to the credibility of this hypothesis. Earlier last week Erdogan signed a bill giving soldiers immunity from prosecution while taking part in domestic security ops – as in anti-PKK; that spells out improved relations between the AKP government and the army. And then Turkey’s top judicial body HSYK laid off no less than 2,745 judges after an extraordinary meeting post-coup. This can only mean the list was more than ready in advance.</p><p>The major, immediate post-coup geopolitical consequence is that Erdogan now seems to have miraculously reconquered his “strategic depth” – as former, sidelined Prime Minister Davutoglu would have it. Not only externally – after the miserable collapse of both his Middle East and Kurdish “policies” – but also internally. For all practical purposes Erdogan now controls the Executive, the Legislative and the Judiciary – and is taking no prisoners to purge the military for good. Ladies and gentlemen, the Sultan is in da house.</p><p>This means the neo-Ottoman project is still on – but now under massive tactical reorientation. The real “enemy” now is Syrian Kurds – not Russia and Israel (and not ISIS/ISIL/Daesh; but they never were in the first place). Erdogan is going after the YPG, which for him is a mere extension of the PKK. His order of the day is to prevent by all means an autonomous state entity in northeast Syria – a “Kurdistan” set up like a second Israel supported by the US. For that he needs some sort of entente cordiale with Damascus – as in insisting that Syria must preserve its territorial integrity. And that also means, of course, renewed dialogue with Russia.</p><p><strong>So what’s the CIA been up to?</strong></p><p>Needless to add Ankara and Washington are now on a certified collision course. If there is an Empire of Chaos hidden hand in the coup – no smoking gun yet — that certainly comes from the Beltway neocon/CIA axis, not the lame duck Obama administration. For the moment Erdogan’s leverage only amounts to access to Incirlik. But his paranoia is ballooning; for him Washington is doubly suspicious because they harbor Gulen and support the YPG.</p><p>Hell hath no fury as an underestimated Sultan as well. For all his recent geopolitical follies, Erdogan’s simultaneous ballet of reconnecting with Israel and Russia is eminently pragmatic. He knows he needs Russia for the Turkish Stream and to build nuclear plants;  and he needs Israeli gas to consolidate Turkey’s role as a key East-West energy crossroads.</p><p>When we learn, crucially, that Iran supported Turkey’s “brave defense of democracy”, as tweeted by Foreign Minister Zarif, it’s clear how Erdogan, in a mater of only a few weeks, reconfigured the whole regional picture. And that spells out Eurasia integration and Turkey deeply connected to the New Silk Roads – not NATO. No wonder the Beltway – for whom, overwhelmingly, Erdogan is the proverbial “erratic and unreliable ally” — is freaking out. That dream of Turkish colonels under direct CIA orders is over – at least for the foreseeable future.</p><p>So what about Europe? Yildirim already said that Turkey might reinstate the death penalty – to be applied to the coup plotters. This means, in essence, bye bye EU. And bye bye to the European Parliament approving visa-free travel for Turks visiting Europe. Erdogan after all already got what he wanted from chancellor Merkel; those 6 billion euros to contain the refugee crisis that he essentially unleashed. Merkel bet the farm on Erdogan. Now she’s talking to herself – while the Sultan is able to dial God on Face Time.</p><p><em>This piece first appeared in <a href="http://sputniknews.com/columnists/20160717/1043158581/erdogan-turkey-coup.html" target="_blank">Sputnik</a>.</em></p> <p> </p> Tue, 19 Jul 2016 12:40:00 -0700 Pepe Escobar, CounterPunch 1060411 at http://www.alternet.org World World turkey turkey coup world nato foreign policy Why $yria Is Crucial for the Energy Future of the Mideast http://www.alternet.org/world/why-yria-crucial-energy-future-mideast <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Syria goes way beyond a civil war — it’s a vicious &#039;Pipelinestan&#039; power play.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_347975243.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Syria is an energy war. With the heart of the matter featuring a vicious geopolitical competition between two proposed gas pipelines, it is the ultimate <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175050/pepe_escobar_welcome_to_pipelineistan" target="_blank">Pipelinestan</a>  war, the term I coined long ago for the 21st century imperial energy battlefields.</p><p>It all started in 2009, when Qatar proposed to Damascus the construction of a pipeline from its own North Field – contiguous with the South Pars field, which belongs to Iran – traversing Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria all the way to Turkey, to supply the EU.</p><p>Damascus, instead, chose in 2010 to privilege a competing project, the $10 billion Iran-Iraq-Syria, also know as «Islamic pipeline». The deal was formally announced in July 2011, when the Syrian tragedy was already in motion. In 2012, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed with Iran.</p><p>Until then, Syria was dismissed, geo-strategically, as not having as much oil and gas compared to the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gulf_Cooperation_Council" target="_blank">GCC</a> petrodollar club. But insiders already knew about its importance as a regional energy corridor. Later on, this was enhanced with the discovery of serious offshore oil and gas potential.</p><p>Iran for its part is an established oil and gas powerhouse. Persistent rumblings in Brussels – still unable to come up with a unified European energy policy after over 10 years – did account for barely contained excitement over the Islamic pipeline; that would be the ideal strategy to diversify from Gazprom. But Iran was under US and EU nuclear-related sanctions.</p><p>That ended up turning into a key strategic reason, at least for the Europeans, for a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear dossier; a «rehabilitated» (to the West) Iran is able to become a key source of energy to the EU.</p><p>Yet, from the point of view of Washington, a geostrategic problem lingered: how to break the Tehran-Damascus alliance. And ultimately, how to break the Tehran-Moscow alliance.</p><p>The «Assad must go» obsession in Washington is a multi-headed hydra. It includes breaking a Russia-Iran-Iraq-Syria alliance (now very much in effect as the «4+1» alliance, including Hezbollah, actively fighting all strands of Salafi Jihadism in Syria). But it also includes isolating energy coordination among them, to the benefit of the Gulf petrodollar clients/vassals linked to US energy giants.</p><p>Thus Washington’s strategy so far of injecting the proverbial Empire of Chaos logic into Syria; feeding the flames of internal chaos, a pre-planed op by the CIA, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, with the endgame being regime change in Damascus.</p><p>An Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline is unacceptable in the Beltway not only because US vassals lose, but most of all because in currency war terms it would bypass the petrodollar. Iranian gas from South Pars would be traded in an alternative basket of currencies.</p><p>Compound it with the warped notion, widely held in the Beltway, that this pipeline would mean Russia further controlling the gas flow from Iran, the Caspian Sea and Central Asia. Nonsense. Gazprom already said it would be interested in some aspects of the deal, but this is essentially an Iranian project. In fact, this pipeline would represent an alternative to Gazprom.</p><p>Still, the Obama administration’s position was always to «support» the Qatar pipeline «as a way to balance Iran» and at the same time «diversify Europe’s gas supplies away from Russia.» So both Iran and Russia were configured as «the enemy».</p><p><strong>Turkey at crossroads</strong></p><p>Qatar’s project, led by Qatar Petroleum, predictably managed to seduce assorted Europeans, taking account of vast US pressure and Qatar’s powerful lobbies in major European capitals. The pipeline would ply some of the route of a notorious <a href="http://www.commondreams.org/views/2009/10/02/jumpin-jack-verdi-its-gas-gas-gas" target="_blank">Pipelineistan opera</a>, the now defunct Nabucco, a project formerly headquartered in Vienna.</p><p>So implicitly, from the beginning, the EU was actually supporting the push towards regime change in Damascus – which so far may have cost Saudi Arabia and Qatar at least $4 billion (and counting). It was a scheme very similar to the 1980s Afghan jihad; Arabs financing/weaponizing a multinational bunch of jihadis/mercenaries, helped by a strategic go-between (Pakistan in the case of Afghanistan, Turkey in the case of Syria), but now directly fighting a secular Arab republic.</p><p>It got much rougher, of course, with the US, UK, France and Israel progressively turbo-charging all manner of covert ops privileging «moderate» rebels and otherwise, always targeting regime change.</p><p>The game now has expanded even more, with the recently discovered offshore gas wealth across the Eastern Mediterranean –  in offshore Israel, Palestine, Cyprus, Turkey, Egypt, Syria, and Lebanon. This whole area may hold as much as 1.7 billion barrels of oil and up to 122 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. And that could be a mere third of the total undiscovered fossil fuel wealth in the Levant.</p><p>From Washington’s point of view, the <a href="https://medium.com/insurge-intelligence/western-firms-plan-to-cash-in-on-syria-s-oil-and-gas-frontier-6c5fa4a72a92" target="_blank">game</a> is clear: to try to isolate Russia, Iran and a «regime-unchanged» Syria as much as possible from the new Eastern Mediterranean energy bonanza.</p><p>And that brings us to Turkey – now in the line of fire from Moscow after the downing of the Su-24.</p><p>Ankara’s ambition, actually obsession, is to position Turkey as the major energy crossroads for the whole of the EU. 1) As a transit hub for gas from Iran, Central Asia and, up to now, Russia (the Turkish  Stream gas pipeline is <a href="http://sputniknews.com/business/20151201/1031069968/russia-turkish-stream-partnership.html" target="_blank">suspended</a>, not cancelled). 2) As a hub for major gas discoveries in the Eastern Mediterranean. 3) And as a hub for gas imported from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq.</p><p>Turkey plays the role of key energy crossroads in the Qatar pipeline project. But it’s always important to remember that Qatar’s pipeline does not need to go through Syria and Turkey. It could easily cross Saudi Arabia, the Red Sea, Egypt and reach the Eastern Mediterranean.</p><p>So, in the Big Picture, from Washington’s point of view, what matters most of all, once again, is «isolating» Iran from Europe. Washington’s game is to privilege Qatar as a source, not Iran, and Turkey as the hub, for the EU to diversify from Gazprom.</p><p>This is the same logic behind the construction of the costly Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline, facilitated in Azerbaijan by Zbigniew «Grand Chessboard» Brzezinski in person.</p><p>As it stands, prospects for both pipelines are less than dismal. The Vienna peace process concerning Syria will go nowhere as long as Riyadh insists on keeping its weaponized outfits in the «non-terrorist» list, and Ankara keeps allowing free border flow of jihadis while engaging in dodgy business with stolen Syrian oil.</p><p>What’s certain is that, geo-economically, Syria goes way beyond a civil war; it’s a vicious Pipelineistan power play in a dizzying complex chessboard where the Big Prize will represent a major win in the 21st century energy wars.</p><p><em>This piece first appeared at <a href="http://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2015/12/07/syria-ultimate-pipelineistan-war.html" target="_blank">Strategic Culture Foundation</a>.</em></p> Wed, 09 Dec 2015 11:41:00 -0800 Pepe Escobar, CounterPunch 1047018 at http://www.alternet.org World Economy News & Politics World syria petroleum gasoline pipeline iran How China and Russia Are Running Rings Around Washington's Designs to Control the Planet http://www.alternet.org/world/how-china-and-russia-are-running-rings-around-washingtons-designs-control-planet <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Washington will reflect a fear of the increasing strategic depth Russia and China are developing economically.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_109053950_0.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Let’s start with the geopolitical Big Bang you know nothing about, the one that occurred just two weeks ago. Here are its results: from now on, any possible <a href="http://thehill.com/policy/defense/247864-pentagon-chief-to-allies-we-will-use-military-option-against-iran-if-necessary" target="_blank">future attack</a> on Iran threatened by the Pentagon (in conjunction with NATO) would essentially be an assault on the planning of an interlocking set of organizations -- the BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization), the EEU (Eurasian Economic Union), the AIIB (the new Chinese-founded Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank), and the NDB (the BRICS' New Development Bank) -- whose acronyms you’re unlikely to recognize either.  Still, they represent an emerging new order in Eurasia.</p><p>Tehran, Beijing, Moscow, Islamabad, and New Delhi have been actively establishing interlocking security guarantees. They have been simultaneously calling the Atlanticist bluff when it comes to the endless drumbeat of attention given to the flimsy meme of Iran’s "nuclear weapons program."  And a few days before the Vienna nuclear negotiations finally culminated in an agreement, all of this came together at a twin BRICS/SCO summit in Ufa, Russia -- a place you’ve undoubtedly never heard of and a meeting that got next to no attention in the U.S.  And yet sooner or later, these developments will ensure that the War Party in Washington and assorted neocons (as well as neoliberalcons) already breathing hard over the Iran deal will sweat bullets as their narratives about how the world works crumble.</p><p><strong>The Eurasian Silk Road</strong></p><p>With the Vienna deal, whose interminable build-up I had the <a href="http://atimes.com/category/pepe-escobar/" target="_blank">dubious pleasure</a> of following closely, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and his diplomatic team have pulled the near-impossible out of an extremely crumpled magician’s hat: an agreement that might actually end sanctions against their country from an asymmetric, largely manufactured conflict.</p><p>Think of that meeting in Ufa, the capital of Russia’s Bashkortostan, as a preamble to the long-delayed agreement in Vienna. It caught the new dynamics of the Eurasian continent and signaled the future geopolitical Big Bangness of it all. At Ufa, from July 8th to 10th, the 7th BRICS summit and the 15th Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit overlapped just as a possible Vienna deal was devouring one deadline after another.</p><p>Consider it a diplomatic masterstroke of Vladmir Putin’s Russia to have merged those two summits with an informal meeting of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). Call it a soft power declaration of war against Washington’s imperial logic, one that would highlight the breadth and depth of an evolving Sino-Russian strategic partnership. Putting all those heads of state attending each of the meetings under one roof, Moscow offered a vision of an emerging, coordinated geopolitical structure anchored in Eurasian integration. Thus, the importance of Iran: no matter what happens post-Vienna, Iran will be a vital hub/node/crossroads in Eurasia for this new structure.</p><p>If you <a href="http://mea.gov.in/Uploads/PublicationDocs/25448_Declaration_eng.pdf" target="_blank">read</a> the declaration that came out of the BRICS summit, one detail should strike you: the austerity-ridden European Union (EU) is barely mentioned. And that’s not an oversight. From the point of view of the leaders of key BRICS nations, they are offering a new approach to Eurasia, the very opposite of the <a href="http://rt.com/news/272764-brazil-rousseff-brics-result/" target="_blank">language of sanctions</a>.</p><p>Here are just a few examples of the dizzying activity that took place at Ufa, all of it ignored by the American mainstream media. In their meetings, President Putin, China's President Xi Jinping, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi worked in a practical way to <a href="http://russia-insider.com/en/news-conference-vladimir-putin-following-brics-and-shanghai-cooperative-summits/ri8665" target="_blank">advance</a> what is essentially a Chinese vision of a future Eurasia knit together by a series of interlocking “new Silk Roads.” Modi approved more Chinese investment in his country, while Xi and Modi together pledged to work to solve the joint border issues that have dogged their countries and, in at least one case, led to war.</p><p>The NDB, the BRICS’ response to the World Bank, was officially launched with $50 billion in start-up capital. Focused on funding major infrastructure projects in the BRICS nations, it is capable of accumulating as much as $400 billion in capital, according to its president, Kundapur Vaman Kamath. Later, it plans to focus on funding such ventures in other developing nations across the Global South -- all in their own currencies, which means bypassing the U.S. dollar.  Given its membership, the NDB’s money will clearly be closely linked to the new Silk Roads. As Brazilian Development Bank President Luciano Coutinho <a href="https://soundcloud.com/radiosputnik/brics2015-ndb-new-source-of-support-luciano-coutinho-bndes-president" target="_blank">stressed</a>, in the near future it may also assist European non-EU member states like Serbia and Macedonia. Think of this as the NDB’s attempt to break a Brussels monopoly on Greater Europe. Kamath even advanced the possibility of someday <a href="http://sputniknews.com/business/20150708/1024384989.html" target="_blank">aiding</a> in the reconstruction of Syria.</p><p>You won’t be surprised to learn that both the new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the NDB are headquartered in China and will work to complement each other’s efforts. At the same time, Russia’s foreign investment arm, the Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), signed a memorandum of understanding with funds from other BRICS countries and so launched an informal investment consortium in which China’s Silk Road Fund and India’s Infrastructure Development Finance Company will be key partners.</p><p><strong>Full Spectrum Transportation Dominance</strong></p><p>On the ground level, this should be thought of as part of the New Great Game in Eurasia. Its flip side is the Trans-Pacific Partnership in the Pacific and the Atlantic version of the same, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, both of which Washington is trying to advance to maintain U.S. global economic dominance. The question these conflicting plans raise is how to integrate trade and commerce across that vast region. From the Chinese and Russian perspectives, Eurasia is to be integrated via a complex network of superhighways, high-speed rail lines, ports, airports, pipelines, and fiber optic cables. By land, sea, and air, the resulting New Silk Roads are meant to create an economic version of the Pentagon’s doctrine of “Full Spectrum Dominance” -- a vision that already has Chinese corporate executives crisscrossing Eurasia sealing infrastructure deals.</p><p>For Beijing -- back to a <a href="http://www.ibtimes.com/chinas-q2-gdp-growth-stable-7-exports-housing-sales-pick-growth-investment-2008965" target="_blank">7% growth rate</a> in the second quarter of 2015 despite a recent near-panic on the country’s stock markets -- it makes perfect economic sense: as labor costs rise, production will be relocated from the country’s Eastern seaboard to its cheaper Western reaches, while the natural outlets for the production of just about everything will be those parallel and interlocking “belts” of the new Silk Roads.</p><p>Meanwhile, Russia is pushing to modernize and diversify its energy-exploitation-dependent economy. Among other things, its leaders hope that the mix of those developing Silk Roads and the tying together of the Eurasian Economic Union -- Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan -- will translate into myriad transportation and construction projects for which the country’s industrial and engineering know-how will prove crucial.</p><p>As the EEU has begun establishing free trade zones with India, Iran, Vietnam, Egypt, and Latin America’s Mercosur bloc (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Venezuela), the initial stages of this integration process already reach beyond Eurasia. Meanwhile, the SCO, which began as little more than a security forum, is expanding and moving into the field of economic cooperation.  Its countries, especially four Central Asian “stans” (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan) will rely ever more on the Chinese-driven Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the NDB. At Ufa, India and Pakistan finalized an upgrading process in which they have moved from observers to members of the SCO. This makes it an alternative G8.</p><p>In the meantime, when it comes to embattled Afghanistan, the BRICS nations and the SCO have now called upon “the armed opposition to disarm, accept the Constitution of Afghanistan, and cut ties with Al-Qaeda, ISIS, and other terrorist organizations.” Translation: within the framework of Afghan national unity, the organization would accept the Taliban as part of a future government. Their hopes, with the integration of the region in mind, would be for a future stable Afghanistan able to absorb more Chinese, Russian, Indian, and Iranian investment, and the construction -- finally! -- of a long-planned, $10 billion, 1,420-kilometer-long Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline that would benefit those energy-hungry new SCO members, Pakistan and India. (They would each receive 42% of the gas, the remaining 16% going to Afghanistan.)</p><p>Central Asia is, at the moment, geographic ground zero for the convergence of the economic urges of China, Russia, and India. It was no happenstance that, on his way to Ufa, Prime Minister Modi stopped off in Central Asia.  Like the Chinese leadership in Beijing, Moscow looks forward (as a <a href="http://www.scribd.com/doc/267511978/Toward-the-Great-Ocean-3-Creating-Central-Eurasia" target="_blank">recent document</a> puts it) to the “interpenetration and integration of the EEU and the Silk Road Economic Belt” into a “Greater Eurasia” and a “steady, developing, safe common neighborhood” for both Russia and China.</p><p>And don’t forget <a href="http://sputniknews.com/asia/20150716/1024715212.html" target="_blank">Iran</a>. In early 2016, once economic sanctions are fully lifted, it is expected to join the SCO, turning it into a G9. As its foreign minister, Javad Zarif, made clear recently to Russia's Channel 1 television, Tehran considers the two countries strategic partners. "Russia,” he said, “has been the most important participant in Iran's nuclear program and it will continue under the current agreement to be Iran's major nuclear partner." The same will, he added, be true when it comes to “oil and gas cooperation,” given the shared interest of those two energy-rich nations in “maintaining stability in global market prices."</p><p><strong>Got Corridor, Will Travel</strong></p><p>Across Eurasia, BRICS nations are moving on integration projects. A developing Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar economic corridor is a typical example. It is now being reconfigured as a multilane highway between India and China. Meanwhile, Iran and Russia are developing a transportation corridor from the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman to the Caspian Sea and the Volga River. Azerbaijan will be connected to the Caspian part of this corridor, while India is planning to use Iran’s southern ports to improve its access to Russia and Central Asia. Now, add in a maritime corridor that will stretch from the Indian city of Mumbai to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas and then on to the southern Russian city of Astrakhan. And this just scratches the surface of the planning underway.</p><p>Years ago, Vladimir Putin suggested that there could be a “Greater Europe” stretching from Lisbon, Portugal, on the Atlantic to the Russian city of Vladivostok on the Pacific. The EU, under Washington’s thumb, ignored him. Then the Chinese started dreaming about and planning new Silk Roads that would, in reverse Marco Polo fashion, extend from Shanghai to Venice (and then on to Berlin).</p><p>Thanks to a set of cross-pollinating political institutions, investment funds, development banks, financial systems, and infrastructure projects that, to date, remain largely under Washington’s radar, a free-trade Eurasian heartland is being born. It will someday link China and Russia to Europe, Southwest Asia, and even Africa. It promises to be an astounding development. Keep your eyes, if you can, on the accumulating facts on the ground, even if they are rarely covered in the American media. They represent the New Great -- emphasis on that word -- Game in Eurasia.</p><p><strong>Location, Location, Location</strong></p><p>Tehran is now deeply invested in strengthening its connections to this new Eurasia and the man to watch on this score is Ali Akbar Velayati. He is the head of Iran's Center for Strategic Research and senior foreign policy adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. Velayati <a href="http://www.khabaronline.ir/detail/367227/Politics/diplomacy" target="_blank">stresses</a> that security in Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia, and the Caucasus hinges on the further enhancement of a Beijing-Moscow-Tehran triple entente.</p><p>As he knows, geo-strategically Iran is all about location, location, location. That country offers the best access to open seas in the region apart from Russia and is the only obvious east-west/north-south crossroads for trade from the Central Asian “stans.” Little wonder then that Iran will soon be an SCO member, even as its “partnership” with Russia is certain to evolve. Its energy resources are already crucial to and considered a matter of national security for China and, in the thinking of that country’s leadership, Iran also fulfills a key role as a hub in those Silk Roads they are planning.</p><p>That growing web of literal roads, rail lines, and energy pipelines, as <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/176007/tomgram%3A_alfred_mccoy,_washington%27s_great_game_and_why_it%27s_failing_/" target="_blank"><em>TomDispatch</em></a> has <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175935/tomgram%3A_pepe_escobar,_eurasian_integration_vs._the_empire_of_chaos/" target="_blank">previously reported</a>, represents Beijing’s response to the Obama administration’s announced “pivot to Asia” and the U.S. Navy’s urge to meddle in the South China Sea. Beijing is choosing to <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/bensimpfendorfer/2015/06/15/chinas-silk-road-policy-implications/" target="_blank">project power</a> via a vast set of infrastructure projects, especially <a href="http://nextbigfuture.com/2015/06/china-high-speed-rail-roundup.html" target="_blank">high-speed rail lines</a> that will reach from its eastern seaboard deep into Eurasia. In this fashion, the Chinese-built railway from Urumqi in Xinjiang Province to Almaty in Kazakhstan will undoubtedly someday be extended to Iran and traverse that country on its way to the Persian Gulf.</p><p><strong>A New World for Pentagon Planners</strong></p><p>At the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum last month, Vladimir Putin <a href="http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/watch-live-charlie-rose-interviews-vladimir-putin/" target="_blank">told</a> PBS's Charlie Rose that Moscow and Beijing had always wanted a genuine partnership with the United States, but were spurned by Washington. Hats off, then, to the “leadership” of the Obama administration. Somehow, it has managed to bring together two former geopolitical rivals, while solidifying their pan-Eurasian grand strategy.</p><p>Even the recent deal with Iran in Vienna is unlikely -- especially given the war hawks in Congress -- to truly end Washington’s 36-year-long Great Wall of Mistrust with Iran. Instead, the odds are that Iran, freed from sanctions, will indeed be absorbed into the Sino-Russian project to integrate Eurasia, which leads us to the spectacle of Washington’s warriors, unable to act effectively, yet screaming like banshees.</p><p>NATO's supreme commander Dr. Strangelove, sorry, American General Philip Breedlove, insists that the West must <a href="http://www.militarytimes.com/story/military/pentagon/2015/03/22/nato-commander-west-must-fight-russia-in-information-war/25178383/" target="_blank">create</a> a rapid-reaction force -- online -- to counteract Russia's "false narratives.” Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter claims to be seriously <a href="http://www.dw.com/en/us-could-potential-deploy-missiles-in-europe-to-deter-russia/a-18497133" target="_blank">considering</a> unilaterally redeploying nuclear-capable missiles in Europe. The nominee to head the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Commandant Joseph Dunford, recently directly <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/joint-chiefs-chairman-nominee-says-russia-is-top-military-threat-1436463896" target="_blank">labeled</a> Russia America’s true “existential threat”; Air Force General Paul Selva, nominated to be the new vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, <a href="http://www.defenseone.com/politics/2015/07/russia-not-isis-greatest-threat-us-general/117733/" target="_blank">seconded</a> that assessment, using the same phrase and putting Russia, China and Iran, in that order, as more threatening than the Islamic State (ISIS). In the meantime, Republican presidential candidates and a bevy of congressional war hawks simply shout and fume when it comes to both the Iranian deal and the Russians.</p><p>In response to the Ukrainian situation and the “threat” of a resurgent Russia (behind which stands a resurgent China), a Washington-centric militarization of Europe is proceeding apace. NATO is now reportedly obsessed with what’s being <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/07/06/us-ukraine-crisis-nato-insight-idUSKCN0PG18E20150706" target="_blank">called</a> “strategy rethink” -- as in drawing up detailed futuristic war scenarios on European soil. As economist Michael Hudson has <a href="http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article42330.htm" target="_blank">pointed out</a>, even financial politics are becoming militarized and linked to NATO’s new Cold War 2.0.</p><p>In its latest <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/176026/.%2520Forget%2520about%2520Eurasian%2520integration.%2520For%2520the%2520Pentagon,%2520the%2520only%2520foreseeable%2520future%2520is%2520death%2520and%2520destruction%2520%25E2%2580%2593%2520be%2520it%2520asymmetrical,%2520preemptive,%2520first%2520strike,%2520Prompt%2520Global%2520Strike%2520%28PGS%29.">National Military Strategy</a>, the Pentagon suggests that the risk of an American war with another nation (as opposed to terror outfits), while low, is “growing” and <a href="http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/2015_National_Military_Strategy.pdf" target="_blank">identifies</a> four nations as “threats”: North Korea, a case apart, and predictably the three nations that form the new Eurasian core: Russia, China, and Iran. They are depicted in the document as “revisionist states,” openly defying what the Pentagon identifies as “international security and stability”; that is, the distinctly un-level playing field created by globalized, exclusionary, turbo-charged casino capitalism and Washington's brand of militarism.</p><p>The Pentagon, of course, does not do diplomacy. Seemingly unaware of the Vienna negotiations, it continued to accuse Iran of pursuing nuclear weapons. And that “military option” against Iran is <a href="http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2015/07/15/420377/US-Iran-nuclear-conclusion-nuclera-deal-Vienna-Israel-Ash-Carter" target="_blank">never</a> off the table.</p><p>So consider it the Mother of All Blockbusters to watch how the Pentagon and the war hawks in Congress will react to the post-Vienna and -- though it was barely noticed in Washington -- the post-Ufa environment, especially under a new White House tenant in 2017.</p><p>It will be a spectacle.  Count on it.  Will the next version of Washington try to make it up to “lost” Russia or send in the troops? Will it contain China or the “caliphate” of ISIS? Will it work with Iran to fight ISIS or spurn it? Will it truly pivot to Asia for good and ditch the Middle East or vice-versa? Or might it try to contain Russia, China, and Iran simultaneously or find some way to play them against each other?</p><p>In the end, whatever Washington may do, it will certainly reflect a fear of the increasing strategic depth Russia and China are developing economically, a reality now becoming visible across Eurasia. At Ufa, Putin told Xi on the record: "Combining efforts, no doubt we [Russia and China] will overcome all the problems before us."</p><p>Read “efforts” as new Silk Roads, that Eurasian Economic Union, the growing BRICS block, the expanding Shanghai Cooperation Organization, those China-based banks, and all the rest of what adds up to the beginning of a new integration of significant parts of the Eurasian land mass. As for Washington, fly like an eagle? Try instead: scream like a banshee.</p> Thu, 23 Jul 2015 07:17:00 -0700 Pepe Escobar, TomDispatch 1039776 at http://www.alternet.org World News & Politics World China russia Silk Road iran washington The U.S. Really Thinks It Has the Right to Be a Global Cop, and China Is Driving Us Bonkers http://www.alternet.org/world/us-really-thinks-it-has-right-be-global-cop-and-china-driving-us-bonkers <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The South China Sea exceptionalist adventurism could alarmingly get out of hand. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_256850224.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>If only Mad Men in real life were like Don Draper – channeling his true inner self, after many a rocky season, to finally click on “I’m OK, you’re OK.”</p><p>Instead, we have a bunch of (Pentagon) madmen provoking every major geostrategic competitor all at once.</p><p>The Masters of War at the self-described “Don’t Do Stupid Stuff” Obama administration are now announcing they’re ready to dispatch military aircraft and ships within 18 kilometers of seven artificial islands China has built up in the Spratly Islands.</p><p>Beijing’s response, via the Global Times, couldn’t be other than <a href="http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article41957.htm">There Will be War</a>; “If the United States’ bottom line is that China has to halt its activities, then a U.S.-China war is inevitable in the South China Sea … The intensity of the conflict will be higher than what people usually think of as ‘friction’.”</p><p>According to Beijing, two lighthouses on Huayang Reef and Chigua Reef — sites of reclamation works — were built “to improve navigation safety in the South China Sea.”</p><p>There’s no evidence China will cease its island-building work even with U.S. warships hangin’ out in the naval hood. Will the U.S. Navy go heavy metal and unleash “friction” to prevent civilian Chinese vessels from moving around? Does the U.S. Navy expect Beijing to just roll over and collapse?</p><p>What the Global Times implies is that China will definitely strike back if the Americans come within 18 kilometers of the islands.</p><p>Beijing already has electronically jammed Global Hawk long-range surveillance drones spying on the Nansha Islands. And Beijing is contemplating setting up an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the South China Sea once the work on the seven artificial islands is completed.</p><p>This South China Sea exceptionalist adventurism could alarmingly get out of hand. Couple it with the “patrolling” of the Western Pacific – as the U.S. and Australia are about to be joined by re-militarizing <a href="http://sputniknews.com/asia/20150526/1022583915.html">Japan</a> in their regular bi-annual war games. The result is a Shangri-La Dialogue – the regional security summit held every year in Singapore, starting this Friday — even hotter than usual. Assorted agent provocateurs better not mess with Admiral Sun Jianguo, deputy chief of the People’s Liberation Army’s General Staff, who will be the guest star of the show.</p><p><strong>All About the Maritime Silk Road</strong></p><p>The latest escalation happens just as Beijing releases it new Military White Paper outlining in detail a new defensive strategy — which is now, for all practical purposes, defensive/offensive in Full Spectrum AirSeaLandCyber Space mode (the full text is included <a href="http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2015-05/26/c_134272293.htm">here</a>). Pentagon planners, eat your collective hearts out; the “pivoting to Asia” is about to meet its match.</p><p>Among the highlights, we now know China “will not attack unless we are attacked, but we will surely counterattack if attacked” – which is a blueprint for what may happen next in the South China Sea.</p><p>Beijing will be focused on “winning informationized local wars” (a whole lotta electronic jammin’ goin’ on).</p><p>And the PLA Navy will gradually shift its focus from “offshore waters defense” to a mix of “offshore waters defense and open seas protection.” Welcome to the (China) sea to shining sea doctrine.</p><p>Zhang Yuguo, senior colonel with the general staff department of the PLA, clearly enjoyed himself at his press conference when he stressed, “Some countries adopt preemptive strategies, emphasizing preventive intervention and taking initiative in attack. Ours is totally different.” And then came the Sun Tzu-style clincher; “Being ‘active’ is only a kind of means and ‘defense’ is our fundamental purpose.”</p><p>For those who insist in not getting the message, the white paper is the graphic proof China is now positioning itself as an aspiring great sea power.</p><p>It’s genetic, really — as China displayed the world’s greatest naval fleet at least two centuries before Christopher Columbus, duly employed by the Ming dynasty to explore Asian, Indonesian archipelago, African and Middle Eastern shorelines.</p><p>And guess what they were up to then; “win-win” trade/commerce, allied with cultural interchange. Make business, not war. Centuries later, it’s all remixed in the New Silk Road(s), or One Belt, One Road project.</p><p><strong>And Don’t Forget Urfa</strong></p><p>Beijing’s strategy for the South China Sea has always been clear. Everyone – no discrimination — will have right of passage. All disputes – from oil and gas exploration to fishing rights — are to be solved bilaterally within the cadre of ASEAN. And the whole process has absolutely nothing to do with Washington.</p><p>The U.S. government insists the China <a href="http://www.brookings.edu/research/opinions/2014/02/06-us-china-nine-dash-line-bader">nine-dash-line</a> does not comply with international law. That’s risible; the line was actually dreamed up by the Chinese nationalists of the Kuomintang two years before the birth of the People’s Republic of China in 1949.</p><p>Washington argues that implementation of the nine-dash-line will allow China to control navigation in the South China Sea. Once again, Beijing does not want control, but more business, which is already a fact, as 80% of commercial traffic is by Chinese vessels.</p><p>There’s no way Beijing will back down from bilateral negotiations inside ASEAN – as the South China Sea is a key element of the Maritime Silk Road. What Beijing wants is “win-win” deals with everyone, from Vietnam to Philippines, especially in terms of exploring all that submerged energy wealth.</p><p>As for Washington — as it is seen from Beijing – the paramount obsession is to remain the naval hegemon everywhere from the Western Pacific to the Straits of Malacca and the Indian Ocean.</p><p>Cue to the white paper reminding everyone and his neighbor that the South China Sea is not an American lake, as much as the East China Sea and the Yellow Sea are not Japanese-American lakes, and the Indian Ocean is not an American Ocean.</p><p>There’s no contest. All these crucial developments were studied in detail early this week at the 11th round of the China-Russia strategic consultation in Moscow – when Chinese State Councillor Yang Jiechi, a very active, policy-making second foreign minister, sat face-to-face with Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev.</p><p>As the Pentagon huffs and puffs, Beijing releases its no-nonsense military doctrine; the Russians and Chinese finesse their strategic partnership; and they get their act together for the crucial, upcoming Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Urfa this summer.</p><p>Expect the bunch of madmen to go bonkers. Oh yes, no more romantic sea cruises from now on.</p><p><em>This piece first appeared at <a href="http://atimes.com/2015/05/patrolling-the-hood-from-china-sea-to-shining-sea/" target="_blank">Asia Times</a>.</em></p><p> </p> Fri, 29 May 2015 09:20:00 -0700 Pepe Escobar, Asia Times 1037071 at http://www.alternet.org World News & Politics World Silk Road China pentagon South China Sea U.S. Is Waking Up to a New World Order, Not of Its Making http://www.alternet.org/world/us-waking-new-world-order-not-its-making <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Welcome to the New (Silk) World Order.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_136243484.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>The real Masters of the Universe in the U.S. are no weathermen, but arguably they’re starting to feel which way the wind is blowing.<br /><br />History may signal it all started with this week’s trip to Sochi, led by their paperboy, Secretary of State John Kerry, who met with Foreign Minister Lavrov and then with President Putin.<br /><br />Arguably, a visual reminder clicked the bells for the real Masters of the Universe; the PLA marching in Red Square on Victory Day side by side with the Russian military. Even under the Stalin-Mao alliance Chinese troops did not march in Red Square.<br /><br />As a screamer, that rivals the Russian S-500 missile systems. Adults in the Beltway may have done the math and concluded Moscow and Beijing may be on the verge of signing secret military protocols as in the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. The new game of musical chairs is surely bound to leave Eurasian-obsessed Dr. Zbig “Grand Chessboard” Brzezinski apoplectic.<br /><br />And suddenly, instead of relentless demonization and NATO spewing out “Russian aggression!” every ten seconds, we have Kerry saying that respecting Minsk-2 is the only way out in Ukraine, and that he would strongly caution vassal Poroshenko against his bragging on bombing Donetsk airport and environs back into Ukrainian “democracy”.<br /><br />The ever level-headed Lavrov, for his part, described the meeting with Kerry as “wonderful,” and Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov described the new U.S.-Russia entente as “extremely positive”.<br /><br />So now the self-described “Don’t Do Stupid Stuff” Obama administration, at least apparently, seems to finally understand that this “isolating Russia” business is over – and that Moscow simply won’t back down from two red lines; no Ukraine in NATO, and no chance of popular republics of Donetsk and Lugansk being smashed, by Kiev, NATO or anybody else.<br /><br />Thus what was really discussed – but not leaked – out of Sochi is how the Obama administration can get some sort of face-saving exit out of the Russian western borderland geopolitical mess it invited on itself in the first place.<br /><br /><strong>About Those Missiles…</strong><br /><br />Ukraine is a failed state now fully converted into an IMF colony. The EU will never accept it as a member, or pay its astronomic bills. The real action, for both Washington and Moscow, is Iran. Not accidentally, the extremely dodgy Wendy Sherman — who has been the chief U.S. negotiator in the P5+1 nuclear talks — was part of Kerry’s entourage. A comprehensive deal with Iran cannot be clinched without Moscow’s essential collaboration on everything from the disposal of spent nuclear fuel to the swift end of UN sanctions.<br /><br />Iran is a key node in the Chinese-led New Silk Road(s) project. So the real Masters of the Universe must have also — finally — seen this is all about Eurasia, which, inevitably, was the real star in the May 9 Victory Day parade. After his pregnant with meaning Moscow stop — where he signed 32 separate deals — Chinese President Xi Jinping went to do deals in Kazakhstan and Belarus.<br /><br />So welcome to the New (Silk) World Order; from Beijing to Moscow on high-speed rail; from Shanghai to Almaty, Minsk and beyond; from Central Asia to Western Europe.<br /><br />By now we all know how this high-speed trade/geopolitical journey is unstoppable — spanning the Beijing-led, Moscow-supported Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the BRICs Development Bank. Central Asia, Mongolia and Afghanistan — where NATO has just lost a war — are being inexorably pulled into this trade/geopolitical orbit covering all of central, northern, and eastern Eurasia.<br /><br />What could be called Greater Asia is already shaping up — not only from Beijing to Moscow but also from business center Shanghai to gateway-to-Europe St. Petersburg. It’s the natural consequence of a complex process I have been examining for a while now — the marriage of the massive Beijing-led Silk Road Economic Belt with the Moscow-led Eurasia Economic Union (EEU). Putin described it as “a new level of partnership.”<br /><br />The real Masters of the Universe may have also noted the very close discussions between Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and the deputy chairman of the Central Military Council of China, Gen. Fan Changlong. Russia and China will conduct naval exercises in the Mediterranean Sea and the Sea of Japan and will give top priority to their common position regarding U.S. global missile defense.<br /><br />There’s the not-so-negligible matter of the Pentagon “discovering” China has up to 60 silo-based ICBMs – the CSS-4 – capable of targeting almost the whole U.S., except Florida.<br /><br />And last but not least, there’s the Russian rollout of the ultra-sophisticated S-500 defensive missile system — which will conclusively protect Russia from a U.S. Prompt Global Strike (PGS). Each S-500 missile can intercept ten ICBMs at speeds up to 15,480 miles an hour, altitudes of 115 miles and horizontal range of 2,174 miles. Moscow insists the system will only be operational in 2017. If Russia is able to rollout 10,000 S-500 missiles, they can intercept 100,000 American ICBMs by the time the U.S. has a new White House tenant.<br /><br />Once again, the real Masters of the Universe seem to have done the math. Can’t reduce Russia to ashes. Can’t win in the New (Silk) World Order. Might as well sit down and talk. But hold your (geopolitical) horses; they might still change their mind.</p> Wed, 20 May 2015 12:09:00 -0700 Pepe Escobar, Asia Times 1036640 at http://www.alternet.org World World russia nato Ukrainem New Silk Road The Growing China-Russia-Iran Strategic Alliance Has Got the Pentagon Trembling http://www.alternet.org/world/growing-china-russia-iran-strategic-alliance-has-got-pentagon-trembling <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">It signals an evolving Eurasian missile shield deployed against Pentagon/NATO ballistic plans.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_109053950.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Whatever happens with the nuclear negotiations this summer, and as much as Tehran wants cooperation and not confrontation, Iran is bound to remain — alongside Russia — a key US geostrategic target.</p><p>As much as US President Barack Obama tried to dismiss it, the Russian sale of the S-300 missile system to Iran is a monumental game-changer. Even with the added gambit of the Iranian military assuring the made in Iran Bavar 373 may be even more efficient than the S-300.</p><p>This explains why Jane’s Defense Weekly was already saying years ago that Israel could not penetrate Iranian airspace even if it managed to get there. And after the S-300s Iran inevitably will be offered the even more sophisticated S-400s, which are to be delivered to China as well.</p><p>The unspoken secret behind these game-changing proceedings actually terrifies Washington warmongers; it spells out a further frontline of Eurasian integration, in the form of an evolving Eurasian missile shield deployed against Pentagon/NATO ballistic plans.</p><p>A precious glimpse of what’s ahead was offered at the Moscow Conference on International Security (MICS) in mid-April.</p><p>Here we had the Iranian Defense Minister, Brigadier-General Hussein Dehghan, openly stating that Iran wanted BRICS members China, India, and Russia to jointly oppose NATO’s uncontrolled eastward expansion, and characterizing NATO’s for all practical purposes offensive missile shield as a threat to their collective security.</p><p>We also had Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu and Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan emphasizing their military ties are an “overriding priority”; plus Tehran and Moscow stressing they’re strategically in synch in their push towards a new multipolar order.</p><p><strong>Tearing up the New Iron Curtain</strong></p><p>Washington’s Maidan adventure has yielded not only a crystallization of a new Iron Curtain deployed from the Baltics to the Black Sea. This is NATO’s visible game. What’s not so visible is that the target is not only Russia, but also Iran and China.</p><p>The battlefield is now clearly drawn between NATO and Russia/China/Iran. So no wonder they are getting closer. Iran is an observer at the CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization) and is bound to become a member of the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) by 2016.</p><p>Russia providing S-300 systems to Iran; S-400 systems to China (with new, longer-range guided missiles); and developing the S-500 systems, which are capable of intercepting supersonic targets, for itself, all point to an ultra high-tech counterpunch. And NATO knows it.</p><p>This budding military Eurasia integration is a key subplot of the New Great Game that runs parallel to the Chinese-led New Silk Road(s) project.</p><p>As a counterpunch to encroachment, it was bound to happen; after all Beijing is confronted by US encroachment via the Asia-Pacific; Russia by encroachment via Eastern Europe; and Iran by encroachment via Southwest Asia.</p><p>Washington would also go for encroachment via Central Asia if it had the means (it doesn’t, and especially now with the New Silk Roads bound to crisscross Central Asia).</p><p>Eurasian geopolitics hinges on what happens next with Iran. Some selected Washington factions entertain the myth that Tehran may “sell out” to the US — thus ditching its complex Russia/China strategic relationships to the benefit of an expanded US reach in the Caucasus and Central Asia.</p><p>The Supreme Leader as well as President Rouhani have already made it clear that won’t happen. They know Washington trying to seduce Iran away from Russia and turn it into a client state does not mean Washington ever accepting Iran’s expanded sphere of influence in Southwest Asia and beyond.</p><p>So the multi-vector Russia-China-Iran strategic alliance is a go. Because whatever happens with the nuclear negotiations this summer, and as much as Tehran wants cooperation and not confrontation, Iran is bound to remain — alongside Russia — a key US geostrategic target.</p><p><strong>That Long and Winding Road</strong></p><p>And that brings us — inevitably — to GWOT (Global War on Terror).</p><p>The Pentagon and assorted US neo-cons remain deeply embedded in their strategy of actively promoting Sunni-Shi’ite Divide and Rule with the key objective of demonizing Iran. Yemen is just yet another graphic example.</p><p>Only fools would believe that the Houthis in Yemen could get away with mounting a power play right in front of a CIA drone-infested US military base in Djibouti.</p><p>Once again, this is all proceeding according to the Divide and Rule playbook. Washington did absolutely nothing to “protect” its Yemeni puppet regime from a Houthi offensive, while immediately afterwards providing all the necessary “leading from behind” for the House of Saud to go bonkers, killing loads of civilians — all in the name of fighting “Iranian expansion”. US corporate media, predictably, has gone completely nuts about it.</p><p>Nothing new under the sun. This was already foreseen way back in 2008 by the RAND Corporation report Unfolding the Future of the Long War.</p><p>Yes, this is the good ol’ Pentagon Long War as prosecuted against enemies, fabricated or otherwise, all across the “Muslim world”.</p><p>What RAND prescribed has become the new normal. Washington supports the petrodollar GCC racket whatever happens, always in the interest of containing “Iranian power and influence”; diverts Salafi-jihadi resources toward “targeting Iranian interests throughout the Middle East,” especially in Iraq and Lebanon, hence “cutting back… anti-Western operations”; props up al-Qaeda — and ISIS/ISIL/Daesh — GCC sponsors and “empowers” viciously anti-Shi’ite Islamists everywhere to maintain “Western dominance”.</p><p>The Long War was first formulated in the “axis of evil” era by the Highlands Forum, a relatively obscure, neo-con infested Pentagon think tank. Not accidentally the RAND Corporation is a major “partner”.</p><p>It gets even juicier when we know that notorious Long War practitioners such as current Pentagon supremo “Ash” Carter, his deputy Robert Work, and Pentagon intelligence chief Mike Vickers are now in charge of the self-described “Don’t Do Stupid Stuff” Obama administration’s military strategy.</p><p>What the Pentagon — with customary hubris — does not see is Moscow and Tehran easily identifying the power play; the US government’s hidden agenda of manipulating a “rehabilitated” Iran to sell plenty of oil and gas to the EU, thus undermining Gazprom.</p><p>Technically, this would take years to happen — if ever. Geopolitically, it’s nothing but a pipe dream. Call it, in fact, a double pipe dream.</p><p>As much as Washington will never “secure” the Middle East with Iran as a vassal state, thus enabling it to transfer key US military assets to NATO with the purpose of facing the Russian “threat”, forget about going back to 1990s Russia under disaster capitalism, when the military industrial complex had collapsed and the West was looting Russia’s natural resources at will.</p><p>The bottom line: the Pentagon barks, and the Russia/China/Iran strategic caravan goes on.</p><p><em>This piece first appeared at <a href="http://sputniknews.com/columnists/20150429/1021520970.html#ixzz3YpFM8WsR" target="_blank">Sputniknews.com</a>.</em></p><p> </p> Mon, 04 May 2015 09:06:00 -0700 Pepe Escobar, Asia Times 1035829 at http://www.alternet.org World News & Politics World nato russia China pentagon iran long war rand corporation How the Russia-China Strategic Partnership Marks a New Global Power Shift http://www.alternet.org/world/how-russia-china-strategic-partnership-marks-new-global-power-shift <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Eurasia as we knew it is dead.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_109053950.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Move over, Cold War 2.0. The real story, now and for the foreseeable future, in its myriad declinations, and of course, ruling out too many bumps in the road, is a new, integrated Eurasia forging ahead.</p><p>China’s immensely ambitious New Silk Road project will keep intersecting with the Russia-led Eurasia Economic Union (EEC). And that will be the day when the EU wakes up and finds a booming trade/commerce axis stretching from St. Petersburg to Shanghai. It’s always pertinent to remember that Vladimir Putin sold a similar, and even more encompassing, vision in Germany a few years ago – stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok.</p><p>It will take time – and troubled times. But Eurasia’s radical face lift is inexorable. This implies an exceptionalist dream – the U.S. as Eurasia hegemon, something that still looked feasible at the turn of the millennium – fast dissolving right before anyone’s eyes.</p><p><strong>Russia Pivots East, China Pivots West</strong></p><p>A few sound minds in the U.S. remain essential as they fully deconstruct the negatives, pointing to the <a href="http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article41562.htm" target="_blank">dangers</a> of Cold War 2.0. The Carnegie Moscow Center’s Dmitri Trenin, meanwhile, is more concerned with the<a href="http://russia-insider.com/en/greater-europe-greater-asia-sino-russian-entente/5619" target="_blank">positives</a>, proposing a road map for Eurasian convergence.</p><p>The Russia-China strategic partnership – from energy trade to defense and infrastructure development – will only solidify, as Russia pivots East and China pivots West. Geopolitically, this does not mean a Moscow subordinated to Beijing, but a rising symbiotic relationship, painstakingly developed in multiple stages.</p><p>The BRICs – that dirty word in Washington – already have way more global appeal, and as much influence as the outdated G-7. The BRIC New Development Bank, ready to start before the end of 2015, is a key alternative to G7-controlled mechanisms and the IMF.</p><p>The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is bound to include India and Pakistan at their upcoming summer summit in Russia, and Iran’s inclusion, post-sanctions as an official member, would be virtually a done deal by 2016. The SCO is finally blossoming as the key development, political/economic cooperation and security forum across Asia.</p><p>Putin’s “greater Europe” from Lisbon to Vladivostok – which would mean the EU + EEC – may be on hold while China turbo-charges the its New Silk Road in both its overland and maritime routes. Meanwhile, the Kremlin will concentrate on a parallel strategy – to use East Asian capital and technology to develop Siberia and the Russian Far East. The yuan is bound to become a reserve currency across Eurasia in the very near future, as the ruble and the yuan are about to rule for good in bilateral trade.</p><p><strong>The German Factor</strong></p><p>“Greater Europe” from Lisbon to Vladivostok inevitably depends on a solution to the German puzzle. German industrialists clearly see the marvels of Russia providing Germany – much more than the EU as a whole – with a privileged geopolitical and strategic channel to Asia-Pacific. However, the same does not apply as yet to German politicos. Chancellor Angela Merkel, whatever her rhetoric, keeps toeing the Washington line.</p><p>The Russian Pipelineistan strategy was already in place – via Nord Stream and South Stream – when interminable EU U-turns led Moscow to cancel South Stream and launch Turk Stream (which will, in the end, increase energy costs for the EU). The EU, in exchange, would have virtually free access to Russia’s wealth of resources, and internal market. The Ukraine disaster means the end of all these elaborate plans.</p><p>Germany is already the defacto EU conductor for this economic express train. As an export powerhouse, its only way to go is not West or South, but East. Thus, the portentous spectacle of an orchestra of salivating industrialists when Xi Jinping went to Germany in the spring of 2104. Xi proposed no less than a high-speed rail line linking the New Silk Road from Shanghai to Duisburg and Berlin.</p><p>A key point which shouldn’t be lost on Germans: a vital branch of the New Silk Road is the Trans-Siberian high-speed rail remix. So one of the yellow BRIC roads to Beijing and Shanghai boasts Moscow as a strategic pit stop.</p><p><strong>That Empire of Chaos …</strong></p><p>Beijing’s Go West strategy overland is blissfully free of hyperpower meddling – from the Trans-Siberian remix to the rail/road routes across the Central Asian “stans” all the way to Iran and Turkey. Moreover, Russia sees it as a symbiosis, considering a win-win as Central Asian stans jump simultaneously aboard the EEU and what Beijing dubs the Silk Road Economic Belt.</p><p>On other fronts, meanwhile, Beijing is very careful to not antagonize the U.S., the reigning hyperpower. See for instance this quite frank but also quite diplomatic interview to the Financial Times by Chinese Prime Minister <a href="http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/3a42d156-e288-11e4-aa1d-00144feab7de.html?siteedition=intl#axzz3XUlF98S2" target="_blank">Li Keqiang</a>.</p><p>One key aspect of the Russia-China strategic partnership is that both identify Washington’s massively incoherent foreign policy as a prime breeder of chaos – exactly as I argue in my book <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Empire-Chaos-Roving-Eye-Collection-ebook/dp/B00OYVYD3G/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1428661278&amp;sr=8-2&amp;keywords=empire+of+chaos+pepe+escobar" target="_blank">Empire of Chaos</a>.</p><p>In what applies specifically to China and Russia, it’s essentially chaos as in divide and rule. Beijing sees Washington trying to destabilize China’s periphery (Hong Kong, Tibet, Xinjiang), and actively interfering in the South China Sea disputes. Moscow sees Washington obsessed with the infinite expansion of NATO and taking no prisoners in preventing Russia’s efforts at Eurasian integration.</p><p>Thus, the certified death of Russia’s previous geopolitical strategy. No more trying to feel included in an elite Western club such as the G-8. No more strategic partnership with NATO.</p><p>Always expert at planning well in advance, Beijing also sees how Washington’s relentless demonization of not only Putin, but Russia as a whole (as in submit or else), constitute a trial run on what might be applied against China in the near future.</p><p><strong>Meet the Imponderables</strong></p><p>All bets are off on how the fateful U.S.-China-Russia triangle will evolve. Arguably, it may take the following pattern: The Americans talk loud and carry an array of sticks; the Russians are not shy to talk back while silently preparing strategically for a long, difficult haul; the Chinese follow a modified “Little Helmsman” Deng Xiaoping doctrine – talk very diplomatically while no longer keeping a low profile.</p><p>Beijing’s already savvy to what Moscow has been whispering: Exceptionalist Washington – in decline or not – will never treat Beijing as an equal or respect Chinese national interests.</p><p>In the great Imponderables chapter, bets are still accepted on whether Moscow will use this serious, triple threat crisis – sanctions, oil price war, ruble devaluation – to radically apply structural game changers and launch a new strategy of economic development. Putin’s recent <a href="http://rt.com/business/250181-president-putin-direct-line/" target="_blank">Q&amp;A</a>, although crammed with intriguing answers, still isn’t clear on this.</p><p>Other great imponderable is whether Xi, armed with soft power, charisma and lots of cash, will be able to steer, simultaneously, the tweaking of the economic model and a Go West avalanche that does not end up alienating China’s multiple potential partners in building the New Silk roads.</p><p>A final, super-imponderable is whether (or when, if ever) Brussels will decide to undertake a mutually agreed symbiosis with Russia. This, vs. its current posture of total antagonism that extends beyond geopolitical issues. Germany, under Merkel, seems to have made the choice to remain submitted to NATO, and thus, a strategic midget.</p><p>So what we have here is the makings of a Greater Asia from Shanghai to St. Petersburg – including, crucially, Tehran – instead of a Total Eurasia that extends from Lisbon to Vladivostok. Total Eurasia may be broken, at least for now. But Greater Asia is a go. There will be a tsunami of efforts by the usual suspects, to also break it up.</p><p>All this will be fascinating to watch. How will Moscow and Beijing stare down the West – politically, commercially and ideologically – without risking a war? How will they cope with so much pressure? How will they sell their strategy to great swathes of the <a href="http://rt.com/op-edge/250241-russia-china-iran-nuclear-deal/" target="_blank">Global South</a>, across multiple Asian latitudes?</p><p>One battle, though, is already won. Bye, bye Zbigniew Brzezinski. Your grand chessboard hegemonic dream is over.</p> Tue, 21 Apr 2015 14:24:00 -0700 Pepe Escobar, Asia Times 1035184 at http://www.alternet.org World World eurasia asia China russia Eurasia Economic Union New Silk Road Is China Going to Be the World's Superpower Within a Few Short Decades? http://www.alternet.org/world/china-going-be-worlds-superpower-within-few-short-decades <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">A view from Beijing of an economy still staggeringly on the rise. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_244366729.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p><em>To stay on top of important articles like these, sign up to receive the latest updates from TomDispatch.com <a href="http://tomdispatch.us2.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=6cb39ff0b1f670c349f828c73&amp;id=1e41682ade" target="_blank">here</a>.</em></p><p>BEIJING -- Seen from the Chinese capital as the Year of the Sheep starts, the malaise affecting the West seems like a mirage in a galaxy far, far away. On the other hand, the China that surrounds you looks all too solid and nothing like the embattled nation you hear about in the Western media, with its falling industrial figures, its real estate bubble, and its looming environmental disasters. Prophecies of doom notwithstanding, as the dogs of austerity and war bark madly in the distance, the Chinese caravan passes by in what President Xi Jinping calls “new normal” mode.</p><p>“Slower” economic activity still means a staggeringly impressive annual growth rate of 7% in what is now the globe’s <a href="http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2015/01/china-worlds-largest-economy" target="_blank">leading economy</a>. Internally, an immensely complex economic restructuring is underway as consumption overtakes investment as the main driver of economic development. At 46.7% of the gross domestic product (GDP), the service economy has pulled ahead of manufacturing, which stands at 44%.</p><p>Geopolitically, Russia, India, and China have just <a href="http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/china/2015-02/02/c_133965412_2.htm" target="_blank">sent</a> a powerful message westward: they are busy fine-tuning a complex trilateral strategy for setting up a network of economic corridors the Chinese <a href="http://sputniknews.com/business/20150202/1017668985.html" target="_blank">call</a> “new silk roads” across Eurasia. Beijing is also organizing a <a href="http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/weekend/2015-01/17/content_19340175.htm" target="_blank">maritime version</a> of the same, modeled on the feats of Admiral Zheng He who, in the Ming dynasty, sailed the “western seas” seven times, commanding fleets of more than 200 vessels.</p><p>Meanwhile, Moscow and Beijing are at work <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175935/tomgram%3A_pepe_escobar%2C_eurasian_integration_vs._the_empire_of_chaos/#more" target="_blank">planning</a> a new high-speed rail<a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-01-22/china-russia-plan-242-billion-rail-link-from-beijing-to-moscow" target="_blank">remix</a> of the fabled Trans-Siberian Railroad. And Beijing is committed to<a href="http://rt.com/business/223003-gaidar-forum-russia-china/" target="_blank">translating</a> its growing strategic partnership with Russia into crucial financial and economic help, if a sanctions-besieged Moscow, facing a disastrous oil price war, asks for it.</p><p>To China’s south, Afghanistan, despite the 13-year American war still being fought there, is fast moving into <a href="http://blogs.ft.com/the-exchange/2015/01/13/ahmed-rashid-chinas-power-play-in-afghanistan/" target="_blank">its economic orbit</a>, while a planned China-Myanmar <a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/this-china-myanmar-oil-pipeline-will-change-the-global-oil-market-2015-2" target="_blank">oil pipeline</a> is seen as a game-changing reconfiguration of the flow of Eurasian energy across what I’ve long called <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175050/pepe_escobar_welcome_to_pipelineistan" target="_blank">Pipelineistan</a>.</p><p>And this is just part of the frenetic action shaping what the Beijing leadership defines as the New Silk Road Economic Belt and the Maritime Silk Road of the twenty-first century. We’re talking about a <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175935/tomgram%3A_pepe_escobar,_eurasian_integration_vs._the_empire_of_chaos/" target="_blank">vision</a> of creating a potentially mind-boggling infrastructure, much of it from scratch, that will connect China to Central Asia, the Middle East, and Western Europe. Such a development will include projects that range from upgrading the ancient silk road via Central Asia to developing a Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar economic corridor; a China-Pakistan corridor through Kashmir; and a new maritime silk road that will extend from southern China all the way, in reverse Marco Polo fashion, to Venice.</p><p>Don’t think of this as the twenty-first-century Chinese equivalent of America’s post-World War II Marshall Plan for Europe, but as something far more ambitious and potentially with a far <a href="http://usa.chinadaily.com.cn/opinion/2015-01/31/content_19456628.htm" target="_blank">vaster reach</a>.</p><p><strong>China as a Mega-City</strong></p><p>If you are following this frenzy of economic planning from Beijing, you end up with a perspective not available in Europe or the U.S. Here, red-and-gold billboards promote President Xi Jinping’s much ballyhooed new tagline for the country and the century, “the Chinese Dream” (which brings to mind “the American Dream” of another era). No subway station is without them. They are a reminder of why <a href="http://nextbigfuture.com/2015/02/china-spending-to-build-40000-miles-of.html" target="_blank">40,000 miles</a> of brand new high-speed rail is considered so essential to the country’s future. After all, no less than 300 million Chinese have, in the last three decades, made a paradigm-breaking migration from the countryside to exploding urban areas in search of that dream.</p><p>Another 350 million are expected to be on the way, according to a <a href="http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/urbanization/preparing_for_urban_billion_in_china" target="_blank">McKinsey Global Institute study</a>. From 1980 to 2010, China’s urban population grew by 400 million, leaving the country with at least 700 million urban dwellers. This figure is expected to hit one billion by 2030, which means tremendous stress on cities, infrastructure, resources, and the economy as a whole, as well as <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/25/china-toxic-air-pollution-nuclear-winter-scientists" target="_blank">near-apocalyptic air pollution levels</a> in some major cities.</p><p>Already 160 Chinese cities boast populations of more than one million. (Europe has only 35.) No less than 250 Chinese cities have tripled their GDP per capita since 1990, while disposable income per capita is up by 300%.</p><p>These days, China should be thought of not in terms of individual cities but urban clusters -- groupings of cities with more than 60 million people. The Beijing-Tianjin area, for example, is actually a cluster of 28 cities. Shenzhen, the ultimate migrant megacity in the southern province of Guangdong, is now a key hub in a cluster as well. China, in fact, has more than 20 such clusters, each the size of a European country. Pretty soon, the main clusters will account for 80% of China’s GDP and 60% of its population. So the country’s high-speed rail frenzy and its head-spinning <a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/108-giant-chinese-infrastructure-projects-that-are-reshaping-the-world-2011-12?op=1" target="_blank">infrastructure projects</a> -- part of a $1.1 trillion investment in 300 public works -- are all about managing those clusters.</p><p>Not surprisingly, this process is intimately linked to what in the West is considered a notorious “housing bubble,” which in 1998 couldn’t have even existed. Until then all housing was still owned by the state. Once liberalized, that housing market sent a surging Chinese middle class into paroxysms of investment. Yet with rare exceptions, middle-class Chinese can still afford their mortgages because both rural and urban incomes have also surged.</p><p>The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is, in fact, paying careful attention to this process, allowing farmers to lease or mortgage their land, among other things, and so finance their urban migration and new housing. Since we’re talking about hundreds of millions of people, however, there are bound to be distortions in the housing market, even the creation of whole disastrous <a href="http://www.scmp.com/news/china/article/1712004/chasing-ghosts-where-chinas-next-wave-empty-new-towns" target="_blank">ghost towns</a> with associated eerie, empty malls.</p><p>The Chinese infrastructure frenzy is being financed by a pool of investments from central and local government sources, state-owned enterprises, and the private sector. The construction business, one of the country’s biggest employers, involves more than 100 million people, directly or indirectly. Real estate accounts for as much as 22% of total national investment in fixed assets and all of this is tied to the sale of consumer appliances, furnishings, and an annual turnover of 25% of China’s steel production, 70% of its cement, 70% of its plate glass, and 25% of its plastics.</p><p>So no wonder, on my recent stay in Beijing, businessmen kept assuring me that the ever-impending “popping” of the “housing bubble” is, in fact, a myth in a country where, for the average citizen, the ultimate investment is property. In addition, the vast urbanization drive ensures, as Premier Li Keqiang stressed at the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, a “long-term demand for housing.”</p><p><strong>Markets, Markets, Markets</strong></p><p>China is also modifying its manufacturing base, which increased by a multiple of 18 in the last three decades. The country still produces 80% of the world’s air conditioners, 90% of its personal computers, 75% of its solar panels, 70% of its cell phones, and 63% of its shoes. Manufacturing accounts for 44% of Chinese GDP, directly employing more than 130 million people. In addition, the country already accounts for 12.8% of global research and development, well ahead of England and most of Western Europe.</p><p>Yet the emphasis is now switching to a fast-growing domestic market, which will mean yet more major infrastructural investment, the need for an influx of further engineering talent, and a fast-developing supplier base. Globally, as China starts to face new challenges -- rising labor costs, an increasingly complicated global supply chain, and market volatility -- it is also making an aggressive push to move low-tech assembly to high-tech manufacturing. Already, the majority of Chinese exports are smartphones, engine systems, and cars (with planes on their way). In the process, a geographic shift in manufacturing is underway from the southern seaboard to Central and Western China. The city of Chengdu in the southwestern province of Sichuan, for instance, is now becoming a high-tech urban cluster as it expands around firms like Intel and HP.</p><p>So China is boldly attempting to upgrade in manufacturing terms, both internally and globally at the same time. In the past, Chinese companies have excelled in delivering the basics of life at cheap prices and acceptable quality levels. Now, many companies are fast upgrading their technology and moving up into second- and first-tier cities, while foreign firms, trying to lessen costs, are moving down to second- and third-tier cities. Meanwhile, globally, Chinese CEOs want their companies to become true multinationals in the next decade. The country already has 73 companies in the Fortune Global 500, leaving it in the number two spot behind the U.S.<br /> </p><p>In terms of Chinese advantages, keep in mind that the future of the global economy clearly lies in Asia with its record rise in middle-class incomes. In 2009, the Asia-Pacific region had just 18% of the world’s middle class; by 2030, according to the Development Center of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, that figure will rise to an astounding 66%. North America and Europe had 54% of the global middle class in 2009; in 2030, it will only be 21%.</p><p>Follow the money, and the value you get for that money, too. For instance, no less than 200,000 Chinese workers were involved in the production of the first iPhone, overseen by 8,700 Chinese industrial engineers. They were recruited in only two weeks. In the U.S., that process might have taken more than nine months. The Chinese manufacturing ecosystem is indeed fast, flexible, and smart -- and it’s backed by an ever more impressive education system. Since 1998, the percentage of GDP dedicated to education has almost tripled; the number of colleges has doubled; and in only a decade, China has built the largest higher education system in the world.</p><p><strong>Strengths and Weaknesses</strong></p><p>China holds more than $15 trillion in bank deposits, which are growing by a whopping $2 trillion a year. Foreign exchange reserves are nearing $4 trillion. A definitive study of how this torrent of funds circulates within China among projects, companies, financial institutions, and the state still does not exist. No one really knows, for instance, how many loans the Agricultural Bank of China actually makes. High finance, state capitalism, and one-party rule all mix and meld in the realm of Chinese financial services where realpolitik meets real big money.</p><p>The big four state-owned banks -- the Bank of China, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the China Construction Bank, and the Agricultural Bank of China -- have all evolved from government organizations into semi-corporate state-owned entities. They benefit handsomely both from legacy assets and government connections, or <em>guanxi</em>, and operate with a mix of commercial and government objectives in mind. They are the drivers to watch when it comes to the formidable process of reshaping the Chinese economic model.</p><p>As for China’s debt-to-GDP ratio, it’s not yet a big deal. In a list of 17 countries, it lies well below those of Japan and the U.S., according to Standard Chartered Bank, and unlike in the West, consumer credit is only a small fraction of total debt. True, the West exhibits a particular fascination with China’s shadow banking industry: wealth management products, underground finance, off-the-balance-sheet lending. But such operations only add up to around 28% of GDP, whereas, <a href="https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/gfsr/2014/02/pdf/c2.pdf" target="_blank">according to</a> the International Monetary Fund, it's a much higher percentage in the U.S.</p><p>China’s problems may turn out to come from non-economic areas where the Beijing leadership has proven far more prone to false moves. It is, for instance, on the offensive on three fronts, each of which may prove to have its own form of blowback: tightening <a href="http://www.scmp.com/news/china/article/1695524/chinese-universities-instructed-ban-textbooks-promote-western-values" target="_blank">ideological control</a> over the country under the rubric of sidelining “Western values”; tightening control over<a href="http://www.cnet.com/news/china-reinforces-its-firewall-doubles-down-on-socia-media/" target="_blank">online information</a> and social media networks, including reinforcing “the Great Firewall of China” to police the Internet; and tightening further its control over <a href="http://www.dailysabah.com/politics/2015/02/05/uighurs-fleeing-chinese-crackdowns-carve-out-a-neighborhood-in-turkish-province" target="_blank">restive ethnic minorities</a>, especially over the Uighurs in the key western province of Xinjiang.</p><p>On two of these fronts -- the “Western values” controversy and Internet control -- the leadership in Beijing might reap far more benefits, especially among the vast numbers of younger, well educated, globally connected citizens, by promoting debate, but that’s not how the hyper-centralized Chinese Communist Party machinery works.</p><p>When it comes to those minorities in Xinjiang, the essential problem may not be with the new guiding principles of President Xi’s ethnic policy. According to Beijing-based analyst Gabriele Battaglia, Xi wants to manage ethnic conflict there by applying the “three Js”: <em>jiaowang, jiaoliu, jiaorong</em> (“inter-ethnic contact,” “exchange,” and “mixage”). Yet what adds up to a push from Beijing for Han/Uighur assimilation may mean little in practice when day-to-day policy in Xinjiang is conducted by unprepared Han cadres who tend to view most Uighurs as “terrorists.”</p><p>If Beijing botches the handling of its Far West, Xinjiang won’t, as expected, become the peaceful, stable, new hub of a crucial part of the silk-road strategy. Yet it is already considered an essential communication link in Xi’s vision of Eurasian integration, as well as a crucial conduit for the massive flow of energy supplies from Central Asia and Russia. The Central Asia-China pipeline, for instance, which brings natural gas from the Turkmen-Uzbek border through Uzbekistan and southern Kazakhstan, is already adding a fourth line to Xinjiang. And one of the two newly agreed upon Russia-China pipelines will also arrive in Xinjiang.</p><p><strong>The Book of Xi</strong></p><p>The extent and complexity of China’s myriad transformations barely filter into the American media. Stories in the U.S. tend to emphasize the country’s “<a href="http://fortune.com/2015/01/29/why-china-is-nervous-about-its-role-in-the-world/?xid=yahoo_fortune" target="_blank">shrinking” economy</a> and nervousness about its future global role, the way it has “<a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/top-china-analyst-beijing-has-been-duping-the-us-since-mao-2015-2" target="_blank">duped</a>” the U.S. about its designs, and its nature as a military “<a href="http://nationalinterest.org/feature/wake-america-china-real-threat-12204" target="_blank">threat</a>” to Washington and the world.</p><p>The U.S. media has a China fever, which results in typically feverish reports that don’t take the pulse of the country or its leader. In the process, so much is missed. One prescription might be for them to read <em>The Governance of China,</em> a compilation of President Xi’s major speeches, talks, interviews, and correspondence. It’s already a three-million-copy bestseller in its Mandarin edition and offers a remarkably digestible vision of what Xi’s highly proclaimed “China Dream” will mean in the new Chinese century.</p><p><em>Xi Dada</em> (“Xi Big Bang” as he’s nicknamed here) is no post-Mao deity. He’s more like a pop phenomenon and that’s hardly surprising. In this “to get rich is glorious” remix, you couldn’t launch the superhuman task of reshaping the Chinese model by being a cold-as-a-cucumber bureaucrat. Xi has instead struck a collective nerve by stressing that the country’s governance must be based on competence, not insider trading and Party corruption, and he’s cleverly packaged the transformation he has in mind as an American-style “dream.”</p><p>Behind the pop star clearly lies a man of substance that the Western media should come to grips with. You don’t, after all, manage such an economic success story by accident. It may be particularly important to take his measure since he’s taken the measure of Washington and the West and decided that China’s fate and fortune lie elsewhere.</p><p>As a result, last November he made official an earthshaking geopolitical shift. From now on, Beijing would stop treating the U.S. or the European Union as its main strategic priority and refocus instead on China’s Asian neighbors and fellow BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and South Africa, with a special focus on Russia), also known here as the “major developing powers” (<em>kuoda fazhanzhong de guojia</em>). And just for the record, China does not consider itself a “developing country” anymore.</p><p>No wonder there’s been such a blitz of Chinese mega-deals and mega-dealings <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175845/tomgram%3A_pepe_escobar%2C_who%27s_pivoting_where_in_eurasia/" target="_blank">across Pipelineistan</a> recently. Under Xi, Beijing is fast closing the gap on Washington in terms of intellectual and economic firepower and yet its global <a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/statistics-on-chinas-investment-abroad-2015-2" target="_blank">investment offensive</a> has barely begun, <a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/chinas-silk-road-dreams-are-falling-into-place-with-a-40-billion-investment-fund-2015-2" target="_blank">new silk roads</a> included.</p><p>Singapore’s former foreign minister George Yeo sees the newly emerging world order as a solar system with two suns, the United States and China. The Obama administration’s new National Security Strategy affirms that “the United States has been and will remain a Pacific power” and states that “while there will be competition, we reject the inevitability of confrontation” with Beijing. The “major developing powers,” intrigued as they are by China’s extraordinary infrastructural push, both internally and across those New Silk Roads, wonder whether a solar system with two suns might not be a non-starter. The question then is: Which “sun” will shine on Planet Earth?  Might this, in fact, be the century of the dragon?</p><p> </p> Sun, 22 Feb 2015 15:41:00 -0800 Pepe Escobar, TomDispatch 1032271 at http://www.alternet.org World Economy World China economy energy Hebdo Massacre: These Were Trained Professionals -- Who Benefits from It? http://www.alternet.org/world/hebdo-massacre-these-were-trained-professionals-who-benefits-it <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Tough to know who exactly was behind this, but it&#039;s easier to predict who gains.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_242528050-edited.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Cui bono in Paris?</p><p>Careful planning and preparation; Kalashnikovs; rocket-propelled grenade launcher; balaclavas; sand-colored ammunition vest stuffed with spare magazines; army boots; piece of cake escape in a black Citroen. And the icing on the lethal cake; faultless Paris-based logistical support to pull that off. A former top French military commander, Frederic Gallois, has stressed the perfect application of "<a href="http://www.lexpress.fr/actualite/societe/fait-divers/attentat-a-charlie-hebdo-un-mode-operatoire-militaire_1638408.html#kAs7qLxyXqI4WvI4.01">urban guerrilla technique</a>" (where are those notorious Western counter-terrorism "experts" when one needs them?)<br /><br />They might have spoken perfect French; others said it was broken French. Anyway, what matters is that they uttered the magic word; "We're al-Qaeda." Better yet; they told a man in the street, "Tell the media that this is al-Qaeda in Yemen", which means, in American terror terminology, al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP), which had Charlie Hebdo's editor/cartoonist Stephane Charbonnier ("Charb") on a hit list duly promoted by AQAP's glossy magazine Inspire. Accusation: "Insulting the Prophet Mohammed."<br /><br />And just to make sure everyone had the perpetrators implanted on their brain, the killers also said, "Allahu Akbar"; "We have killed Charlie Hebdo"; and "We have avenged the Prophet."<br /><br />Case closed? Well, it took only a few hours for French police to identify the (usual?) suspects; French-Algerian brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi. The third man - the driver of the black Citroen, 18-year-old Hamyd Mourad - then turned himself in with an ironclad alibi. So the third man remains a cipher.<br /><br />They all wore balaclavas. The Kouachi brothers have not been captured. But the police seem to know very well who they are. Because they found an abandoned ID in the black Citroen (oh, the troubles of being a commando in a rush ...) How come they didn't know anything before the carnage?<br /><br />Right on cue, Cherif Kouachi's bio was splattered all over. He was on a global watch list. Along with six others, he was sentenced in May 2008 to 3 years in prison for "terrorism"; in fact unloading a dozen young Frenchmen via madrassas in Egypt and Syria to none other than Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the killed-by-an-American-missile former head of Al-Qaeda in Iraq and the spiritual father of Daesh/ISIS/ISIL.<br /><br />Also right on clue, a full narrative was <a href="http://www.liberation.fr/societe/2015/01/07/un-commando-organise-et-prepare_1175841">ready for mass consumption</a>. The key point; French police privileges the hypothesis of "Islamic terrorism". According to their "experts", this could be an attack "ordered from abroad and executed by jihadis coming back from Syria that have escaped us", or it could be "suburban idiots that radicalized themselves and concocted this military attack in the name of al-Qaeda."<br /><br />Scrap option two, please; this was a pro job. And staying with option one, this points right at - what else - blowback. Yes, they could be Daesh/ISIS/ISIL mercenaries trained by NATO (crucially, France included) in Turkey and/or Jordan. But it might get even false-flag nastier. They could also be former or current French special forces.<br /><br /><strong>Blast Islam, will travel</strong><br />Predictably, Islamofascism peddlers are already having a field day/week/month/year. For simpletons/trolls/hordes exhibiting an IQ worthy of sub-zoology, when in doubt, demonize Islam. It's so convenient to forget that untold millions from Pakistan's tribal areas to street markets across Iraq continue to feel pain devastating their hearts and lives as they are expendable victims of the jihadi mindset - or "Kalashnikov culture", as it is known in Pakistan - profiting the "West", directly or indirectly, for decades now. Think ritual droning of Pakistani, Yemeni, Syrian, Iraqi or Libyan civilians. Think Sadr City witnessing carnages over 10 times worse than Paris.<br /><br />What French President Francois Hollande defined as "an act of exceptional barbarism" - and it is - does not apply when the "West", France in the front line, from King Sarko to General Hollande himself, weaponizes, trains and remote-controls assorted mercenaries/beheaders from Libya to Syria. Oh yeah; killing civilians in Tripoli or Aleppo is perfectly all right. But don't do that in Paris.<br /><br />So this, in the heart of Europe, is what blowback feels like. This is what people feel in the Waziristans when a wedding party is incinerated by a Hellfire missile. In parallel, it's absolutely impossible that the oh so sophisticated Western intel network had not seen blowback coming - and was impotent to prevent it (how come the scapegoats du jour, the Kouachi brothers, were not in the gallows?)<br /><br />Of course the ultra-elaborate Western counter-terrorism expert network - so proficient at strip-teasing us all at every airport - saw it coming; but in shadow warland, portmanteau "al-Qaeda" and its myriad declinations, including "renegade" Daesh/ISIS/ISIL, are used as much as a mercenary army as a convenient domestic threat "against our freedoms".<br /><br /><strong>Who profits?</strong><br />US Think Tankland, also predictably, is busy spinning the drama of an "intra-Muslim" split which provides jihadis a lot of geopolitical space to exploit - all this sucking the Western world into a Muslim civil war. This is absolutely ridiculous. The Empire of Chaos, already during the 70s, was busy cultivating jihadi/Kalashnikov culture to fight anything from the USSR to nationalist movements all across the Global South. Divide and Rule has always been used to fan the flames "intra-Islam", from the Clinton administration getting cozy with the Taliban to the Cheney regime - helped by Persian Gulf vassals - advancing the sectarian Sunni/Shi'ite schism.<br /><br />Cui bono, then, with killing Charlie? Only those whose agenda is to demonize Islam. Not even a bunch of brainwashed fanatics would pull off the Charlie carnage to show people who accuse them of being barbarians that they are, in fact, barbarians. French intel at least has concluded that this is no underwear bomber stunt. This is a pro job. That happens to take place just a few days after France recognizes Palestinian statehood. And just a few days after General Hollande demanded the lifting of sanctions against the Russian "threat".<br /><br />The Masters of the Universe who pull the real levers of the Empire of Chaos are freaking out with the systemic chaos in the racket they so far had the illusion of controlling. Make no mistake - the Empire of Chaos will do what it can to exploit the post-Charlie environment - be it blowback or false flag.<br /><br />The Obama administration is already mobilizing the UN Security Council. The FBI is "helping" with the French investigation. And as an Italian analyst <a href="http://megachip.globalist.it/Detail_News_Display?ID=114322&amp;typeb=0&amp;L-uccisione-della-satira-sacrificale">memorably put it</a>, jihadis don't attack a vulture hedge fund; they attack a satirical rag. This is not religion; this is hardcore geopolitics. Reminds me of David Bowie: "This is not rock'n roll. This is suicide."<br /><br />The Obama administration is already mobilized to offer "protection" - Mob-style - to a Western Europe that is just, only just, starting to be diffident of the pre-fabricated Russian "threat". And just as it happens, when the Empire of Chaos mostly needs it, evil "terra" once again rears its ugly head.<br /><br />And yes, I am Charlie. Not only because they made us laugh; but because they were sacrificial lambs in a much nastier, gruesome, never-ending shadowplay.</p> Thu, 08 Jan 2015 11:07:00 -0800 Pepe Escobar, Asia Times 1029969 at http://www.alternet.org World World Charlie Hebdo attack terrorism attack cartoonists france Stephane Charbonnier al-qaida How China Is Transforming the World http://www.alternet.org/how-china-transforming-world <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">As Washington “pivots” to Asia, China does the Eurasian pirouette. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2014-12-16_at_9.50.05_am.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p><em>To stay on top of important articles like these, sign up to receive the latest updates from TomDispatch.com  <a href="http://tomdispatch.us2.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=6cb39ff0b1f670c349f828c73&amp;id=1e41682ade">here</a>.</em></p><p>November 18, 2014: it’s a day that should live forever in history. On that day, in the city of Yiwu in China’s Zhejiang province, 300 kilometers south of Shanghai, the first train carrying 82 containers of export goods weighing more than 1,000 tons left a massive warehouse complex heading for Madrid. It arrived on December 9th.</p><p>Welcome to the new trans-Eurasia choo-choo train.  At over 13,000 kilometers, it will regularly traverse the longest freight train route in the world, 40% farther than the legendary <a href="http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Central_Asia/CEN-01-171014.html" target="_blank">Trans-Siberian Railway</a>. Its cargo will cross China from East to West, then Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany, France, and finally Spain.</p><p>You may not have the faintest idea where Yiwu is, but businessmen plying their trades across Eurasia, especially from the Arab world, are already hooked on the city “<a href="http://www.wowyiwu.com/yiwu_guide/why_yiwu/" target="_blank">where amazing happens!</a>” We're talking about the largest wholesale center for small-sized consumer goods -- from clothes to toys -- possibly anywhere on Earth.</p><p><a name="more" id="more"></a></p><p>The Yiwu-Madrid route across Eurasia represents the beginning of a set of game-changing developments. It will be an efficient logistics channel of incredible length. It will represent geopolitics with a human touch, knitting together small traders and huge markets across a vast landmass. It’s already a graphic example of Eurasian integration on the go. And most of all, it’s the first building block on China’s “New Silk Road,” conceivably the project of the new century and undoubtedly the greatest trade story in the world for the next decade.</p><p>Go west, young Han. One day, if everything happens according to plan (and according to the dreams of China’s leaders), all this will be yours -- via high-speed rail, no less.  The trip from China to Europe will be a two-day affair, not the 21 days of the present moment. In fact, as that freight train left Yiwu, the D8602 bullet train was leaving Urumqi in Xinjiang Province, heading for Hami in China’s far west. That’s the <a href="http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2014-11/16/content_18923037.htm" target="_blank">first high-speed railway</a> built in Xinjiang, and more like it will be coming soon across China at what is likely to prove dizzying speed.</p><p>Today, 90% of the global container trade still travels by ocean, and that’s what Beijing plans to change.  Its embryonic, still relatively slow New Silk Road represents its first breakthrough in what is bound to be an overland trans-continental container trade revolution.</p><p>And with it will go a basket of future “win-win” deals, including lower transportation costs, the expansion of Chinese construction companies ever further into the Central Asian “stans,” as well as into Europe, an easier and faster way to move uranium and rare metals from Central Asia elsewhere, and the opening of myriad new markets harboring hundreds of millions of people.</p><p>So if Washington is intent on “pivoting to Asia,” China has its own plan in mind.  Think of it as a pirouette to Europe across Eurasia.</p><p>Defecting to the East?</p><p>The speed with which all of this is happening is staggering. Chinese President Xi Jinping launched the New Silk Road Economic Belt in Astana, Kazakhstan, in September 2013. One month later, while in Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, he announced a twenty-first-century Maritime Silk Road. Beijing defines the overall concept behind its planning as “one road and one belt,” when what it’s actually thinking about is a boggling maze of prospective roads, rail lines, sea lanes, and belts.</p><p>We’re talking about a national strategy that aims to draw on the historical aura of the ancient Silk Road, which bridged and connected civilizations, east and west, while creating the basis for a vast set of interlocked pan-Eurasian economic cooperation zones.  Already the Chinese leadership has green-lighted a <a href="http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/business/2014-04/11/content_17427384.htm" target="_blank">$40 billion</a> infrastructure fund, overseen by the China Development Bank, to build roads, high-speed rail lines, and energy pipelines in assorted Chinese provinces. The fund will sooner or later expand to cover projects in South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and parts of Europe. But Central Asia is the key immediate target.</p><p>Chinese companies will be investing in, and bidding for contracts in, dozens of countries along those planned silk roads. After three decades of development while sucking up foreign investment at breakneck speed, China’s strategy is now to let its own capital flow to its neighbors. It’s already clinched $30 billion in contracts with Kazakhstan and $15 billion with Uzbekistan. It has provided Turkmenistan with $8 billion in loans and a billion more has gone to Tajikistan.</p><p>In 2013, relations with Kyrgyzstan were upgraded to what the Chinese term “strategic level.” China is already the largest trading partner for all of them except Uzbekistan and, though the former Central Asian socialist republics of the Soviet Union are still tied to Russia’s network of energy pipelines, China is at work there, too, creating its own version of <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175306/tomgram:_pepe_escobar,_pipelineistan" target="_blank">Pipelineistan</a>, including a<a href="http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Central_Asia/KL24Ag07.html" target="_blank">new gas pipeline</a> to Turkmenistan, with more to come.</p><p>The competition among Chinese provinces for much of this business and the infrastructure that goes with it will be fierce. Xinjiang is already being reconfigured by Beijing as a key hub in its new Eurasian network. In early November 2014, Guangdong -- the “factory of the world” -- hosted the first international expo for the country’s Maritime Silk Road and representatives of no less than 42 countries attended the party.</p><p>President Xi himself is now enthusiastically selling his home province, Shaanxi, which once harbored the start of the historic Silk Road in Xian, as a twenty-first-century transportation hub. He’s made his New Silk Road pitch for it to, among others, Tajikistan, the Maldives, Sri Lanka, India, and Afghanistan.</p><p>Just like the historic Silk Road, the new one has to be thought of in the plural.  Imagine it as a future branching maze of roads, rail lines, and pipelines. A key stretch is going to run through Central Asia, Iran, and Turkey, with Istanbul as a crossroads site. Iran and Central Asia are already<a href="http://www.latimes.com/world/asia/la-fg-central-asia-rail-link-20141203-story.html" target="_blank">actively promoting</a> their own connections to it. Another key stretch will follow the Trans-Siberian Railway with Moscow as a key node. Once that trans-Siberian <a href="http://russia-insider.com/en/business_society/2014/11/23/04-21-30pm/russia_eyes_chinese_cash_150_billion_moscow-beijing_high" target="_blank">high-speed rail remix</a> is completed, travel time between Beijing and Moscow will plunge from the current six and a half days to only 33 hours. In the end, Rotterdam, Duisburg, and Berlin could all be nodes on this future “highway” and German business execs are <a href="http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/opinion/2014-10/18/content_18763827.htm" target="_blank">enthusiastic</a> about the prospect.</p><p>The Maritime Silk Road will start in Guangdong province en route to the Malacca Strait, the Indian Ocean, the Horn of Africa, the Red Sea and the Mediterranean, ending essentially in Venice, which would be poetic justice indeed.  Think of it as Marco Polo in reverse.</p><p>All of this is slated to be completed by 2025, providing China with the kind of future “soft power” that it now sorely lacks. When President Xi hails the push to “break the connectivity bottleneck” across Asia, he’s also promising Chinese credit to a wide range of countries.</p><p>Now, mix the Silk Road strategy with heightened cooperation among the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), with accelerated cooperation among the members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), with a more influential Chinese role over the 120-member Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) -- no wonder there's the perception across the Global South that, while the U.S. remains embroiled in its endless wars, the world is <a href="http://www.leap2020.eu/GEAB-N-88-is-available-Global-systemic-crisis-2015-The-world-is-defecting-to-the-East_a17007.html" target="_blank">defecting to the East</a>.</p><p>New Banks and New Dreams</p><p>The recent Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Beijing was certainly a <a href="http://russia-insider.com/en/2014/11/19/09-11-07pm/apec_was_china_triumph" target="_blank">Chinese success story</a>, but the bigger APEC story went virtually unreported in the United States.  Twenty-two Asian countries approved the creation of an <a href="http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2014/11/economist-explains-6" target="_blank">Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank</a> (AIIB) only one year after Xi initially proposed it. This is to be yet another bank, like the <a href="http://unctad.org/en/PublicationsLibrary/osgdp20141_en.pdf" target="_blank">BRICS Development Bank</a>, that will help finance projects in energy, telecommunications, and transportation.  Its initial capital will be $50 billion and China and India will be its main shareholders.</p><p>Consider its establishment a Sino-Indian response to the Asian Development Bank (ADB), founded in 1966 under the aegis of the World Bank and considered by most of the world as a stalking horse for the Washington consensus. When China and India insist that the new bank’s loans will be made on the basis of “justice, equity, and transparency,” they mean that to be in stark contrast to the ADB (which remains a U.S.-Japan affair with those two countries contributing 31% of its capital and holding 25% of its voting power) -- and a sign of a coming new order in Asia.  In addition, at a purely practical level, the ADB won’t finance the real needs of the Asian infrastructure push that the Chinese leadership is dreaming about, which is why the AIIB is going to come in so handy.</p><p>Keep in mind that China is already the top trading partner for India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.  It’s in second place when it comes to Sri Lanka and Nepal.  It’s number one again when it comes to virtually all the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), despite China’s recent well-publicized conflicts over who controls waters rich in energy deposits in the region. We’re talking here about the compelling dream of a convergence of 600 million people in Southeast Asia, 1.3 billion in China, and 1.5 billion on the Indian subcontinent.</p><p>Only three APEC members -- apart from the U.S. -- did not vote to approve the new bank: Japan, South Korea, and Australia, all under immense pressure from the Obama administration. (Indonesia <a href="http://www.indonesia-investments.com/news/todays-headlines/indonesia-signs-mou-to-join-asian-infrastructure-investment-bank/item2663" target="_blank">signed on</a> a few days late.) And Australia is finding it <a href="http://www.lowyinterpreter.org/post/2014/09/25/Australia-should-join-Asian-Infrastructure-Investment-Bank.aspx?COLLCC=3615160847&amp;" target="_blank">increasingly difficult</a> to resist the lure of what, these days, is being called “yuan diplomacy.”</p><p>In fact, whatever the overwhelming majority of Asian nations may think about China’s self-described “peaceful rise,” most are already shying away from or turning their backs on a Washington-and-NATO-dominated trade and commercial world and the set of pacts -- from the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) for Europe to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) for Asia -- that would go with it.</p><p>When Dragon Embraces Bear</p><p>Russian President Vladimir Putin had a fabulous APEC. After his country and China clinched a massive $400 billion natural gas deal in May -- around the Power of Siberia pipeline, whose construction began this year -- they added a <a href="http://rt.com/business/203679-china-russia-gas-deal/" target="_blank">second agreement</a> worth $325 billion around the Altai pipeline originating in western Siberia.</p><p>These two mega-energy deals don’t mean that Beijing will become Moscow-dependent when it comes to energy, though it’s estimated that they will provide 17% of China's natural gas needs by 2020. (Gas, however, makes up only 10% per cent of China's energy mix at present.)  But these deals signal where the wind is blowing in the heart of Eurasia. Though Chinese banks can’t replace those affected by Washington and EU sanctions against Russia, they are offering a Moscow battered by recent plummeting oil prices some relief in the form of access to Chinese credit.  </p><p>On the <a href="http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/china/2014-11/19/c_133800840.htm" target="_blank">military front</a>, Russia and China are now committed to large-scale joint military exercises, while Russia’s advanced <a href="http://russia-insider.com/en/military_business/2014/11/26/12-01-58pm/russia_will_sell_modern_s-400_air_defense_system_china" target="_blank">S-400 air defense missile system</a> will soon enough be heading for Beijing.  In addition, for the first time in the post-Cold War era, Putin recently raised the old Soviet-era doctrine of “collective security” in Asia as a possible pillar for a new Sino-Russian strategic partnership.</p><p><a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00OYVYD3G/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&amp;camp=1789&amp;creative=390957&amp;creativeASIN=B00OYVYD3G&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;tag=tomdispatch-20&amp;linkId=5UE45I5VQNIHAVTN" target="_blank"></a>Chinese President Xi has taken to calling all this the “evergreen tree of Chinese-Russian friendship” -- or you could think of it as Putin’s strategic “pivot” to China.  In either case, Washington is not exactly thrilled to see Russia and China beginning to mesh their strengths: Russian excellence in aerospace, defense technology, and heavy equipment manufacturing <a href="http://www.bjreview.com.cn/world/txt/2014-11/15/content_653231.htm" target="_blank">matching</a> Chinese excellence in agriculture, light industry, and information technology.</p><p>It’s also been clear for years that, across Eurasia, Russian, not Western, pipelines are likely to prevail. The latest spectacular Pipelineistan opera -- Gazprom’s cancellation of the prospective <a href="http://rt.com/op-edge/211091-turkey-russia-east-pipeline-eu/" target="_blank">South Stream</a> pipeline that was to bring yet more Russian natural gas to Europe -- will, in the end, only guarantee an even greater energy integration of both Turkey and Russia into the new Eurasia. </p><p>So Long to the Unipolar Moment </p><p>All these interlocked developments suggest a geopolitical tectonic shift in Eurasia that the American media simply hasn’t begun to grasp. Which doesn’t mean that no one notices anything.  You can smell the incipient panic in the air in the Washington establishment.  The Council on Foreign Relations is already <a href="http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/142202/richard-n-haass/the-unraveling?cid=nlc-foreign_affairs_this_week-111314-the_unraveling_5-111314&amp;sp_mid=47406003&amp;sp_rid=c2Nob2x6LWhqQGdteC5kZQS2" target="_blank">publishing</a> laments about the possibility that the former sole superpower’s exceptionalist moment is “unraveling.” The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission can only <a href="http://www.voltairenet.org/IMG/pdf/US-China_Economic_and_Security_Review_Commission_Report_2014.pdf" target="_blank">blame</a> the Chinese leadership for being “disloyal,” adverse to “reform,” and an enemy of the “liberalization” of their own economy.</p><p>The <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/how-america-can-counter-the-rise-of-russia-and-china/2014/11/21/f9bfabd0-5949-11e4-8264-deed989ae9a2_story.html" target="_blank">usual suspects</a> carp that upstart China is upsetting the "international order," will doom “peace and prosperity” in Asia for all eternity, and may be<a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/fareed-zakaria-chinas-growing-clout/2014/11/13/fe0481f6-6b74-11e4-a31c-77759fc1eacc_story.html" target="_blank">creating</a> a "new kind of Cold War" in the region. From Washington’s perspective, a rising China, of course, remains the major “threat” in Asia, if not the world, even as the Pentagon spends gigantic sums to keep its sprawling global empire of bases intact. Those Washington-based stories about the new China threat in the Pacific and Southeast Asia, however, never mention that China remains encircled by U.S. bases, while lacking a base of its own outside its territory. </p><p>Of course, China does face titanic problems, including the pressures being applied by the globe’s “sole superpower.” Among other things, Beijing fears threats to the security of its sea-borne energy supply from abroad, which helps explain its massive investment in helping create a welcoming Eurasian Pipelineistan from Central Asia to Siberia. Fears for its energy future also explain its urge to “escape from Malacca” by reaching for energy supplies in Africa and South America, and its much-discussed offensive to claim energy-rich areas of the East and South China seas, which Beijing is betting could become a “second Persian Gulf,” ultimately yielding 130 billion barrels of oil.</p><p>On the internal front, President Xi has <a href="http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/china/2014-11/30/c_133822694.htm" target="_blank">outlined</a> in detail his vision of a “results-oriented” path for his country over the next decade. As road maps go, China’s “<a href="http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2014-11/10/content_18895257.htm" target="_blank">must-do</a>” list of reforms is nothing short of impressive. And worrying about keeping China’s economy, already the world’s <a href="http://www.vanityfair.com/business/2015/01/china-worlds-largest-economy" target="_blank">number one</a> by size, rolling along at a feverish pitch, Xi is also turbo-charging the <a href="http://multimedia.scmp.com/china-corruption/" target="_blank">fight against</a> corruption, graft, and waste, especially within the Communist Party itself.</p><p>Economic efficiency is another crucial problem. Chinese state-owned enterprises are now investing a staggering $2.3 trillion a year -- 43% of the country’s total investment -- in infrastructure. Yet studies at Tsinghua University’s School of Management have shown that an array of investments in facilities ranging from steel mills to cement factories have only added to overcapacity and so actually undercut China’s productivity.</p><p>Xiaolu Wang and Yixiao Zhou, authors of the academic paper “Deepening Reform for China's Long-term Growth and Development,” contend that it will be difficult for China to jump from middle-income to high-income status -- a key requirement for a truly global power. For this, an avalanche of extra government funds would have to go into areas like social security/unemployment benefits and healthcare, which take up at present 9.8% and 15.1% of the <a href="http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/special/2014-03/05/c_133162370.htm" target="_blank">2014 budget</a> -- high for some Western countries but not high enough for China’s needs.</p><p>Still, anyone who has closely followed what China has accomplished over these past three decades knows that, whatever its problems, whatever the threats, it <a href="http://www.capx.co/the-great-resilience-of-the-chinese-communist-state/" target="_blank">won’t fall apart</a>. As a measure of the country’s ambitions for economically reconfiguring the commercial and power maps of the world, China’s leaders are also thinking about how, in the near future, relations with Europe, too, could be reshaped in ways that would be historic. </p><p>What About That “Harmonious Community”?</p><p>At the same moment that China is proposing a new Eurasian integration, Washington has opted for an “<a href="http://www.amazon.com/Empire-Chaos-Roving-Eye-Collection-ebook/dp/B00OYVYD3G/ref=sr_1_1_twi_1?s=books&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1415721538&amp;sr=1-1&amp;keywords=Empire+of+Chaos" target="_blank">empire of chaos</a>,” a dysfunctional global system now breeding mayhem and <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175714/nick_turse_blowback_central" target="_blank">blowback</a> across the Greater Middle East into Africa and even to the peripheries of Europe.</p><p>In this context, a “new Cold War” <a href="http://consortiumnews.com/2014/11/14/can-the-world-avert-a-new-cold-war/" target="_blank">paranoia</a> is <a href="http://orientalreview.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Kozin.-Conference-Report.October-2014.pdf" target="_blank">on the rise</a> in the U.S., Europe, and Russia.  Former Soviet leader <a href="http://itar-tass.com/en/russia/764517" target="_blank">Mikhail Gorbachev</a>, who knows a thing or two about Cold Wars (having ended one), couldn’t be more alarmed. Washington’s agenda of “isolating” and arguably crippling Russia is ultimately dangerous, even if in the long run it may also be <a href="http://oilprice.com/Energy/Oil-Prices/Russia-Can-Survive-An-Oil-Price-War.html" target="_blank">doomed</a> to failure. </p><p>At the moment, whatever its weaknesses, Moscow remains the only power capable of negotiating a global strategic balance with Washington and putting some limits on its empire of chaos.  NATO nations still follow meekly in Washington’s wake and China as yet lacks the strategic clout.</p><p>Russia, like China, is betting on Eurasian integration.  No one, of course, knows how all this will end.  Only four years ago, Vladimir Putin was proposing “a harmonious economic community stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok,” involving a trans-Eurasian free trade agreement. Yet today, with the U.S., NATO, and Russia locked in a Cold War-like battle in the shadows over Ukraine, and with the European Union incapable of disentangling itself from NATO, the most immediate new paradigm seems to be less total integration than war hysteria and fear of future chaos spreading to other parts of Eurasia.</p><p>Don’t rule out a change in the dynamics of the situation, however.  In the long run, it seems to be in the cards.  One day, <a href="http://johnhelmer.net/?p=12232" target="_blank">Germany</a> may lead parts of Europe away from NATO’s “logic,” since German business leaders and industrialists have an eye on their potentially lucrative commercial future in a new Eurasia. Strange as it might seem amid today’s war of words over Ukraine, the endgame could still prove to involve a <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175903/tomgram%3A_pepe_escobar%2C_new_silk_roads_and_an_alternate_eurasian_century/#more" target="_blank">Berlin-Moscow-Beijing alliance</a>.</p><p>At present, the choice between the two available models on the planet seems stark indeed: Eurasian integration or a spreading empire of chaos. China and Russia know what they want, and so, it seems, does Washington.  The question is: What will the other moving parts of Eurasia choose to do?</p><p>Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for <a href="http://www.atimes.com/" target="_blank">Asia Times</a>/Hong Kong, an analyst for RT, and a <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175903/tomgram%3A_pepe_escobar,_new_silk_roads_and_an_alternate_eurasian_century/" target="_blank">TomDispatch regular</a>. His latest book is <a href="http://www.amazon.com/dp/1608881644/ref=nosim/?tag=tomdispatch-20" target="_blank">Empire of Chaos</a> (Nimble Books). Follow him on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/pepe.escobar.77377" target="_blank">Facebook</a>.</p><p>Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on <a href="http://www.facebook.com/tomdispatch" target="_blank">Facebook</a>. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Rebecca Solnit's <a href="http://www.amazon.com/dp/1608464962/ref=nosim/?tag=tomdispatch-20" target="_blank">Men Explain Things to Me</a>, and Tom Engelhardt's latest book, <a href="http://www.amazon.com/dp/1608463656/ref=nosim/?tag=tomdispatch-20" target="_blank">Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World</a>.</p><p>Copyright 2014 Pepe Escobar</p><p> </p> Tue, 16 Dec 2014 06:38:00 -0800 Pepe Escobar, TomDispatch 1028771 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics China Russia and China Are Teaming Up as the World's New Power Elite http://www.alternet.org/world/russia-and-china-are-teaming-worlds-new-power-elite <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The nations&#039; symbiosis/strategic partnership visibly expands on energy, finance and, also inevitably, on the military technology front. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_192493058-edited.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>If there were any remaining doubts about the unlimited stupidity Western corporate media is capable of dishing out, the highlight of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Beijing has been defined as Russian President Vladimir Putin supposedly “hitting” on Chinese President Xi Jinping’s wife – and the subsequent Chinese censoring of the moment when Putin draped a shawl over her shoulders in the cold air where the leaders were assembled. What next? Putin and Xi denounced as a gay couple?Let’s dump the clowns and get down to the serious business. Right at the start, President Xi urged APEC to “add firewood to the fire of the Asia-Pacific and world economy”. Two days later, China got what it wanted on all fronts.</p><p>1) Beijing had all 21 APEC member-nations endorsing the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) – the Chinese vision of an “all inclusive, all-win” trade deal capable of advancing Asia-Pacific cooperation – see <a href="http://www.scmp.com/news/china/article/1637765/xi-jinping-unveils-chinas-plan-asia-pacific-wide-free-trade-pact" target="_blank">South China Morning Post</a> (paywall). The loser was the US-driven, corporate-redacted, fiercely opposed (especially by Japan and Malaysia) 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). [See also <a href="http://www.tax-news.com/news/APEC_Leaders_Endorse_FTAAP_Roadmap____66373.html%22" target="_blank">here</a>].</p><p>2) Beijing advanced its blueprint for “all-round connectivity” (in Xi’s words) across Asia-Pacific – which implies a multi-pronged strategy. One of its key features is the implementation of the Beijing-based US$50 billion Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. That’s China’s response to Washington refusing to give it a more representative voice at the International Monetary Fund than the current, paltry 3.8% of votes (a smaller percentage than the 4.5% held by stagnated France).</p><p>3) Beijing and Moscow committed to a <a href="http://rt.com/business/203679-china-russia-gas-deal/" target="_blank">second gas mega-deal</a> – this one through the Altai pipeline in Western Siberia – after the initial “Power of Siberia” mega-deal clinched last May.</p><p>4) Beijing announced the funneling of no less than US$40 billion to start building the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.</p>Predictably, once again, this vertiginous flurry of deals and investment had to converge towards the most spectacular, ambitious, wide-ranging plurinational infrastructure offensive ever attempted: the multiple New Silk Roads – that complex network of high-speed rail, pipelines, ports, fiber optic cables and state of the art telecom that China is already building across the Central Asian stans, linked to Russia, Iran, Turkey and the Indian Ocean, and branching out to <a href="http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/world/2014livisitgrl/2014-10/18/content_18763272.htm" target="_blank">Europe all the way to Venice, Rotterdam, Duisburg and Berlin</a>.Now imagine the paralyzed terror of the Washington/Wall Street elites as they stare at Beijing interlinking <a href="http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2014-11/09/content_18889698_2.htm" target="_blank">Xi’s “Asia-Pacific Dream”</a> way beyond East Asia towards all-out, pan-Eurasia trade – with the center being, what else, the Middle Kingdom; a near future Eurasia as a massive Chinese Silk Belt with, in selected latitudes, a sort of development condominium with Russia.<p><strong>Vlad doesn’t do stupid stuff</strong></p><p>As for “Don Juan” Putin, everything one needs to know about Asia-Pacific as a Russian strategic/economic priority was distilled in his intervention at the <a href="http://www.globalresearch.ca/putins-asia-pacific-economic-cooperation-apec-summit-speech-trade-in-rubles-yuan-will-weaken-dollars-influence/5413432" target="_blank">APEC CEO summit</a>.</p><p>This was in fact an economic update of his by now <a href="http://eng.kremlin.ru/news/23137" target="_blank">notorious speech</a> at the Valdai Club meeting in Sochi in October, followed by a wide-ranging Q&amp;A, which was also duly ignored by Western corporate media (or spun as yet more “aggression”).The Kremlin has conclusively established that Washington/Wall Street elites have absolutely no intention of allowing a minimum of multipolarity in international relations. What’s left is chaos.</p><p>There’s no question that Moscow pivoting away from the West and towards East Asia is a process directly influenced by President Barack Obama’s self-described “Don’t Do Stupid Stuff” foreign policy doctrine, a formula he came up with aboard Air Force One when coming back last April from a trip to – where else – Asia.</p><p>But the Russia-China symbiosis/strategic partnership is developing in multiple levels.</p><p>On energy, Russia is turning east because that’s where top demand is. On finance, Moscow ended the pegging of the rouble to the US dollar and euro; not surprisingly the US dollar instantly – if only briefly – dropped against the rouble. Russian bank VTB announced it may leave the London Stock Exchange for Shanghai’s – which is about to become directly linked to Hong Kong. And Hong Kong, for its part, is already  <a href="http://en.ria.ru/business/20141108/195319981/Russian-Energy-Giants-Consider-Listing-Securities-on-Hong-Kong.html" target="_blank">attracting Russian energy giants</a>.</p><p>Now mix all these key developments with the massive yuan-rouble energy double deal, and the picture is clear; Russia is actively protecting itself from speculative/politically motivated Western attacks against its currency.</p><p>The Russia-China symbiosis/strategic partnership visibly expands on energy, finance and, also inevitably, on the military technology front. That includes, crucially, Moscow selling Beijing the S-400 air defense system and, in the future, the S-500 – against which the Americans are sitting ducks; and this while Beijing develops surface-to-ship missiles that can take out everything the US Navy can muster.</p><p>Anyway, at APEC, Xi and Obama at least agreed to establish a mutual reporting mechanism on major military operations. That might – and the operative word is “might” – prevent an East Asia replica of relentless NATO-style whining of the “Russia has invaded Ukraine!” kind.</p><p><strong>Freak out, neo-cons</strong></p>When Little Dubya Bush came to power in early 2001, the neo-cons were faced with a stark fact: it was just a matter of time before the US would irreversibly lose its global geopolitical and economic hegemony. So there were only two choices; either manage the decline, or bet the whole farm to consolidate global hegemony using – what else – war.We all know about the wishful thinking enveloping the “low-cost” war on Iraq – from Paul Wolfowitz’s “We are the new OPEC” to the fantasy of Washington being able to decisively intimidate all potential challengers, the EU, Russia and China.<p>And we all know how it went spectacularly wrong. Even as that trillionaire adventure, as Minqi Li analyzed in The Rise of China and the Demise of the Capitalist World Economy, “has squandered US imperialism’s remaining space for strategic maneuver”, the humanitarian imperialists of the Obama administration still have not given up, refusing to admit the US has lost any ability to provide any meaningful solution to the current, as Immanuel Wallerstein would define it, world-system.</p><p>There are sporadic signs of intelligent geopolitical life in US academia, such as <a href="http://www.wilsoncenter.org/book/the-sino-russian-challenge-to-the-world-order-national-identities-bilateral-relations-and-east" target="_blank">this</a> at the Wilson Center website (although Russia and China are not a “challenge” to a supposed world “order”: their partnership is actually geared to create some order among the chaos.)</p><p>And yet <a href="http://www.usnews.com/opinion/blogs/world-report/2014/11/10/china-is-not-the-next-global-superpower" target="_blank">this</a> opinion piece at USNews is the kind of stuff passing for academic “analysis” in US media.</p><p>On top of it, Washington/Wall Street elites – through their myopic Think Tankland – still cling to mythical platitudes such as the “historical” US role as arbiter of modern Asia and key balancer of power.</p><p>So no wonder public opinion in the US – and Western Europe – cannot even imagine the earth-shattering impact the New Silk Roads will have in the geopolitics of the young 21st century.</p><p>Washington/Wall Street elites – talk about Cold War hubris – always took for granted that Beijing and Moscow would be totally apart. Now puzzlement prevails. Note how the Obama administration’s “pivoting to Asia” has been completely erased from the narrative – after Beijing identified it for what it is: a warlike provocation. The new meme is “rebalance”.</p><p>German businesses, for their part, are absolutely going bonkers with Xi’s New Silk Roads uniting Beijing to Berlin – crucially via Moscow. German politicians sooner rather than later will have to get the message.</p><p>All this will be discussed behind closed doors this weekend at key meetings on the sidelines of the Group of 20 in Australia. The Russia-China-Germany alliance-in-the-making will be there. The BRICS, crisis or no crisis, will be there. All the players in the G-20 actively working for a multipolar world will be there.</p><p>APEC once again has shown that the more geopolitics change, the more it won’t stay the same; as the exceptional dogs of war, inequality and divide and rule keep barking, the China-Russia pan-Eurasian caravan will keep going, going, going – further on down the (multipolar) road.</p><p><em>This essay originally appeared on <a href="http://www.atimes.com/" target="_blank">Asia Times</a>.</em></p><p> </p> Mon, 17 Nov 2014 09:35:00 -0800 Pepe Escobar, Asia Times 1027244 at http://www.alternet.org World World Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation apec A New Future? How China and Russia (and Maybe Germany) Will Try Squeeze Washington Out of Eurasia http://www.alternet.org/world/new-future-how-china-and-russia-and-maybe-germany-will-try-squeeze-washington-out-eurasia <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">A Beijing-Moscow-Berlin alliance is cooking.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_183819419.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p><em>To stay on top of important articles like these, sign up to receive the latest updates from TomDispatch.com <a href="http://tomdispatch.us2.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=6cb39ff0b1f670c349f828c73&amp;id=1e41682ade">here</a>.</em></p><p>A specter haunts the fast-aging “New American Century”: the possibility of a future Beijing-Moscow-Berlin strategic trade and commercial alliance. Let’s call it the BMB.</p><p>Its likelihood is being seriously discussed at the highest levels in Beijing and Moscow, and viewed with interest in Berlin, New Delhi, and Tehran. But don’t mention it inside Washington’s Beltway or at NATO headquarters in Brussels. There, the star of the show today and tomorrow is the new Osama bin Laden: Caliph Ibrahim, aka Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the elusive, self-appointed beheading prophet of a new mini-state and movement that has provided an acronym feast -- ISIS/ISIL/IS -- for hysterics in Washington and elsewhere.     </p><p>No matter how often Washington remixes its Global War on Terror, however, the tectonic plates of Eurasian geopolitics continue to shift, and they’re not going to stop just because American elites <a href="http://m.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/04/in-defense-of-empire/358645/">refuse to accept</a> that their historically brief “unipolar moment” is on the wane.  For them, the closing of the era of “full spectrum dominance,” as the Pentagon likes to call it, is inconceivable.  After all, the necessity for the indispensable nation to control all space -- military, economic, cultural, cyber, and outer -- is little short of a religious doctrine.  Exceptionalist missionaries don’t do equality. At best, they do “coalitions of the willing” like the one crammed with “<a href="http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/09/21/ambassador-powers-touts-international-support-against-islamic-state-but-wont/">over 40 countries</a>” assembled to fight ISIS/ISIL/IS and either applauding (and plotting) from the sidelines or sending the odd plane or two toward Iraq or Syria. </p><p>NATO, which unlike some of its members won’t officially <a href="http://www.atimes.com/atimes/World/WOR-03-050914.html">fight Jihadistan</a>, remains a top-down outfit controlled by Washington. It’s never fully bothered to take in the European Union (EU) or considered allowing Russia to “feel” European. As for the Caliph, he’s just a minor diversion. A postmodern cynic might even contend that he was an emissary sent onto the global playing field by China and Russia to take the eye of the planet’s hyperpower off the ball.</p><p><strong>Divide and Isolate</strong></p><p>So how does full spectrum dominance apply when two actual competitor powers, Russia and China, begin to make their presences felt?  Washington’s approach to each -- in Ukraine and in Asian waters -- might be thought of as divide and isolate. </p><p>In order to keep the Pacific Ocean as a classic “American lake,” the Obama administration has been “pivoting” back to Asia for several years now. This has involved only modest military moves, but an immodest attempt to pit Chinese nationalism against the Japanese variety, while strengthening alliances and relations across Southeast Asia with a focus on South China Sea energy disputes. At the same time, it has moved to lock a future trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), in place.</p><p>In Russia’s western borderlands, the Obama administration has stoked the embers of regime change in Kiev into flames (fanned by local cheerleaders <a href="#comments">Poland</a> and the <a href="http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/nato-considers-missle-shield-directed-against-russia-a-987899.html">Baltic nations</a>) and into what clearly looked, to Vladimir Putin and Russia’s leadership, like an existential threat to Moscow. Unlike the U.S., whose sphere of influence (and military bases) are global, Russia was not to retain any significant influence in its former near abroad, which, when it comes to Kiev, is not for most Russians, “abroad” at all. </p><p>For Moscow, it seemed as if Washington and its NATO allies were increasingly interested in imposing a new Iron Curtain on their country from the Baltic to the Black Sea, with Ukraine simply as the tip of the spear. In BMB terms, think of it as an attempt to isolate Russia and impose a new barrier to relations with Germany. The ultimate aim would be to split Eurasia, preventing future moves toward trade and commercial integration via a process not controlled through Washington.</p><p>From Beijing’s point of view, the Ukraine crisis was a case of Washington crossing every imaginable red line to harass and isolate Russia. To its leaders, this looks like a concerted attempt to destabilize the region in ways favorable to American interests, supported by a full range of Washington’s elite from neocons and Cold War “liberals” to humanitarian interventionists in the Susan Rice and Samantha Power mold.  Of course, if you’ve been following the Ukraine crisis from Washington, such perspectives seem as alien as any those of any Martian.  But the world looks different from the heart of Eurasia than it does from Washington -- especially from a rising China with its newly minted “<a href="http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/Chinese-dream.html">Chinese dream</a>” (Zhongguo meng).</p><p>As laid out by President Xi Jinping, that dream would include a future network of Chinese-organized new Silk Roads that would create the equivalent of a Trans-Asian Express for Eurasian commerce. So if Beijing, for instance, feels pressure from Washington and Tokyo on the naval front, part of its response is a two-pronged, trade-based advance across the Eurasian landmass, one prong via Siberia and the other through the Central Asian “stans.” </p><p>In this sense, though you wouldn’t know it if you only followed the American media or “debates” in Washington, we’re potentially entering a new world.  Once upon a time not so long ago, Beijing’s leadership was flirting with the idea of rewriting the geopolitical/economic game side by side with the U.S., while Putin’s Moscow hinted at the possibility of someday joining NATO. No longer. Today, the part of the West that both countries are interested in is a possible future Germany no longer dominated by American power and Washington’s wishes.</p><p>Moscow has, in fact, been involved in no less than half a century of strategic dialogue with Berlin that has included industrial cooperation and increasing energy interdependence. In many quarters of the Global South this has been noted and Germany is starting to be viewed as “the sixth BRICS” power (after Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa).</p><p>In the midst of global crises ranging from Syria to Ukraine, Berlin’s geostrategic interests seem to be slowly diverging from Washington’s. German industrialists, in particular, appear eager to pursue unlimited commercial deals with Russia and China.  These might set their country on a path to global power unlimited by the EU’s borders and, in the long term, signal the end of the era in which Germany, however politely dealt with, was essentially an American satellite.  </p><p>It will be a long and winding road. The Bundestag, Germany’s parliament, is still addicted to a strong Atlanticist agenda and a preemptive obedience to Washington. There are still tens of thousands of American soldiers on German soil. Yet, for the first time, German chancellor Angela Merkel has been hesitating when it comes to imposing ever-heavier sanctions on Russia over the situation in Ukraine, because no fewer than 300,000 German jobs depend on relations with that country. Industrial leaders and the financial establishment have already <a href="http://www.handelsblatt.com/meinung/kommentare/essay-in-englisch-the-west-on-the-wrong-path/10308406.html">sounded the alarm</a>, fearing such sanctions would be totally counterproductive. </p><p><strong>China’s Silk Road Banquet</strong></p><p>China’s new geopolitical power play in Eurasia has few parallels in modern history. The days when the “Little Helmsman” Deng Xiaoping insisted that the country “keep a low profile” on the global stage are long gone. Of course, there are disagreements and conflicting strategies when it comes to managing the country’s hot spots: Taiwan, Hong Kong, Tibet, Xinjiang, the South China Sea, competitors India and Japan, and problematic allies like North Korea and Pakistan. And popular unrest in some Beijing-dominated “peripheries” is growing to <a href="http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/article/1604986/umbrella-revolution-weathers-storm-and-cy-leung-admits-protests-set">incendiary</a> levels.</p><p>The country’s number one priority remains domestic and focused on carrying out President Xi’s economic reforms, while increasing “transparency” and fighting corruption within the ruling Communist Party. A distant second is the question of how to progressively hedge against the Pentagon’s “pivot” plans in the region -- via the build-up of a blue-water navy, nuclear submarines, and a technologically advanced air force -- without getting so assertive as to freak out Washington’s “China threat”-minded establishment.  </p><p>Meanwhile, with the U.S. Navy controlling global sea lanes for the foreseeable future, planning for those new Silk Roads across Eurasia is proceeding apace. The end result should <a href="http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2014/04/06/357386/china-uses-economy-to-avert-cold-war/">prove</a> a triumph of integrated infrastructure -- roads, high-speed rail, pipelines, ports -- that will connect China to Western Europe and the Mediterranean Sea, the old Roman imperial Mare Nostrum, in every imaginable way.</p><p>In a reverse Marco Polo-style journey, remixed for the Google world, one key Silk Road branch will go from the former imperial capital Xian to Urumqi in Xinjiang Province, then through Central Asia, Iran, Iraq, and Turkey’s Anatolia, ending in Venice. Another will be a maritime Silk Road starting from Fujian province and going through the Malacca strait, the Indian Ocean, Nairobi in Kenya, and finally all the way to the Mediterranean via the Suez canal. Taken together, it’s what Beijing refers to as the Silk Road Economic Belt.  </p><p>China’s strategy is to create a network of interconnections among no less than five key regions: Russia (the key bridge between Asia and Europe), the Central Asian “stans,” Southwest Asia (with major roles for Iran, Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey), the Caucasus, and Eastern Europe (including Belarus, Moldova, and depending upon its stability, Ukraine). And don’t forget Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India, which could be thought of as Silk Road plus.</p><p>Silk Road plus would involve connecting the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar economic corridor to the China-Pakistan economic corridor, and could offer Beijing privileged access to the Indian Ocean. Once again, a total package -- roads, high-speed rail, pipelines, and fiber optic networks -- would link the region to China.</p><p>Xi himself put the India-China connection in a neat package of images in an op-ed he published in <a href="http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/towards-an-asian-century-of-prosperity/article6416553.ece?homepage=true">the Hindu</a> prior to his recent visit to New Delhi. “The combination of the ‘world’s factory’ and the ‘world’s back office,’” he wrote, “will produce the most competitive production base and the most attractive consumer market.”</p><p>The central node of China’s elaborate planning for the Eurasian future is Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang Province and the site of the largest commercial fair in Central Asia, the China-Eurasia Fair. Since 2000, one of Beijing’s top priorities has been to urbanize that largely desert but oil-rich province and industrialize it, whatever it takes. And what it takes, as Beijing sees it, is the hardcore Sinicization of the region -- with its corollary, the suppression of any possibility of ethnic Uighur dissent.  People’s Liberation Army General Li Yazhou has, in these terms, described Central Asia as “the most subtle slice of cake donated by the sky to modern China.”</p><p>Most of China’s vision of a new Eurasia tied to Beijing by every form of transport and communication was vividly detailed in “Marching Westwards: The Rebalancing of China’s Geostrategy,” a landmark 2012 essay published by scholar Wang Jisi of the Center of International and Strategic Studies at Beijing University. As a response to such a future set of Eurasian connections, the best the Obama administration has come up with is a version of naval containment from the Indian Ocean to the South China Sea, while sharpening conflicts with and strategic alliances around China from Japan to India. (NATO is, of course, left with the task of containing Russia in Eastern Europe.)   </p><p><strong>An Iron Curtain vs. Silk Roads</strong></p><p>The <a href="http://rt.com/business/184176-russia-china-gas-siberian-power/">$400 billion</a> “gas deal of the century,” signed by Putin and the Chinese president last May, laid the groundwork for the building of the Power of Siberia pipeline, already under construction in Yakutsk.  It will bring a flood of Russian natural gas onto the Chinese market.  It clearly represents just the beginning of a turbocharged, energy-based <a href="http://russia-insider.com/en/politics_business/2014/09/22/03-36-31am/6_pillars_chinese_russian_strategic_partnership">strategic alliance</a> between the two countries. Meanwhile, German businessmen and industrialists have been noting another emerging reality: as much as the final market for made-in-China products traveling on future new Silk Roads will be Europe, the reverse also applies. In one possible commercial future, China is slated to become Germany’s <a href="https://www.destatis.de/EN/FactsFigures/NationalEconomyEnvironment/ForeignTrade/TradingPartners/Current.html">top trading partner</a> by 2018, surging ahead of both the U.S. and France.</p><p>A potential barrier to such developments, welcomed in Washington, is Cold War 2.0, which is already tearing not NATO, but the EU apart. In the EU of this moment, the anti-Russian camp includes Great Britain, Sweden, Poland, Romania, and the Baltic nations. Italy and Hungary, on the other hand, can be counted in the pro-Russian camp, while a still unpredictable Germany is the key to whether the future will hold a new Iron Curtain or “Go East” mindset.  For this, Ukraine remains the key.  If it is successfully Finlandized (with significant autonomy for its regions), as Moscow has been proposing -- a suggestion that is anathema to Washington -- the Go-East path will remain open. If not, a BMB future will be a dicier proposition. </p><p>It should be noted that another vision of the Eurasian economic future is also on the horizon.  Washington is attempting to impose a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) on Europe and a similar Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) on Asia.  Both favor globalizing American corporations and their aim is visibly to impede the ascent of the BRICS economies and the rise of other emerging markets, while solidifying American global economic hegemony.   </p><p>Two stark facts, carefully noted in Moscow, Beijing, and Berlin, suggest the hardcore geopolitics behind these two “commercial” pacts. The TPP excludes China and the TTIP excludes Russia. They represent, that is, the barely disguised sinews of a future trade/monetary war.  On my own recent travels, I have had quality agricultural producers in Spain, Italy, and France repeatedly tell me that TTIP is nothing but an economic version of NATO, the military alliance that China’s Xi Jinping calls, perhaps wishfully, an “obsolete structure.” </p><p>There is significant resistance to the TTIP among many EU nations (especially in the Club Med countries of southern Europe), as there is against the TPP among Asian nations (especially Japan and Malaysia).  It is this that gives the Chinese and the Russians hope for their new Silk Roads and a new style of trade across the Eurasian heartland backed by a Russian-supported <a href="http://euobserver.com/foreign/125331">Eurasian Union</a>. To this, key figures in German business and industrial circles, for whom <a href="http://www.iiea.com/blogosphere/understanding-german-russian-trade-relations">relations with Russia</a> remain essential, are paying close attention. </p><p>After all, Berlin has not shown overwhelming concern for the rest of the crisis-ridden EU (three recessions in five years). Via a much-despised troika -- the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the European Commission -- Berlin is, for all practical purposes, already at the helm of Europe, thriving, and looking east for more.</p><p>Three months ago, German chancellor Angela Merkel <a href="http://www.china.org.cn/opinion/2014-07/09/content_32902392.htm">visited Beijing.</a> Hardly featured in the news was the political acceleration of a potentially groundbreaking project: an uninterrupted high-speed rail connection between Beijing and Berlin. When finally built, it will prove a transportation and trade magnet for dozens of nations along its route from Asia to Europe. Passing through Moscow, it could become the ultimate Silk Road integrator for Europe and perhaps the ultimate nightmare for Washington.</p><p><strong>“Losing” Russia</strong></p><p>In a blaze of media attention, the recent NATO summit in Wales yielded only a modest “rapid reaction force” for deployment in any future Ukraine-like situations. Meanwhile, the expanding Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a possible Asian counterpart to NATO, met in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. In Washington and Western Europe essentially no one noticed.  They should have. There, China, Russia, and four Central Asian “stans” <a href="http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/world/2014xisco/2014-09/12/content_18591355.htm">agreed</a> to add an impressive set of new members: India, Pakistan, and Iran.  The implications could be far-reaching. After all, India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi is now on the brink of <a href="http://www.rediff.com/news/column/modi-leads-india-to-the-silk-road/20140807.htm">its own version</a> of Silk Road mania. Behind it lies the possibility of a “Chindia” <a href="http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/SOU-02-160914.html">economic rapprochement</a>, which could change the Eurasian geopolitical map. At the same time, Iran is also being woven into the “Chindia” fold.</p><p>So the SCO is slowly but surely shaping up as the most important international organization in Asia.  It’s already clear that one of its key long-term objectives will be to stop trading in U.S. dollars, while advancing the use of the petroyuan and <a href="http://en.ria.ru/business/20140827/192383783/Russias-Gazprom-Neft-to-Sell-Oil-For-Rubles-Yuan.html">petroruble</a> in the energy trade. The U.S., of course, will never be welcomed into the organization. </p><p>All of this lies in the future, however.  In the present, the Kremlin keeps signaling that it once again wants to start talking with Washington, while Beijing has never wanted to stop. Yet the Obama administration remains myopically embedded in its own version of a zero-sum game, relying on its technological and military might to maintain an advantageous position in Eurasia.  Beijing, however, has access to markets and loads of cash, while Moscow has loads of energy. Triangular cooperation between Washington, Beijing, and Moscow would undoubtedly be -- as the Chinese would say -- a win-win-win game, but don’t hold your breath.</p><p>Instead, expect China and Russia to deepen their strategic partnership, while pulling in other Eurasian regional powers. Beijing has bet the farm that the U.S./NATO confrontation with Russia over Ukraine will leave Vladimir Putin turning east. At the same time, Moscow is carefully calibrating what its ongoing reorientation toward such an economic powerhouse will mean. Someday, it’s possible that voices of sanity in Washington will be wondering aloud how the U.S. “lost” Russia to China.   </p><p>In the meantime, think of China as a magnet for a new world order in a future Eurasian century.  The same integration process Russia is facing, for instance, seems increasingly to <a href="http://orientalreview.org/2014/08/31/india-and-japan-must-propel-the-eurasian-juggernaut/">apply</a> to India and other Eurasian nations, and possibly sooner or later to a neutral Germany as well. In the endgame of such a process, the U.S. might find itself progressively squeezed out of Eurasia, with the BMB emerging as a game-changer. Place your bets soon.  They’ll be called in by 2025.  </p> Sun, 05 Oct 2014 14:55:00 -0700 Pepe Escobar, Tom Dispatch 1021984 at http://www.alternet.org World World money economy worldAbu Bakr al-Baghdadi Afghanistan American lake angela merkel asia bangladesh Beijing University beijing belarus berlin Black Sea brazil brussels Caucasus central asia China Club Med Communist Party Deng Xiaoping Diplomatic Relations Dushanbe eastern europe eurasia Eurasian Union europe European Central Bank european commission european union france Fujian germany google hungary IS Isis Ibrahim india Indian Ocean International Monetary Fund iran iraq italy Japan kenya Kiev Land transport Li Yazhou Liberation Army General MIX Malacca strait Malaysia Marco Polo-style Mediterranean Sea mediterranean moldova moscow myanmar NATO headquarters nairobi Narendra Modi natural disaster new delhi North Atlantic Treaty Organization north korea obama administration osama bin laden pacific ocean pakistan pentagon Person Career Person Location Person Travel poland president prime minister Quotation Rail transport romania russia Is ISIL the Last Straw in Obama's Deteriorating Foreign Policy Record? http://www.alternet.org/world/isil-last-straw-obamas-deteriorating-foreign-policy-record <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">From protecting ExxonMobil and Chevron to double bombing in Syraq -- no wonder the Return of the Living (Neo-Con) Dead are so excited. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/cc61a1c8f01297ba6c4765dea47761c3eae835fc.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>But whether people see what's happening in Ukraine, and Russia's aggression towards its neighbors in the manner in which it's financing and arming separatists; to what's happened in Syria - the devastation that [President Bashar al-]Assad has wrought on his own people; to the failure in Iraq for Sunni and Shia and Kurd to compromise - although we're trying to see if we can put together a government that actually can function; to ongoing terrorist threats; to what's happening in Israel and Gaza - part of peoples' concern is just the sense that around the world the old order isn't holding and we're not quite yet to where we need to be in terms of a new order that's based on a set of different principles, that's based on a sense of common humanity, that's based on economies that work for all people. - President Barack Obama <br /><br />Looks like US President Barack Obama made a royal mess of what his mentor Dr Zbigniew "Grand Chessboard" Brzezinski taught him. <br /><br />Dr Zbig always quotes Sir Halford John Mackinder's three grand imperatives of imperial geostrategy; to prevent collusion and maintain security dependence among the vassals; to keep tributaries pliant and protected; and to keep the barbarians from coming together. <br /><br />After dabbling briefly with "leading from behind" - a non-starter - Obama finally went Mackinderesque with his stellar "<a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2014/06/dont-do-stupid-shit-president-obama-white-house-107293.html" target="_blank">Don't Do Stupid Stuff</a>" foreign policy doctrine. <br /><br />Nevertheless, an always alert former secretary of state Hillary Clinton said "Don't do Stupid Stuff" <a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2014/06/dont-do-stupid-shit-president-obama-white-house-107293.html" target="_blank">isn't a "foreign policy organizing principle"</a>. Yet "Stupid Stuff" is all that the Obama foreign policy team knows how to do. <br /><br />Starting with Obama treating Russia under President Vladimir Putin the way Hillary's husband treated Russia under vodka container Boris Yeltsin. Then came the decision - without any public debate - to start bombing Iraq all over again. And soon Syria. Bombs Away in Syraq! <br /><br />So "protect" Yazidis, yes. Protect Gazans, no. "Protect" Kiev's bunch of neo-Nazis, fascists and shady oligarchs, yes. Protect Russophones in Eastern Ukraine, no. <br /><br />It all started with protecting Irbil - already protected by Sumerian goddess Ishtar for millennia. Then protecting Irbil and Baghdad. Then protecting all "strategic" sites in Iraq. <br /><br />Retired General Carter Ham of AFRICOM/"We came, we saw, he died" fame, was adamant that it will be "very difficult" to pull off so much protecting with only a few fighter jets. So drones will be needed. And troops on the ground. <br /><br />From protecting ExxonMobil and Chevron to double bombing in Syraq. No wonder the Return of the Living (Neo-Con) Dead are so excited. It's the Greater Middle East all over again. And guess who will be part of the coalition of the willing to fight the Caliph? Britain, Australia, Turkey, Jordan and Gulf Cooperation Council stalwarts Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. <br /><br />Almost the same bunch (five among seven) that enabled the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the first place, from "Assad must go" to "good" and "bad" jihadis, and finally to ISIS (now the Islamic State) configured as the sprawling abode - complete with flush private army - of Caliph Ibrahim. <br /><br />And no, <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2014/08/28/obama-isil-situation-room-meeting/14741057/" target="_blank">there's no strategy</a>. Hee haw! <br /><br />Bye bye petrodollar <br />Now let's see the dividends of "Don't Do Stupid Stuff" as applied to Ukraine. <br /><br />Back to the Mackinderesque Dr Zbig. Some vassals - the usual NATO/GCC suspects, but not all of them - may still believe they profit from "security dependence", while others remain nervously pliant and, in theory, feel "protected" by the Empire of Chaos. <br /><br />But then the Empire of Chaos "encouraged" a de facto coup. And gave the green light for the new Kiev mob to do in Eastern Ukraine roughly what Israel does in Gaza. The idea in Ukraine was to bog down Russia in its western borderlands and cut off the economic/trade link between Russia and Germany. Cut Eurasia in half. <br /><br />But then Obama launched a Cold War 2.0 that could easily turn hot. He destroyed the relationship with chancellor Angela Merkel and Germany and amplified the strategic embrace between the Bear and the Dragon, with the result that Beijing started paying less attention to the "pivoting to Asia" because now it enjoys even more backing from Moscow. Meanwhile, Moscow further stalls Washington's advances in Central Asia. <br /><br />Sanctions on Russia not only reinforce its internal market but also boost its foreign trade - way beyond European shores. Yet still it was not enough to totally sell out to Wall Street and totally wreck US foreign policy. With aides/advisors like National Security Advisor Susan Rice, Deputy National Security Advisor Benjamin Rhodes, US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, and Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, who needs enemies? <br /><br />Obama's sanctions hysteria is leading the way to the progressive end of the US dollar as reserve currency, and the end of the petrodollar. <br /><br />Witness <a href="http://en.ria.ru/business/20140827/192383783/Russias-Gazprom-Neft-to-Sell-Oil-For-Rubles-Yuan.html" target="_blank">this</a> - the most important news of these last few months after the Russia-China "gas deal of the century". <br /><br />Obama is accelerating the now uncontrolled collapse of the Empire of Chaos. The new axis of the future - Beijing, Moscow, Berlin - is slowly but surely coming together. There's nothing "barbarian" about them. And the bulk of the Global South supports them. <br /><br />"The old order isn't holding" - indeed. "The Caliph is evil. So I'm applying more sanctions on Russia." How's that for Empire management? Good boy. Now pivot. With yourself. And with no strategy. </p> Tue, 02 Sep 2014 12:39:00 -0700 Pepe Escobar, Asia Times 1017733 at http://www.alternet.org World News & Politics World barack obama foreign policy ukraine russia iraq syria Israel Gets Away With Killing Civilians, While Russia Gets Framed for Killing Civilians http://www.alternet.org/israel-gets-away-killing-civilians-while-russia-gets-framed-killing-civilians <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Western powers decide to dump Gaza and instead sanction Russia - again!</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/c8b94d95778e5b96238c643c6192f9aa3380f68e.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p><i style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;">The horrible thing about the Two Minutes Hate was not that one was obliged to act a part, but that it was impossible to avoid joining it ... <br /><br />A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with a sledgehammer, seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current, turning one even against one's will into a grimacing, screaming lunatic</i><span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;"> -</span><b style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;">George Orwell</b><span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;">, </span><i style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;">1984</i><span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;"> </span><br style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;" /><br style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;" /><span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;">So Obama, Merkel, Cameron, Hollande and Italian Premier Matteo Renzi - let's call them the Fab Five - get on a video</span><span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;"> </span><span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;">conference call to muster their courage and "increase pressure" asking for a cease-fire in Gaza. Later in the day, Israel's Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu delivers his answer, in plain language: he remains dead set on achieving his version of a Final Solution to Gaza.  With or without "pressure". </span></p><p><span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;">So what's left for the Fab Five after having their illustrious Western collective behinds solemnly kicked? They decide to dump Gaza and instead sanction Russia - again! How brilliant is that as an exit strategy? </span><br style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;" /><br style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;" /><span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;">Spectacular non-entity Tony Blinken, who doubles as deputy national security adviser to Barack Obama, was keen to stress to Western corporate media that the unruly Eurotrash mob is now "determined to act". No, not against Israel because of Gaza; against Russia because of Ukraine. Such a lovely Orwellian symmetry: the extended Two Minutes Hate from Israel towards Gazans morphs into the extended Two Minutes Hate from the "West" towards Russia, mirroring the extended Two Minutes Hate from Kiev towards Eastern Ukrainians. </span><br style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;" /><br style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;" /><span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;">Not even Hollywood could come up with such a plot; Israel gets away with unlawful premeditated mass murder of civilians, while Russia gets framed for a (smaller-scale) airborne mass murder of civilians that has all the makings of being set up by the Kiev vassals of Russia's Western "partners". </span><br style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;" /><br style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;" /><a href="http://rt.com/op-edge/176068-eurasia-new-great-game-war/" style="color: rgb(0, 0, 205); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;">Here</a><span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;"> I have exposed how sanctions, sanctions, sanctions is the one and only official Obama administration "policy" on Russia. On top of the next European Union sanctions, coming soon, the US will be piling up - what else - more sanctions. After all, Washington is so "concerned" that Moscow will sooner or later invade Ukraine; that would certainly, and finally, answer all those In God We Trust prayers. </span><br style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;" /><br style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;" /><b style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;">Where we stand now</b></p><p><span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;">Let's follow the facts. Washington from the get-go said it was Russian President Vladimir Putin's missile that downed MH17. They swore they had evidence. Like in "We know. Trust us". The historical record for the past 60 years at least shows they cannot be trusted. There was never any evidence. Just spin. </span><br style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;" /><br style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;" /><span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;">Moscow, via the Defense Ministry, presented hard evidence. And called for an unbiased international investigation. Washington ignored it all - the call and the hard evidence. </span><br style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;" /><br style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;" /><span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;">The US Navy, crammed with state-of-the-art missile defense radars, has been in the Black Sea for weeks now. As much as the Russians, they have tracked every particle flying over Ukraine. The NSA goes for signals intelligence; the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency goes for phenomena in the imagery realm; the Defense Intelligence Agency adds Humint; there's the CIA; and there's the all-seeing, all-knowing Director of National Intelligence. How come all this trillion-dollar Full Spectrum Dominance apparatus cannot come up with a single, conclusive piece of evidence? </span><br style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;" /><br style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;" /><span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;">The only risible "evidence" presented so far pictures the acronym salad of US intel agencies spending their time reading blogs and Twittering. As in the State Department head in Kiev twittering satellite imagery that the New York Times parroted "proved" Russia is shelling Ukraine from across the border. The proverbial "senior US officials" even had to tersely admit on the record they have no proof whatsoever about "Putin's missile". If they had, NATO would be ready to flip burgers in Red Square. </span><br style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;" /><br style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;" /><span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;">Based on the wealth of info now in the open, the top probability of what caused the MH17 tragedy was an R-60M air-to-air missile shot from a Ukrainian Su-25 - and not a BUK (there's also the possibility of a double down; first an R-60M and then a BUK). The R-60M is very fast, with an ideal engagement distance of up to five kilometers. That's how far the Su-25 detected by the Russians (they showed the graphics) was from MH17. </span><br style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;" /><br style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;" /><span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;">SBU - Ukrainian intel - for its part confiscated the recordings of Kiev control tower talking to MH17. That would certainly explain why MH17 was overflying a war zone (Malaysian Airlines revealed they were forced to). Hefty bets can be made the recordings are now being "doctored". </span><br style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;" /><br style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;" /><span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;">Then there are the black boxes, which will not de decoded by the Malaysians or by the Dutch, but by the Brits - acting under Washington's orders. As The Saker blogger summed up the view of top Russian specialists, "the Brits will now let the NSA falsify the data and that falsification will be coordinated with the SBU in Kiev which will eventually release the recordings who will fully 'confirm' the 'authenticity' of the NSA-doctored recordings from the UK." To make it more palatable, and erase suspicions about Anglo-American foul play, the Dutch will announce it. Everyone should be forewarned. </span><br style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;" /><br style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;" /><span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;">NATO heads, for their part, are droolin'. Kiev's forces/militias will hold "joint exercises" with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Ukraine in slightly over a month from now, on September 1; red alert applies, because this is when Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said the slow motion ethnic cleansing of Donbass will be finished. </span><br style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;" /><br style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;" /><span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;">As for the R2P ("responsibility to protect") angle, it sounds quite improbable. True, Moscow can always say that unless the slow motion ethnic cleansing of Donbass stops they will recognize the Donetsk and Luhansk Republics. In that case, Moscow would be replaying Abkhazia and South Ossetia; a de facto R2P backed by military muscle. </span><br style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;" /><br style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;" /><span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;">Under international law - which Washington never respects, by the way - this is not the same as "invading" Ukraine. The frankly scary Samantha Power, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, would obviously freak out - but that's a dose of her own medicine. It would indeed be comparable to what the Americans are doing to the benefit of those Salafi-jihadis in Syria; and better yet, to what the US did in Kosovo. </span><br style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;" /><br style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;" /><b style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;">The $50billion vultures</b></p><p><span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;">And now, on top of sanctions, Moscow also has to contend with a massive US$50 billion theft attempt. The International Arbitration Court in The Hague found that the Kremlin's pursuit of Yukos and its main shareholder, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a decade ago was politically motivated. Moscow can't appeal - but it will pursue all legal avenues for trying to get this ruling "set aside". </span><br style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;" /><br style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;" /><span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;">Well, it's The Hague's decision itself that is political. Khodorkovsky was found guilty not only by the Russian judicial system but also by the European Court of Human Rights. Yukos and Menotep shareholders were and remain a bunch of oligarch gangsters - to put it mildly. </span><br style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;" /><br style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;" /><span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;">So here's the Empire of Chaos once again in action, manipulating a Dutch court after literally stealing Germany's gold and fining France for selling warships to Russia. In this case though, the "West" has more investments in Russia than the Russian government in the West. Payback could be a bitch - as in Moscow, for instance, freezing all US and EU energy investments especially in the new ultra-profitable frontier, the Arctic oil fields. Western Big Oil will never allow this to happen. </span><br style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;" /><br style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;" /><span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;">This could go on forever. The bottom line: the Russian state simply won't allow itself to be robbed by a dodgy ruling on behalf of a bunch of oligarchs. In parallel, a case can be made that not only the Return of the Living (Neo-Con) Dead but also substantial sections of the deep state in Washington DC and environs - as well as "Western" plutocracy - want to provoke some sort of NATO war against Russia, sooner rather than later. </span><br style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;" /><br style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;" /><span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;">And in another parallel line, Moscow rumor has it that the Kremlin finds this protracted post-Yukos battle just an afterthought compared to the economic war about to convulse Europe and eventually pit Europe against Russia: exactly what the Empire of Chaos is praying - and working - for. "Two Minute" Hate? Talk about hours, days, weeks, and years.</span></p> Wed, 30 Jul 2014 19:31:00 -0700 Pepe Escobar, Asia Times 1013552 at http://www.alternet.org gaza russia A New Kind of Violent Extremist Hell Is Being Created in the Middle of Iraq http://www.alternet.org/world/new-kind-violent-extremist-hell-being-created-middle-iraq <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">With all the unrest in Iraq between different ethnic groups, it&#039;s looking more like the country is transforming itself into Jihad Central.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/3a475810456c5546018ed299914e81637a42ef00.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>So now a huge Hardcore Sunnistan stretches all the way from the suburbs of Aleppo to Tikrit and from Mosul to the Jordanian/Iraqi border - the same one that dissolved in 2003 when Shock and Awe turned into Mission (Un)Accomplished.<br /><br />In an eerie echo of Dick Cheney's army's footprints reverberating in the sands of Anbar province, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and their coalition of the willing (jihadis, Islamists, Ba'athists and tribal sheikhs) now pose as the "liberators" of Iraqi Sunnis from the clutches of an "evil" Shi'ite majority government in Baghdad.<br /><br />In addition, ISIS also controls the PR wars. <a href="https://elijahjm.wordpress.com/2014/06/22/isis-usa-decision-to-hit-us-will-have-a-positive-outcome-and-will-show-a-usal-maliki-alliance-against-the-sunni/">Here</a>, a jihadi details how any sort of possible Washington "kinetic" involvement will be interpreted as an unholy alliance between the Empire and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki against the underdogs.<br /><br />From a Sunni perspective, it's down with Iraq's Counter-terrorism law; down with de-Ba'athification (with the ascent of neo-Ba'athist Jaysh Rijal al-Tariqa al-Naqshbandia - JRTN, led by former Saddam honcho Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri); down with the Interior Ministry in Baghdad going after Sunni politicians; down with protests being crushed.<br /><br />At the same time, it's the return of the US-sponsored Sahwa (Sons of Iraq) - who fiercely fought al-Qaeda in Iraq in 2007, the mother of ISIS - and the return of assorted Shi'ite militias (Muqtada al-Sadr not only repelled the new wave of US "military advisers" - that's how it started in Vietnam - but also warned that his own badass Men in Black will "shake the ground" fighting ISIS.) The mid-2000s are the new normal; it's gonna be militia hell all over again.<br /><br />Mesopotamia, we got a problem. Neo-Ba'athists want nothing but a secular Iraq run by Sunnis, Saddam-style (rather former neocon darling Ahmad Chalabi.) ISIS wants a Caliphate extending all across the Levant under Sharia law. Something's got to give.<br /><br />What will give will be the Iraqi nation itself - the balkanized, protracted (intended) consequence of the 2003 invasion and occupation, finally transmogrified into Jihad Central.<br /><br /><strong>It's payback time</strong><br />The Obama administration's "strategy" (remember "Don't Do Stupid Shit", the Ukraine strategy?) is to impose regime change on al-Maliki; after all, he had the bad taste of refusing to let US troops keep occupying Iraq past the 2012 deadline, and on top of it his government is close to Tehran.<br /><br />Thus the answer to the now legendary question of how the US intel satellite maze failed to capture that long column of ISIS Men in Black in their gleaming white Toyota Land Cruisers crossing the Syrian-Iraq desert wasteland. Call it the Mother of All Intel Failures (remember Saddam's talk of Mother of All Battles?)<br /><br />Here we have trademark Empire of Chaos "revenge" against Baghdad, Tehran and - why not - Moscow (after all Russian president Vladimir Putin offered full support to al-Maliki to fight the jihadis.) Iraq duly merges with Ukraine. And as for payback redux, it's - almost - all spelled out <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iraq/10918607/How-US-and-Britain-were-warned-of-Isis-advance-in-Iraq-but-turned-a-deaf-ear.html">here</a>.<br /><br />As for the Beltway-peddled myth - once again - of "good terrorists" and "bad terrorists", this week Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria pledged its allegiance to ISIS. This means that ISIS now virtually controls both sides of the border, at Albu Kamal in Syria and Al-Qaim in Iraq. As a bonus, ISIS and allied Sunni tribal sheikhs also surrounded the US-controlled Camp Anaconda in Iraq and are ready for a long-term mortar game. Will Beltway "analysts" ever learn?<br /><br />That little fiction known as Jordan - run by King Playstation, aka Abdullah - will be ripe for the taking as soon as hardcore Salafis from Zarqa (Zarqawi's hometown) totally align with ISIS. Add that piece of real estate to the embryo Levantine Caliphate and we'll be talking major business - oil refineries possibly included.<br /><br />"Don't Do Stupid Shit", applied to Syria and Iraq, means that the Obama administration has gone (almost) no holds barred in its "Assad must go" policy, by the way a Ba'ath government; what's implied is that Washington is an ally of ISIS in Syria, while a (determined?) foe of ISIS in Iraq. Assad's "sin" is that he's an ally of both Tehran (like al-Maliki) and, most of all (from an American perspective), Hezbollah. And now comes the Obama administration's latest "Stupid Shit" - in the form of weaponizing "appropriately vetted" rebels in Syria.<br /><br />Lording over this suspension of disbelief scenario, the whole Beltway, White House included, sells the illusion it is thoughtfully deliberating whether the real dangerous Men in Black here are in fact from ISIS - and what to do about them.<br /><br />As some sort of Washington-Tehran cooperation against ISIS becomes self-evident, that poses a major problem for the perennial Bomb Iran crowd in the Beltway, as well as for hardliners in Tehran; after all ISIS has erected a massive geostrategic barrier between Iran and Syria, threatening Tehran's connection with Hezbollah.<br /><br />Likudniks will go no holds barred to prevent any cooperation. But that will be a detail anyway. Baghdad may get all the help it needs from Iranian special forces and militias such as Muqtada's. ISIS does not have the manpower or the expertise to lay siege to Baghdad; people in Sadr City alone would rip them to shreds. Not to mention attack Najaf and Karbala, the Shi'ite holy cities, which are already protected by heavily armed popular brigades.<br /><br /><strong>Will NATO meet Jihadistan?</strong><br />Kirkuk is now under virtual Kurd control. Its "devolution" to Baghdad will be immensely problematic - and that's a major euphemism. Kirkuk produces around 670,000 barrels of oil a day. Up to 300,000 are exported via the pipeline to Ceyhan, in Turkey. Yet only 120,000 barrels a day have been online these past few weeks.<br /><br />Iraq's total production is 3.3 million barrels a day - the bulk concentrated in the south, around Basra. There's no realistic evidence ISIS would ever be able to capture Basra.<br /><br />So the problem remains some refineries in the north such as Baiji. Elite Iraqi counter-terrorism forces can deal with it. If ISIS by any chance would be able to hang on to some oil and gas - a major if - that's certified joy for, most of all, market speculators. And soon there might be thousands of US special forces "securing" Iraqi oil fields and the Green Zone in Baghdad.<br /><br />Assad's Syrian Army can - and it's already - contributing to fight ISIS. In the end, ISIS can realistically be repelled by the Syrian Army, elite Iranian special forces, Shi'ite brigades and yes - an <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-28042302">imminent cameo</a> by those second-hand fighter jets from Russia and Belarus.<br /><br />ISIS won't take over Baghdad. But like a freak mutant, in a Hardcore Sunnistan goes Hollywood fashion, it might go even more bonkers and try to take over Amman, Doha and even Riyadh.<br /><br />The Empire of Chaos will keep betting on - what else - chaos. And it's going swimmingly its way - from the real possibility of a final push towards a Great Kurdistan (in Syria, Iraq, Turkey and even Iran) to sectarian militia hell all across Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey and Yemen. Not to mention all possible ramifications in Northern Africa, Central Asia and the North Caucasus.<br /><br />What will Hillary Clinton, the Hillarator, do? In this case, one's gotta wait for early 2017. She could always pull another "We came, we saw, he died" and triumphantly stage a second coming in the Levant as a droned Athena singing Light My Fire.<br /><br />In the end, NATO won't meet Jihadistan. No "responsibility to protect" (R2P) Arabs from killing Arabs. NATO will be - gleefully - "watching" in the sidelines. Because from Northern Africa and across the Middle East to the Caucasus and all the way to Western China, the name of the (burning) game is to keep Dr Zbig Brzezinski's "Eurasian Balkans" ever simmering in a funeral pyre.</p> Mon, 30 Jun 2014 07:35:00 -0700 Pepe Escobar, Asia Times 1008083 at http://www.alternet.org World World iraq Isis Why the Iraqi Badass Jihadis in Black Are a Dream Come True for the CIA http://www.alternet.org/world/why-iraqi-badass-jihadis-black-are-dream-come-true-cia <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">ISIS is the perfect tool to keep the Global War on Terror in Enduring Freedom Forever mode.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/cf8905b9e1935bee0000c99427db83e1a232346e.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Let's cut to the chase. As in chasing that Zara outdoor summer collection, complete with state of the art assault rifles, brand new white Nike sneakers and brand new, unlimited mileage white Toyotas crossing the Syrian-Iraqi desert; the Badass Jihadis in Black. <br /><br />Once upon a (very recent) time, the US government used to help only "good terrorists" (in Syria), instead of "bad terrorists". That was an echo of a (less recent) time when it was supporting only "good Taliban" and not "bad Taliban". <br /><br />So what happens when Brookings Institution so-called "experts" start blabbering that the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS) is really the baddest jihadi outfit on the planet (after all they were cast out of al-Qaeda)? Are they so badass that by warped newspeak logic they're now the new normal? <br /><br />Since late last year, according to US government newspeak, the "good terrorists" in Syria are the al-Qaeda spinoff gang of Jabhat al-Nusra and (disgraced) Prince Bandar bin Sultan, aka Bandar Bush, the Islamic Front (essentially a Jabhat al-Nusra multiple outlet). And yet both Jabhat and ISIS had pledged allegiance to Ayman "the doctor" al-Zawahiri, the perennial gift that keeps on giving al-Qaeda capo. <br /><br />That still leaves the question of what Men in Black ISIS, the catwalk-conscious beheading stormtroopers for a basket of hardcore tribal Sunnis and Ba'ath party "remnants" (remember Rummy in 2003?) are really up to. <br /><br />We interrupt this desert catwalk to announce they will NOT invade Baghdad. On the other hand, they are busy accelerating the balkanization - and eventual partition - of both Syria and Iraq. They are NOT a CIA brainchild (how come Langley never thought about it?); they are in fact the bastard children of (disgraced) Bandar Bush's credit card largesse. <br /><br />The fact that ISIS is NOT directly in Langley's payroll does not imply their strategic agenda essentially differs from that of the Empire of Chaos. The Obama administration may be sending a few marines to protect the swimming pools of the largest, Vatican-sized embassy on Planet Earth, plus a few "military advisers" to "retrain" the dissolving Iraqi Army. But that's a drop of Coke Zero in the Western Iraqi desert. There's no evidence Obama is about to authorize "kinetic support" against ISIS, even though Baghdad has already green-lighted it. <br /><br />Even if Obama went ballistic ("targeted military action"), and/or manufactured a new kill list to be itemized by his drones, that would amount to no more than a little diversion. What matters is that the confluent ISIS/Beltway agenda remains the same; get rid of Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki (not by accident the new meme in US corporate media); curb Iran's political/economic influence over Iraq; fundamentally erase Sykes-Picot; and promote the "birth pangs" (remember Condi?) of vast wastelands bypassing centralized power and run by hardcore tribal Sunnis. <br /><br />For the Empire of Chaos, ISIS is the agent provocateur that fell from (Allah's?) Heaven; the perfect ski mask-clad tool to keep the Global War on Terror (GWOT) in Enduring Freedom Forever mode. <br /><br />The icing in the (melted) cake is that the House of Saud has <a href="http://www.twitlonger.com/show/ndkh83" target="_blank">officially denied</a> support of ISIS. So this means it's true, even over Bandar Bush's carcass. Cue to the official House of Saud and House of Thani narrative about ISIS: they are not in charge of what's happening in Iraq. It's all organized by the Ba'athist "remnants". <br /><br /><strong>Bring on more regime change </strong><br />Now for the all-encompassing Iranian angle, because the whole drama, as usual, is mostly about "containment" of Iran. We just need to endure <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-united-states-should-not-cooperate-with-iran-on-iraq/2014/06/17/f3144b9c-f63e-11e3-a3a5-42be35962a52_story.html" target="_blank">this</a> to confirm it; the same old regurgitation about "evidence" that "Iran and its Syrian allies" have "cooperated" with ISIS and that Bashar al-Assad in Syria has a "business partnership" with ISIS. And don't forget the scaremongering; what's ahead is a "nuclear Iran" against a "Sunni Arab world" in which the great bogeymen remains al-Qaeda. <br /><br />Neo-con propaganda denouncing the US government for being in bed with Tehran against ISIS is, once again, disinformation. <br /><br />Commander of Iran's Basij, General Mohammad Reza Naqudi, was very close to the mark when he said, "Takfiri and Salafi groups in different regional states, especially in Syria and Iraq, are supported by the US", and that "the US is manipulating the Takfiri terrorists to tarnish the image of Islam and Muslims." The same applies to Speaker of the Majlis Ali Larijani; "It is obvious that the Americans and the countries around it have made such moves ... Terrorism has grown into an instrument for the big powers to advance their goals." <br /><br />What this all implies is that Tehran has identified the ISIS catwalk parade for what it is; a trap. Moreover, they are also convinced Washington won't break with its vassals at the House of Saud. Translation: Washington remains committed to old school GWOT. What Tehran is already, practically, supporting - also with "advisers" on the ground - is a myriad of Shi'ite militias who are being deployed to secure Baghdad and especially the Shi'ite holy cities, Najaf and Karbala. <br /><br />US Return of the Living Neo-Con Dead, meanwhile, insist on regurgitating their favorite theme; Maliki Maliki Maliki. Nothing of what's goin' on in Iraq has anything to do with Shock and Awe, the invasion, occupation and destruction of most of the country, Abu Ghraib, or the vicious, totally Washington-instigated sectarian war (Divide and Rule, all over again). It's all Maliki's fault. So he must be booted out. When everything fails - to the tune of trillions of dollars - the neo-con playbook always resets to default; regime change. <br /><br /><strong>Slouching towards Hardcore Sunnistan</strong><br />It's all extremely fishy about ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, aka Abu Dua, born in Samarra in 1971, a Saddam "remnant" but - crucially - a former prisoner of the US government in Camp Bocca from 2005 to 2009, as well as a former leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq. It's no secret in the Levant that ISIS Men in Black were trained in 2012 by US instructors at a secret base in Safawi, in the northern desert of that fiction disguised as a country, Jordan, so they would later fight as Western-approved "rebels" in Syria. <br /><br />It was al-Baghdadi who sent a batch of Men in Black to set up Jabhat al-Nusra ("good terrorists", remember?) in Syria. He may have split from Jabhat in late 2013, but still remains in charge of a vast desert wasteland from northern Syria to Western Iraq. He's the new Osama bin Laden (the gift that keeps on giving, again), the all but certain Emir of an Islamically correct desert Caliphate in the heart of the Levant. <br /><br />Forget about Osama in the Hindu Kush; this is so much sexier. <br /><br />A hardcore Sunnistan between Iraq's Kurdish north and the Shi'te south, swimming in oil, extending all the way to Aleppo, Rakka and Deir ez-Zor in Syria, between the two rivers - the Tiger and the Euphrates - with Mosul as capital, back to its ancestral role of pivot between the twin rivers and the Mediterranean. Sykes-Picot, eat your heart out. <br /><br />Obviously, al-Baghdadi could not have pulled that awesome feat off all by himself. Enter his top Saddam "remnant" sidekick, Ba'ath party theorist extraordinaire Izzaat Ibrahim al-Douri, who happens to be from strategic Mosul. And most of all, enter the General Military Council for Iraqi Revolutionaries - an awesomely "secret" organization which has had the guile to dribble, like an infernal composite of Lionel Messi and Luiz Suarez, the whole Western intel apparatus, Orwellian-Panopticon NSA included. <br /><br />Well, not really, because this ISIS-Ba'athist coalition of the willing was brokered by none other than Bandar Bush - while he was still in action, with crucial, lateral input from Turkey's Prime Minister Erdogan. No way to trace it all back to the Beltway. <br /><br />What the General Military Council managed to assemble was no less than all the "remnants" of the good old early 2000s Iraqi resistance, top tribal sheiks, merge it with ISIS, and create what might be dubbed a "Resistance Army" - those Badass Jihadis in Black in their white Toyotas, now the stuff of legend, performing the miracle of being untrackable by the NSA's satellite maze. They're so hip they even have their own <a href="https://www.facebook.com/gmcir1" target="_blank">Facebook page</a>, with over 33,000 "likes". <br /><br /><strong>Balkanize or bust</strong><br />Meanwhile, the agenda of the Empire of Chaos proceed unabated. Balkanization is already a fact. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, crucially a Kurd, pledged Kurdish Peshmerga "cooperation" with the Iraq army to keep oil-rich Kirkuk away from ISIS. Like clockwork, the Peshmergas for all practical purposes annexed Kirkuk. Grand Kurdistan beckons. <br /><br />Grand Ayatollah Sistani, also for all practical purposes, launched a Shi'ite jihad against ISIS. For his part, the leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, Sayyid Ammar al-Hakim, all but resurrected their formidable paramilitary, the Badr Corps - very close to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps. These are real badasses, against which ISIS does not stand a chance. And Muqtada al-Sadr is launching "Peace Brigades" to protect the Shi'te holy cities and also Christian churches. Civil war rules. <br /><br />Meanwhile, in the Land of Oz, the Pentagon will certainly be able to extract extra funds for its perennial crusade to save Western civilization from Islamist terror. After all, there's a (ski masked) neo-Osama bin Laden in da hood. <br /><br />Although the majority of Iraqis reject balkanization, Sunnis will keep accusing Shi'ites of being Iranian pawns, and Shi'ites will keep accusing Sunnis of being the House of Saud's fifth column. ISIS will keep getting loads of cash from wealthy Saudi "donors". The US government will keep weaponizing Sunnis in Syria against Shi'ites and (perhaps) conducting soft "targeted military strikes" for Shi'ites against Sunnis in Iraq. Welcome to Divide and Rule run amok.</p> Fri, 20 Jun 2014 09:56:00 -0700 Pepe Escobar, Asia Times 1005079 at http://www.alternet.org World World iraq Badass Jihadis in Black cia Checkmate Ahead: Russia Is Beating the U.S. In the Chess Game Over Ukraine http://www.alternet.org/world/checkmate-ahead-russia-beating-us-chess-game-over-ukraine <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The likely solution to the crisis is the one favored by Russia: autonomy for eastern and southern Ukraine.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/images/AFP/photo_1323365352057-5-0.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>It's hardly a match between equals - as one is playing Monopoly while the other plays chess. It's as if Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has been postponing his checkmate, while US Secretary of State John Kerry increasingly realizes he's facing the inevitable. <br /><br />Lavrov has explained over and over again, <a href="http://voiceofrussia.com/2014_03_29/Only-way-for-Ukraine-to-reach-settlement-is-to-sign-federal-agreement-Lavrov-1757/">a loose federation</a> is the only possible solution for Ukraine, as part of a "deep constitutional reform". That would imply ethnic - and even sentimentally - Russian eastern and southern Ukraine would be largely autonomous. Kerry gave signs of agreeing around two weeks ago that Ukrainian regions need more decision power; but then the White House recharged its moral blitzkrieg - coinciding with President Barack Obama's trip to The Hague and Brussels. Still, even after an inconclusive four-hour Kerry-Lavrov chess match in Paris, there will be a checkmate. </p><p>The Russian solution is the same plan proposed by Moscow already a few weeks ago, and again discussed on the phone by Obama and President Vladimir Putin on Friday - which prompted Kerry to redirect his flight to Paris. Each Ukrainian region, according to Lavrov, would be able to control its economy, taxes, culture, language, education and "external economic and cultural connections with neighboring countries or regions". That's such a sound plan that even former - or perennial, depending on spin - cold warriors such as Henry Kissinger and Zbig Brzezinski reasonably agree. <br /><br />The key problem is that Washington immovably considers the present Kiev set up - also known as the Khaganate of Nulands, as in State Department Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nulands - as legitimate. Moscow sees them as a bunch of putschists and fascists. And Washington still refuses to press Kiev to accept a federal system - thus allowing, among other things, Russian as an official second language. <br /><br />The latest American stunt is a massive propaganda drive of "The Reds are coming" kind, about Russian troops <a href="http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303779504579465830294243784">massing at the border</a>(pliant corporate media spins numbers over 100,000). <br /><br />Kerry, for the moment, is at least refraining from hysteria; he admits Washington and Moscow agree a diplomatic solution is a must, just to revert to the new meme - the artificial, Pentagon/NATO-spun "prelude to an invasion". <br /><br />Washington's official position remains that Moscow must disarm its forces in Crimea (it won't happen); admit international observers (it might happen); and pull troops back from the eastern border (Moscow argues these are exercises, with the same number as usual - fewer than 20,000). Lavrov having to stress over and over again there are no Russian plans to invade eastern Ukraine sound almost like a punch line in stand-up comedy. <br /><br /><strong>Beware The Empire of Chaos </strong></p><p>Then there are the upcoming presidential elections. Rivers of vodka may be bet that that will be an extremely dodgy operation. The Svoboda and Right Sector goons currently in positions of power will do everything to tamper with the results (as they are not exactly popular). After German Chancellor Angela Merkel's horse - former boxer "Klitsch" - decided to abandon the race, the leader is - what else - an oligarch: billionaire chocolate tycoon Petro Poroshenko. He already dismissed the federal solution, as in "somebody in the Russian government trying to tell us what type of governmental system we should have". <br /><br />And there's nothing about "democracy" to start with, as the regime changers, as reported by Kommersant, are in full speed already rewriting the Ukrainian constitution, with Prime Minister "Yats" Arseniy Yatseniuk urging them to come up with the final redaction within the next two weeks. <br /><br />The unspoken Siberian tiger in this room is a Russian unconditional. Kiev must officially pledge that Ukraine will not join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. And we all know, since the Khaganate of Nulands was installed, this was always about the Pentagon-led expansion of NATO. <br /><br />Putin's "carrot" to Obama is something that he also told him on the phone: the future of Transnistria in Moldova, on Ukraine's south-west border, should be solved by talks in a 5+2 format; Moldova, Transnistria, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Russia and Ukraine, with the European Union and US as observers. Once again, no "invasion" involved. <br /><br />Glaring in all this is an already immovable fact - Crimea joining the Russian Federation. And there's no turning back, whatever the US, the EU and Kiev may spin. <br /><br />But that poses an ulterior problem. Putin's rationale to move on Crimea - after Russian intelligence uncovered a plot to replicate in Simferopol the coup in Kiev - was that Crimea's autonomy was not enough to protect it from the regime changers. The same could be argued later about ethnic Russians and Russian speakers in eastern and southern Ukraine. So the autonomy conditions - and the constitutional reform - would have to be ironclad. They probably won't. <br /><br />Still, the stark fact is that no one gives a damn about "the Ukrainian people", be it the US, the EU or the International Monetary Fund (Russia at least cares for Russians in Ukraine). Another even more sensitive ulterior problem, assuming Washington and Moscow reach a deal, is how far can you trust the "word" of the United States government. Russia has first-hand experience on the matter, as in Bush father promising Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO would not expand across eastern Europe. It did - like a blob in a cheap horror flick. <br /><br />We should never forget the Big Picture; as with the NSA Orwellian-panopticon complex, this is most of all about the application of the Pentagon's Full Spectrum Dominance doctrine, which implies encirclement of Russia (via NATO), coupled with the pivot-style encirclement of China. And the overarching logic remains the same; this is The Empire of Chaos in action. </p> Tue, 01 Apr 2014 14:51:00 -0700 Pepe Escobar, Asia Times 977525 at http://www.alternet.org World World russia ukraine us Why It's Going to Be Impossible to Isolate Russia http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/why-its-going-be-impossible-isolate-russia <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Europe might want to act tough, but Russia holds too many cards.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/angela_merkel_at_hannovermesse.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>German Chancellor Angela Merkel could teach U.S. President Barack Obama one or two things about how to establish a dialogue with Russian President Vladimir Putin.<br /><br />As if Obama would listen. He'd rather boost his constitutional law professor self, and pompously lecture an elite Eurocrat audience in the glittering Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, like he did this Wednesday, on how Putin is the greatest threat to the U.S.-administered global order since World War II. Well, it didn't go that well; most Eurocrats were busy taking selfies or twittering.<br /><br />Putin, meanwhile, met with the CEO of German engineering and electrical conglomerate Siemens, Joe Kaeser, at his official residence outside Moscow. Siemens invested more than U.S. $1.1 billion in Russia over the past two years, and that, Kaeser said, is bound to continue. Angela was certainly taking notes.<br /><br />Obama couldn't behave otherwise. The constitutional law expert knows nothing about Russia, in his (meager) political career never had to understand how Russia works, and may even fear Russia — surrounded as he is by a coterie of spectacularly mediocre aids. His Brussels rhetorical tour de force yielded absolutely nothing — apart from the threat that if Putin persisted in his "aggression" against eastern Ukraine or even NATO members-countries the president of the United States would unroll a much stiffer sanction package.<br /><br />What else is new, <a href="http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303725404579460183854574284?mg=reno64-wsj&amp;url=http%3A%2F%2Fonline.wsj.com%2Farticle%2FSB10001424052702303725404579460183854574284.html">considering this</a> by supreme CIA asset and former Pentagon head in the first Obama administration, Bob Gates, is what passes for political analysis in the U.S.<br /><br /><strong>The $1 trillion game-changer</strong></p><p>Demonized 24/7 by the sprawling Western propaganda machine as a ruthless aggressor, Putin and his Kremlin advisers just need to play Sun Tzu. The regime changers in Kiev are already mired in a vicious catfight. [1] And even Ukraine's acting Prime Minister Arseniy Petrovych "Yats" Yatsenyuk has identified the gloomy times ahead, stressing that the signature of the economic part of the association agreement between Ukraine and the E.U. has been postponed — so there will be no "negative consequences" for industrialized eastern Ukraine.<br /><br />Translation: he knows this will be the kiss of death for Ukrainian industry, on top of it coupled with an imminent structural adjustment by the International Monetary Fund linked to the E.U. (maybe) bailing out a bankrupt Ukraine.<br /><br />Asia Times Online's Spengler coined a formulation: "A specter is haunting Europe, and that is the specter of a Russian-Chinese alliance at the expense of Europe." The alliance is already on — manifested in the G-20, the BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. There are military technology synergies on the horizon — the ultra-sophisticated S-500 air defense system is to be unveiled by Moscow, and Beijing would absolutely love to have it. But for the real fireworks, just wait a few weeks, when Putin visits Beijing in May.<br /><br />That's when he will sign the famous $1 trillion gas deal according to which Gazprom will supply China's CNPC with 3.75 billion cubic feet of gas a day for 30 years, starting in 2018 (China's current daily gas demand is around 16 billion cubic feet).<br /><br />Gazprom may still collect most of its profits from Europe, but Asia is its privileged future. On the competition front, the hyper-hyped U.S. shale "revolution" is a myth — as much as the notion the U.S. will be suddenly increasing exports of gas to the rest of the world any time soon.<br /><br />Gazprom will use this mega-deal to boost investment in eastern Siberia — which sooner rather than later will be configured as the privileged hub for gas shipments to both Japan and South Korea. That's the ultimate (substantial) reason why Asia won't "isolate" Russia. (See <a href="http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Central_Asia/CEN-01-250314.html">Asia will not 'isolate' Russia</a>, Asia Times Online, March 25, 2014.)<br /><br />Not to mention the much-anticipated "thermonuclear" (for the petrodollar) possibility that Russia and China will agree payment for the Gazprom-CNPC deal may be in yuan or rubles. That will be the dawn of a basket of currencies as the new international reserve currency — a key BRICS objective and the ultimate, incendiary, new (economic) fact on the ground.<br /><br /><strong>Time to invest in Pipelineistan</strong></p><p>Even though its centrality pales compared to Asia, Europe, of course, is not "expendable" for Russia. There have been rumbles in Brussels by some poodles about canceling the South Stream pipeline — pumping Russian gas underneath the Black Sea (and bypassing Ukraine) to Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovenia, Serbia, Croatia, Greece, Italy and Austria. The Bulgarian Economy and Energy Minister, Dragomir Stoynev, said no way. Same for the Czech Republic, because it badly needs Russian investment, and Hungary, which recently signed a nuclear energy deal with Moscow.<br /><br />The only other possibility for the E.U. would be Caspian gas, from Azerbaijan — following on the trail of the Zbig Brzezinski-negotiated Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline, which was conceived expressly to bypass both Russia and Iran. As if the E.U. would have the will, the speed and funds to spend billions of dollars to build yet another pipeline virtually tomorrow, and assuming Azerbaijan had enough supply capacity (it doesn't; other actors, like Kazakhstan or ultra-unreliable Turkmenistan, which prefers to sell its gas to China, would have to be part of the picture).<br /><br />Well, nobody ever lost money betting on the cluelessness of Brussels' Eurocrats. South Stream and other energy projects will create a lot of jobs and investment in many of the most troubled E.U. nations. Extra sanctions? No less than 91 percent of Poland's energy, and 86 percent of Hungary's, come from Russia. Over 20 percent of the foreign lending of French banks is to Russian companies. No less than 68 Russian companies trade at the London Stock Exchange. For the Club Med nations, Russian tourism is now a lifeline (1 million went to Italy last year, for instance.)<br /><br />U.S. Think Tankland is trying to fool American public opinion into believing what the Obama administration should be applying is a replay of the "containment" policy of 1945-1989 to "limit the development of Russia as a hegemonic power.” The "recipe": weaponize everybody and his neighbor, from the Baltic nations to Azerbaijan, to "contain" Russia. The New Cold War is on because, from the point of view of U.S. so-called "elites,” it never really left.<br /><br />Meanwhile, Gazprom's stock price is up. Buy now. You won't regret it.</p><p>_______________<br /><br />Notes:<br />1. <a href="http://www.moonofalabama.org/2014/03/popcorn-please-while-putins-agitators-rule-in-kiev.html#comments">Popcorn Please While "Putin's Agitators" Rule in Kiev</a>, Moon of Alabama, March 26, 2014.</p> Fri, 28 Mar 2014 11:02:00 -0700 Pepe Escobar, Asia Times 976097 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics World russia vladimir putin angela merkel e.u. belgium ukraine Gazprom China world energy industry Why the Impact of U.S. Sanctions on Russia Is Going to Be Exactly Zero http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/why-impact-us-sanctions-russia-going-be-exactly-zero <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Europe&#039;s dependency on Russian energy supplies make for an easy target in response to U.S. moves.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/vitalychurkin.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>"We are paying very close attention to the situation in Ukraine. We hope all parties can calmly maintain restraint to prevent the situation from further escalating and worsening. Political resolution and dialogue is the only way out."<br /><br />This, via Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Li Baodong, is Beijing's quite measured, official interpretation of what's happening in Ukraine, tailored for global consumption.<br /><br />But <a href="http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/98649/8570918.html">here</a>, in a People's Daily editorial, is what the leadership is really thinking. And the focus is clearly on the dangers of regime change, the "West's inability to understand the lessons of history", and "the final battlefield of the Cold War."<br /><br />Yet again the West misinterpreted China's abstention from the U.N. Security Council vote on a U.S.-backed resolution condemning the Crimea referendum. The spin was that Russia — which vetoed the resolution — was "isolated." It's not. And the way Beijing plays geopolitics shows it's not.<br /><br /><strong>Oh, Samantha …</strong></p><p>The herd of elephants in the (Ukraine) room, in terms of global opinion, is how the authentic "international community" — from the G-20 to the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) — who has had enough of the Exceptionalist Hypocrisy Show, has fully understood, and even applauded, that at least one country on the planet has the balls to clearly say "F**k the U.S." Russia under President Vladimir Putin may harbor quite a few distortions, just like any other nation. But this is not a dinner party; this is realpolitik. To face down the U.S. Leviathan, nothing short of a bad ass such as Putin will suffice.<br /><br />NATO — or shorthand for the Pentagon dominating European wimps — keeps issuing threats and spewing out "consequences." What are they going to do — launch a barrage of ICBMs equipped with nuclear warheads against Moscow?<br /><br />Furthermore, the U.N. Security Council itself is a joke, with U.S. ambassador Samantha "Nothing Compares to You" Power — one of the mothers of R2P ("responsibility to protect") — carping on "Russian aggression", "Russian provocations" and comparing the Crimean referendum to a theft. Oh yes; bombing Iraq, bombing Libya and getting to the brink of bombing Syria were just innocent humanitarian gestures. Samantha The Humanitarian arguably gives a better performance invoking Sinead O'Connor in her shower.<br /><br />Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin was polite enough to say, "these insults addressed to our country" are "unacceptable." It's what he added that carried the real juice; "If the delegation of the United States of America expects our cooperation in the Security Council on other issues, then Power must understand this quite clearly."<br /><br />Samantha The Humanitarian, as well as the whole bunch of juvenile bystanders in the Obama administration, won't understand it. Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov gave them a little help; Russia didn't want to use the Iranian nuclear talks to "raise the stakes", but if the U.S. and the E.U. continue with their sanctions and threats, that's what's going to happen.<br /><br />So the plot thickens — as in a closer and closer strategic partnership between Tehran and Moscow.<br /><br /><strong>Secessionists of the world, unite?</strong></p><p>Now imagine all this as seen from Beijing. No one knows what exactly goes on in the corridors of the Zhongnanhai, but it's fair to argue there's only an apparent contradiction between China's key principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states, and Russia's intervention in Crimea.<br /><br />Beijing has identified very clearly the sequence of affairs; long-running Western interference in Ukraine via NGOs and the State Department; regime change perpetrated with the help of fascists and neo-nazis; a pre-emptive Russian counterattack which can be read as a by-the-book Samantha The Humanitarian R2P operation (protecting Russians and Russian speakers from a second coup planned in Crimea, and thwarted by Russian intelligence.)<br /><br />On top of it Beijing well knows how Crimea has been essentially Russian since 1783; how Crimea — as well as a great deal of Ukraine — fall smack into Russian civilization's sphere of influence; and how Western interference directly threatened Russia's national security interests (as Putin made it clear.) Now imagine a similar scenario in Tibet or Xinjiang. Long-running Western interference via NGOs and the CIA; a take over by Tibetans in Lhasa or Uighurs in Kashgar of the local administration. Beijing could easily use Samantha's R2P in the name of protecting Han Chinese.<br /><br />Yet Beijing (silently) agreeing to the Russian response to the coup in Kiev by getting Crimea back via a referendum and without a shot fired does not mean that "splittists" Tibet or Taiwan would be allowed to engage in the same route. Even as Tibet, more than Taiwan, would be able to build a strong historical case for seceding. Each case bears its own myriad complexities.<br /><br />The Obama administration, like a blind Minotaur, is now lost in a labyrinth of pivots of its own making. A new Borges — that Buddha in a gray suit — is needed to tell the tale. First there was the pivoting to Asia-Pac — which is encircling of China under another name — as it's well understood in Beijing.<br /><br />Then came the pivoting to Persia — "if we are not going to war", as that Cypher in Search of an Idea, John Kerry, put it. There was, of course, the martial pivoting to Syria, aborted at the last minute thanks to the good offices of Moscow diplomacy. And back to the pivoting to Russia, trampling the much-lauded "reset" and conceived as a payback for Syria.<br /><br />Those who believe Beijing strategists have not carefully analyzed — and calculated a response — to all the implications of these overlapping pivots do deserve to join Samantha in the shower. Additionally, it's easy to picture Chinese Think Tankland hardly repressing its glee in analyzing a hyperpower endlessly, helplessly pivoting over itself.<br /><br /><strong>While the Western dogs bark …</strong></p><p>Russia and China are strategic partners — at the G-20, at the BRICS club of emerging powers and at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Their number one objective, in these and other forums, is the emergence of a multipolar world; no bullying by the American Empire of Bases, a more balanced international financial system, no more petrodollar eminence, a basket of currencies, essentially a "win-win" approach to global economic development.<br /><br />A multipolar world also implies, by definition, NATO out of Eurasia — which is from Washington's point of view the number one reason to interfere in Ukraine. In Eurasian terms, it's as if — being booted out of Afghanistan by a bunch of peasants with Kalashnikovs — NATO was pivoting back via Ukraine.<br /><br />While Russia and China are key strategic partners in the energy sphere — Pipelineistan and beyond — they do overlap in their race to do deals across Central Asia. Beijing is building not only one but two <a href="http://rt.com/op-edge/china-crisis-crimea-russia-889/">New Silk Roads</a> — across Southeast Asia and across Central Asia, involving pipelines, railways and fiber optic networks, and reaching as far as Istanbul, the getaway to Europe. Yet as far as Russia-China competition for markets go, all across Eurasia, it's more under a "win-win" umbrella than a zero-sum game.<br /><br />On Ukraine ("the last battlefield in the Cold War") and specifically Crimea, the (unspoken) official position by Beijing is absolute neutrality (re: the U.N. vote). Yet the real deal is support to Moscow. But this could never be out in the open, because Beijing is not interested in antagonizing the West, unless heavily provoked (the pivoting becoming hardcore encirclement, for instance). Never forget; since Deng Xiaoping ("keep a low profile") this is, and will continue to be, about China's "peaceful rise." Meanwhile, the Western dogs bark, and the Sino-Russian caravan passes.</p> Fri, 21 Mar 2014 11:37:00 -0700 Pepe Escobar, Asia Times 973258 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics World russia europe energy sanctions u.s. ukraine Crimea China global economy iran central asia Obama and the West's Ukraine Gambit Has Fizzled, and Now Putin's in the Driver's Seat http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/russia-1-regime-changers-0 <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The world watches as neo-Nazis take over Ukraine, with E.U. funding.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/crimeaukraine.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Let's cut to the chase — short and sweet. <br /><br />(1) The Obama administration's "strategic" gambit to extricate Ukraine from the Russian sphere of influence — and ultimately annex it to NATO is in utter shambles. <br /><br />(2) The referendum in Crimea — 85 percent of turnout, roughly 93 percent voting for re-joining Russia, according to exit polls — is a done deal, as much as the oh-so-democratic European Union (E.U.) keeps threatening to punish people in Crimea for exercising their basic democratic rights. (By the way, when the U.S. got Kosovo to secede from Serbia, Serbians were offered no referendum). </p><p>(3) The main rationale for the whole U.S. "strategic" advance — cancel Ukraine's agreement for the Russian naval base in Sevastopol — is up in smoke. Moscow remains present in the Black Sea and with full access to the Eastern Mediterranean. <br /><br /><strong>All Aboard the Finland Station</strong></p><p>The U.S. State Department has practically agreed to a federal and in fact 'Finlandized'  Ukraine [1] which, by the way, is the solution being proposed by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov right from the start, as this Russian <a href="http://newsru.com/pict/big/1638517.html">white paper</a> attests. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry — as when Moscow saved the "red line" Obama administration from bombing Syria — will go on overdrive to steal all the credit from the Russians. U.S. corporate media will duly buy it, but not independents such as Moon of Alabama. [2] <br /><br />This "sensible" road map implies, among other crucial points: strong autonomous regions; Russian reinstated as an official language, alongside Ukrainian; and most of all political/military neutrality — that is, Finlandization. To get there will be the mission of a support group — once again, proposed by Moscow from the start — with the U.S., E.U. and Russia as members. <br /><br />All that finally sanctified by a U.N. Security Council resolution (true, it could go spectacularly wrong, and most of all sabotaged by the "West.") And all that, as well, without Moscow having to officially recognize the regime changers in Kiev. In a nutshell; Moscow called Washington's bluff — and won. <br /><br />So after that barrage of ominous threats including everyone from Obama, Kerry and assorted neo-con bomb-firsters down to minions such as Cameron, Hague and Fabius, the meat of the matter is that the Obama administration concluded it would not risk a nuclear war with Russia for the Khaganate of Nulands — especially after Moscow made it known, discreetly, that it would create the conditions for eastern and southern Ukraine to also secede. <br /><br />Sweden, for instance, proposed an arms embargo on sales to Moscow. Paris took a quick glance at its industrial-military complex interests and immediately said no. Only the brain dead entertain the notion that Paris and Berlin are willing to jeopardize their trade relations with Russia. As well as the notion that Beijing would ever join sanctions against its fellow Group of 20, BRICS and Shanghai Cooperation Organization member Russia just because of what they perceive as an increasingly irrational — and dangerous — Washington said so. <br /><br />And, yet, Western hysteria of course will persist unabated. In the U.S., where it matters, the meme of the subsequent days will be, inevitably, who lost Syria and who lost Ukraine. <br /><br />Here's the record: Dubya launched two wars. He (miserably) lost both. <br /><br />Obama attempted to launch two wars (Syria and Ukraine). He — lucky for him — lost both even at the "attempt" stage. Assorted neo-cons and the whole exceptionalist brigade are predictably livid. Expect the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal to go ballistic. And expect U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Samantha "R2P" Power to wish she were Sinead O'Connor singing "Nothing Compares to You."<br /><br /><strong>It's a Gas, Gas, Gas, Not!</strong></p><p>The Kiev regime-changers are already announcing their intentions, as in Right Sector capo and confirmed neo-Nazi Dmytro Yarosh saying, " ... Russia makes money sending its oil through our pipelines to the West. We will destroy these pipelines and deprive our enemy of its source of income." <br /><br />That's a brilliant strategy straight from the Khaganate of Nulands playbook. So homes and the whole industrial base in Ukraine should be out of (cheap, discounted) gas, not to mention great swaths of Germany, so the neo-Nazis can claim "victory." With friends like these … <br /><br />Gazprom's executives are not exactly raising an eyebrow. Russia is already shipping roughly half of its gas to Europe bypassing Ukraine, and after South Stream is completed in 2015, that percentage will increase (E.U. "sanctions" against South Stream are just empty rhetoric).<br /><br />The regime changers will be trying to wreak havoc in other fronts as well. The new Ukrainian parliament has voted to assemble a 60,000-strong National Guard crammed with "activists." Guess who will be in charge? The new security chief, Andriy Parubiy, one of the founders of the neo-nazi Social-National Party. And his deputy happens to be none other than Yarosh, the leader of the paramilitary Right Sector. Feel free to add your own custom-made Hitlerian metaphors — even as the risk persists of Ukraine breaking apart. Which is not necessarily a bad deal. Let the "democratic" E.U. pay Ukraine's gas bills. </p><p>_______________________________<br /><br />Notes:<br />1. <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/16/us-ukraine-crisis-lavrov-kerry-idUSBREA2F05Y20140316">Lavrov, Kerry agree to work on constitutional reform in Ukraine: Russian ministry</a>, Reuters, March 16, 2014.<br />2. <a href="http://www.moonofalabama.org/2014/03/ukraine-us-pulls-back-agrees-to-russian-demands.html#more">Ukraine: U.S. Takes Off-Ramp, Agrees To Russian Demands</a>, Moon of Alabama, March 16, 2014.<br /><br /><em>Copyright 2014 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved.</em></p> Mon, 17 Mar 2014 11:22:00 -0700 Pepe Escobar, Asia Times 971352 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics World Andriy Parubiy Neo-Nazism Social-National Party ukraine nato russia Dmytro Yarosh South Stream Ukraine Now Headed by Fascists and Neo-Nazis http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/ukraine-now-headed-fascists-and-neo-nazis <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Is anybody paying attention?</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/crimearussiantroops.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>In Ukraine, the West supported an unconstitutional putsch against an elected government perpetrated, among others, by fascist/neo-nazi storm troopers (Svoboda, Right Sector) instrumentalized by U.S. intelligence. After a Russian counterpunch, U.S. President Barack Obama proclaimed that any referendum in Crimea would "violate the Ukrainian constitution and violate international law." <br /><br />This is just the latest instance in the serial rape of "international law". The rap sheet is humongous, including; NATO bombing Serbia for 78 days in 1999 to allow Kosovo to secede; the 2003 U.S. invasion and subsequent trillion-dollar occupation and civil war creation in Iraq; NATO/AFRICOM bombing Libya in 2011 invoking R2P ("responsibility to protect") as a cover to provoking regime change; U.S. investment in the secession of oil-wealthy South Sudan, so China has to deal with an extra geopolitical headache; and U.S. investment in perennial civil war in Syria. <br /><br />Yet Moscow still (foolishly?) believes international law should be respected — presenting to the UN Security Council classified information on all Western intel/psy-ops moves leading to the coup in Kiev, including "training" provided by Poland and Lithuania, not to mention Turkish intelligence involvement in setting up a second coup in Crimea. Russian diplomats called for an unbiased international investigation. That will never happen; Washington's narrative would be completely debunked. Thus a U.S. veto at the UN. <br /><br />Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also called for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe to objectively investigate those snipers shooting everyone on sight in Kiev, as revealed by Estonia's foreign minister to E.U. foreign policy supremo Catherine "I love Yats" Ashton. According to Russia's ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin, "a completely different picture would be drawn compared to what is being depicted by American media and, unfortunately, by some American and European politicians." Needless to say, there will be no investigation. <br /><br /><strong>Hi, I'm your good neo-nazi</strong></p><p>Everyone remembers the "good Taliban", with which the U.S. could negotiate in Afghanistan. Then came the "good al-Qaeda", jihadis the US could support in Syria. Now come the "good neo-nazis", with which the West can do business in Kiev. Soon there will be "the good jihadis supporting neo-nazis", who may be deployed to advance U.S./NATO and anti-Russian designs in Crimea and beyond. After all, Obama mentor Dr Zbigniew "The Grand Chessboard" Brzezinski is the godfather of good jihadis, fully weaponized to fight the former Soviet Union in Afghanistan. <br /><br />As facts on the ground go, neo-nazis are definitely back as good guys. <br /><br />For the first time since the end of World War II, fascists and neo-nazis are at the helm of a European nation (although Ukraine most of all should be characterized as the key swing nation in Eurasia). Few in the West seem to have noticed it. <br /><br />The cast of characters include Ukrainian interim defense minister and former student at the Pentagon Ihor Tenyukh; deputy prime minister for economic affairs and Svoboda ideologue Oleksandr Sych; agro-oligarch minister of agriculture Ihor Svaika (Monsanto, after all, needs a chief enforcer); National Security Council chief and Maidan commander of Right Sector neo-nazis Andry Parubiy; and deputy National Security Council chief Dmytro Yarosh, the founder Right Sector. Not to mention Svoboda leader Oleh Tyanhybok, a close pal of John McCain and Victoria "F**k the E.U." Nuland, and active proponent of an Ukraine free from the "Muscovite-Jewish mafia." <br /><br />As the Kremlin refuses to deal with this bunch and the upcomingMarch 16 referendum in Crimea is practically a done deal, Team "Yats" is fully legitimized, with honors, by Team Obama, leader included, in Washington. To quote Lenin, what is to be done? A close reading of President Putin's moves would suggest an answer: nothing. As in just waiting, while outsourcing the immediate future of a spectacularly bankrupt Ukraine to the E.U. The E.U. is impotent to rescue even the Club Med countries. Inevitably, sooner or later, threat of sanctions or not, it will come crawling back to Moscow seeking "concessions", so Russia may also foot the bill. <br /><br style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;" /><strong>Meanwhile, in Pipelineistan…</strong></p><p>Meanwhile, the New Great (Threat) Game in Eurasia advances unabated. Moscow would willingly compromise on a neutral Ukraine — even with neo-nazis in power in Kiev. But an Ukraine attached to NATO is an absolute red line. By the way, NATO is "monitoring" Ukraine with AWACS deployed in Polish and Romanian airspace. <br /><br />So as the much lauded "reset" between the Kremlin and the Obama administration is for all practical purposes six feet under (with no Hollywood-style second coming in the cards), what's left is the dangerous threat game. Deployed not only by the Empire, but also by the minions. <br /><br />That monster collection of Magritte-style faceless bureaucrats at the European Commission (E.U.), following on the non-stop threat of E.U. sanctions, has decided to delay a decision on whether Gazprom may sell more gas through the OPAL pipeline in Germany, and also delay negotiations on the legal status of South Stream, the pipeline under the Black Sea which should become operational in 2015. <br /><br />As if the E.U. had any feasible Plan B to escape its dependency on Russian gas (not to mention eschew the very profitable financial game played between key European capitals and Moscow). What are they do, import gas on Qatar Airways flights? Buy LNG from the U.S. — something that will not be feasible in years to come? The fact is the minute a gas war is on, if it ever comes down to it, the E.U. will be under immense pressure by a host of member-nations to keep (and even extend) its Russian gas fix — with or without "our (neo-nazi) bastards" in power in Kiev. Brussels knows it. And most of all, Vlad the Hammer knows it.</p> Wed, 12 Mar 2014 13:34:00 -0700 Pepe Escobar, Asia Times 969493 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics World ukraine fascists Neo-Nazism russia vladimir putin Crimea barack obama european union e.u. putsch The Clumsy Greed of the U.S. and the West on Full Display in Ukraine Disaster http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/clumsy-greed-us-and-west-full-display-ukraine-disaster <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">U.S. exceptionalism at its most naked and hypocritical, while the power players let the besieged country burn.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/ukrainejan2014.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Here's the U.S.'s exceptionalist promotion of "democracy" in action; Washington has recognized a coup d'etat in Ukraine that regime-changed a — for all its glaring faults — democratically elected government. <br /><br />And here is Russian President Vladimir Putin, already last year, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iF-y95V6R2Y&amp;feature=share" style="color:rgb(0,0,205)" target="_blank">talking about</a> how Russia and China decided to trade in roubles and yuan, and stressing how Russia needs to quit the "excessive monopoly" of the U.S. dollar. He had to be aware the Empire would strike back. <br /><br />Now there's more; Russian presidential adviser Sergey Glazyev told RIA Novosti, "Russia will abandon the U.S. dollar as a reserve currency if the United States initiates sanctions against the Russian Federation." <br /><br />So the Empire struck back by giving "a little help" to regime change in the Ukraine. And Moscow counter-punched by taking control of Crimea in less than a day without firing a shot — with or without crack Spetsnaz brigades (U.K.-based think tanks say they are; Putin says they are not). <br /><br />Putin's assessment of what happened in Ukraine is <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QiKF8JN1qmk&amp;feature=youtu.be" style="color:rgb(0,0,205)" target="_blank">factually correct</a>; "an anti-constitutional takeover and armed seizure of power". It's open to endless, mostly nasty debate whether the Kremlin overreacted or not. Considering the record of outright demonization of both Russia and Putin going on for years — and now reaching fever pitch — the Kremlin's swift reaction was quite measured. <br /><br />Putin applied Sun Tzu to the letter, and now plays the U.S. against the E.U. He has made it clear Moscow does not need to "invade" Ukraine. The 1997 Ukraine-Russia partition treaty specifically allows Russian troops in Crimea. And Russia after all is an active proponent of state sovereignty; it's under this principle that Moscow refuses a Western "intervention" in Syria. <br /><br />What he left the door open for is — oh cosmic irony of ironies — an American invention/intervention (and that, predictably, was undetectable by Western corporate media); the UN's R2P — "responsibility to protect" — in case the Western-aligned fascists and neo-nazis in Ukraine threaten Russians or Russian-speaking civilians with armed conflict. Samantha Power should be proud of herself. <br /><br /><strong>Don't mess with Russian intelligence</strong></p><p>The "West" once again has learned you don't mess with Russian intelligence, which in a nutshell preempted in Crimea a replica of the coup in Kiev, largely precipitated by UNA-UNSO — a shady, ultra-rightwing, crack paramilitary NATO-linked force using Ukraine as base, as exposed by <a href="http://www.globalresearch.ca/ukraine-secretive-neo-nazi-military-organization-involved-in-euromaidan-snyper-shootings/5371611" style="color:rgb(0,0,205)" target="_blank">William Engdahl</a>. <br /><br />And Crimea was an even murkier operation, because those neo-nazis from Western Ukraine were in tandem with Tatar jihadis (the House of Saud will be heavily tempted to finance them from now on). <br /><br />The Kremlin is factually correct when pointing out that the coup was essentially conducted by fascists and ultra-right "nationalists" — Western code for neo-nazis. Svoboda ("Freedom") party political council member <a href="http://www.ibtimes.com/euromaidan-dark-shadows-far-right-ukraine-protests-1556654" style="color:rgb(0,0,205)" target="_blank">Yury Noyevy</a> even admitted openly that using E.U. integration as a pretext "is a means to break our ties with Russia." <br /><br />Western corporate media always conveniently forgets that Svoboda — as well as the Right Sector fascists — follow in the steps of Galician fascist/terrorist Stepan Bandera, a notorious asset of a basket of "Western" intel agencies. Now Svoboda has managed to insert no less than six bigwigs as part of the new regime in Kiev. <br /><br />Then there are the new regional governors appointed to the mostly Russophone east and south of Ukraine. They are — who else — oligarchs, such as billionaires Sergei Taruta posted to Donetsk and Ihor Kolomoysky posted in Dnipropetrovsk. People in Maidan in Kiev were protesting mostly against — who else — kleptocrat oligarchs. Once again, Western corporate media — which tirelessly plugged a "popular" uprising against kleptocracy — hasn't noticed it. <br /><br /><strong>Once again, follow the money</strong></p><p>Ukraine's foreign currency reserves, only in the past four weeks, plunged from U.S. $17.8 billion to $15 billion. Wanna buy some hryvnia? Well, not really; the national currency, is on a cosmic dive against the U.S. dollar. This is jolly good news only for disaster capitalism vultures. <br /><br />And right on cue, the International Monetary Fund is sending a "fact-finding mission" to Ukraine this week. Ukrainians of all persuasions may run but they won't hide from "structural adjustment". They could always try to scrape enough for a ticket with their worthless hryvnia (being eligible for visa on arrival in Thailand certainly helps). <br /><br />European banks — who according to the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) hold more than $23 billion in outstanding loans — could lose big in Ukraine. Italian banks, for instance, have loaned nearly $6 billion. <br /><br />On the Pipelineistan front, Ukraine heavily depends on Russia; 58 percent of its gas supply. It cannot exactly diversify and start buying from Qatar <span class="aBn" data-term="goog_103398509" tabindex="0"><span class="aQJ">tomorrow</span></span> — with delivery via what, Qatar Airways? <br /><br />And even as 66 percent of Russian gas exported to the E.U. transits through Ukraine, the country is fast losing its importance as a transit hub. Both the Nord Stream and South Stream pipelines — Russia not on-the-ground but under-seas — bypass Ukraine. The Nord Stream, finished in 2011, links Russia with Germany beneath the Baltic Sea. South Stream, beneath the Black Sea, will be ready before the end of 2015. <br /><br />Geoeconomically, the Empire needs Ukraine to be out of the Eurasian economic union promoted by the Kremlin — which also includes Kazakhstan and Belarus. And geopolitically, when NATO Secretary General, the vain puppet Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said that an IMF-E.U. package for the Ukraine would be "a major boost for Euro-Atlantic security," this is what clinched it; the only thing that matters in this whole game is NATO "annexing" Ukraine, as I <a href="http://rt.com/op-edge/will-nato-annex-ukraine-414/" style="color:rgb(0,0,205)" target="_blank">examined </a>earlier. <br /><br />It has always been about the Empire of Bases — just like the encirclement of Iran; just like the "pivot" to Asia translating into encirclement of China; just like encircling Russia with bases and "missile defense". Over the Kremlin's collective dead body, of course. <br /><br /><strong>Let's plunder that wasteland</strong></p><p>U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry accusing Russia of "invading Ukraine," in "violation of international law" and "back to the 19th century," is so spectacularly pathetic in its hypocrisy — once again, look at the U.S.'s record — it does not warrant comment from any informed observer. Incidentally, this is as pathetic as his offer of a paltry $1 billion in "loan guarantees" — which would barely pay Ukraine's bills for two weeks. <br /><br />The Obama administration — especially the neo-cons of the "F**k the E.U." kind — has lost is power play. And for Moscow, it has no interlocutor in Kiev because it considers the regime-changers illegal. Moscow also regards "Europe" as a bunch of pampered whining losers — with no common foreign policy to boot. <br /><br />So any mediation now hinges on Germany. Berlin has no time for "sanctions" — the sacrosanct American exceptionalist mantra; Russia is a plush market for German industry. And for all the vociferations at the Economist and the Financial Times, the City of London also does not want sanctions; the financial center feeds on lavish Russian politico/oligarch funds. As for the West's "punishment" for Russia by threatening to expel it from the Group of Eight, that is a joke. The G-8, which excludes China, does not decide anything relevant anymore; the G-20 does. <br /><br />If a wide-ranging poll were to be conducted today, it would reveal that the majority of Ukrainians don't want to be part of the E.U. — as much as the majority of Europeans don't want the Ukraine in the E.U. What's left for millions of Ukrainians is the bloodsucking IMF, to be duly welcomed by "Yats" (as Prime Minister Yatsenyuk is treated by <a href="http://atimes.com/atimes/Central_Asia/CEN-02-040314.html" style="color:rgb(0,0,205)" target="_blank">Vic "F**k the E.U." Nuland</a>). <br /><br />Ukraine is slouching towards federalization. The Kiev regime-changers will have no say on autonomous Crimea — which most certainly will remain part of Ukraine (and Russia by the way will save $90 million in annual rent for the Sevastopol base, which until now was payable to Kiev.) <br /><br />The endgame is all but written; Moscow controls an autonomous Crimea for free, and the U.S./E.U. "control," or try to plunder, disaster capitalism-style, a back of beyond western Ukraine wasteland "managed" by a bunch of Western puppets and oligarchs, with a smatter of neo-nazis. <br /><br />So what is the Obama/Kerry strategic master duo to do? Start a nuclear war?</p> Thu, 06 Mar 2014 11:25:00 -0800 Pepe Escobar, Asia Times 966949 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics World ukraine u.s. Ukraine crisis russia john kerry Iran's Real 'Nuclear' Revolution: The 1979 Uprising That Shook The World http://www.alternet.org/world/irans-real-nuclear-revolution <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The roots of the enmity between the Islamic Republic and the U.S. lie in the 1979 revolt that overthrew the Shah.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_101051161_0.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>The nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) are back this Tuesday in Vienna. The stakes couldn't be higher. It will be a long and winding road. Hidden agendas on both sides badly want the talks to fail - and will spare no effort towards that goal. <br /><br />Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei could be interpreted as a stony realist, when he said that the talks will go nowhere. It's as if the Supreme Leader had read <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Manufactured-Crisis-Untold-Story-Nuclear/dp/1935982338/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1392678598&amp;sr=1-1&amp;keywords=Manufactured+Crisis%3A+The+Untold+Story+of+the+Iran+Nuclear+Scare">Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare</a>, a crucial book by Martha Gellhorn Prize winner Gareth Porter which is being launched today in New York. In the book, Porter thoroughly debunks the whole narrative of the Iran nuclear dossier as sold to the world by the George W Bush administration, assorted neo-cons and the Israeli Likud. </p><p>And it gets much worse, in terms of prospects for a final deal to be reached this year. According to Porter, "the Obama administration has introduced the subject of 'possible military dimensions' into the nuclear negotiations. That means that the United States will be demanding an explanation for 'evidence' that the book shows was fabricated. That is a decision that could threaten the conclusion of a final agreement with Iran." <br /><br />Meanwhile, on Tuesday last week, millions of people hit the streets in Tehran in a massive rally celebrating the 35 years of the Islamic revolution. How come? <br /><br />For all its economic mismanagement, Iran's illiteracy rate has been reduced to near zero. Women are active, participative voters (try even raising the issue in the House of Saud's paradise). There has been remarkable scientific progress, even under harsh sanctions. Pursuing a civilian nuclear program is a matter of national consensus. <br /><br />This <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/majid-rafizadeh/iranians-celebrated-the-3_b_4784146.html?ncid=txtlnkusaolp00000592">piece</a> - significantly, published by al-Arabiya, which is controlled by the House of Saud - at least tries not to sound entirely as cheap Arab propaganda, making a valid point about the real threat for the Islamic revolution coming from disaffected youth across Iran. <br /><br />Yet this is not the key point. The Islamic republic won't disintegrate tomorrow. What's much more crucial is to revisit the key reasons why the revolution happened 35 years ago, and why, when it comes to Iranian geopolitical independence, it remains somewhat popular. <br /><br />That may also shed light on why the West - and especially the United States - still refuses to normalize its relations with Iran. After all, what happened 35 years ago in Iran was never properly understood in the US in the first place. In geopolitical terms, this was the real "nuclear" revolution - one of the most far-reaching developments of what Eric Hobsbawm defined as "the short 20th century". <br /><br />And perhaps this is what the Supreme Leader meant about the talks going nowhere; certainly the case as long as Washington, especially, refuses to abandon the reductionism of Iran as a bunch of fanatics. <br /><br /><strong>That Kissinger oil shock </strong></p><p>As early as the presidency of Harry Truman, the US supported the Shah of Iran's dictatorship, no holds barred. No wonder those days are sorely missed. <br /><br />In 1953, after the CIA coup against Mohammad Mossadegh, the Shah - who lived mostly in the French Riviera - was "invited" to rule as a CIA puppet (John F Kennedy had met him in wild parties in the French Riviera and found him to be a dangerous megalomaniac). In return for re-establishing British "rights" to Persian oil, Washington self-attributed 55% for the concessions and the Brits got the rest. <br /><br />The CIA trained the Savak - the Shah's secret police. It was the best of times. The Shah not only excelled in his role of gendarme of political/economic US interests in the Persian Gulf; as he did not share Arab hatred of Israel, Tel Aviv had access to Persian oil (that ended after Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini seized power). <br /><br />The Shah ruthlessly suppressed and persecuted every political party in Iran and even massacred Kurds (Saddam Hussein was taking notes.) He started to take his own propaganda seriously, including believing in the myth of being a new King of Kings. He became the number one cheerleader of the 1973 OPEC oil shock, to which he got the green light from none other than Henry Kissinger. <br /><br />In a nutshell, this was a follow-up of the 1972 "Nixon doctrine", when it became clear the US defeat in Vietnam was all but a done deal. That's when Tricky Dicky started to promote gatekeepers all over the "free world". And no region was more crucial than the Persian Gulf. <br /><br />The Shah loved it. But he was always complaining that he didn't have enough dough to buy all those weapons the industrial-military complex was offering him. So Kissinger - a David Rockefeller errand boy - squared the circle, with the rise of oil prices by Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC. <br /><br />With this move, Kissinger instantly inflated the profits of US Big Oil - which at the time accounted for five of the Seven Sisters, and crucially boasted three that were Rockefeller-owned (Exxon, Mobil and Socal). At the same time, since Japan and then West Germany and the rest of Western Europe depended on Persian Gulf oil much more than the US did, Kissinger devised the perfect way to torpedo the devastating Japanese and German industrial and trade competition. <br /><br />You won't find any of this on Kissinger's turgidly ambitious tomes, or on any US corporate media files for that matter. But that explains much of the world born out of the "oil shock". <br /><br />Like most US puppets - talk about hubris - the Shah never understood that he was just a puppet. His corporate multinational economic model as applied to Iran had the predictable effects; much like today (even in Europe and the US), a tiny minority consuming like there's no tomorrow and a huge majority increasingly miserable, as the Shah bet on cash crops instead of an agrarian reform to guarantee the subsistence of millions of peasants - many of them illiterate, pious Shi'ites - who had been booted out of the countryside by American agribusiness, which dismissed them as a superfluous workforce. <br /><br />These miserable masses inflated Tehran and other Iranian big cities, turning into the mass base for Khomeini's revolution. And the rest is history. <br /><br /><strong>Nothing is inaccessible </strong></p><p>Then Jimmy Carter - that hick Hamlet - when still campaigning for the presidency against Gerald Ford in 1976, admitted in a debate that the Shah was a torturer. Two years later, as president, Carter now considered him "an island of stability" and "a friend". <br /><br />During the 1970s, it was "just" for Iran to carry out a nuclear program, among other motives to intimidate revolutionary Arab nationalism. Yet now, under an Islamic republic, a civilian nuclear program is an "existential threat". <br /><br />The Shah's banker was David Rockefeller, never tired of extolling the "patriotism" and "tolerance" of his client, not to mention his modernizing drive - everything duly parroted by US corporate media even as Amnesty International and the State Department itself had Himalayas of documents proving the Shah was one of the top torturers of modern history. What mattered is that he brought excellent dividends for then Chase Manhattan. <br /><br />One never lost money underestimating the cluelessness of US corporate media. When the Islamic revolution started, US media as a whole told the world that the Shah was undefeatable; that Khomeini and his followers were a minority of religious fanatics; and that the real motive for the revolution was that the Shah was a Great Modernizer (the Rockefeller script), rejected by those same Muslim fanatics. It's fair to say this script is still being peddled today. <br /><br />When the Shah fled Iran, the whole US media bought the fallacy of "going for a holiday". When Khomeini boarded that Air France flight from Paris and arrived in Tehran in absolute triumph, no wonder no one in the US had a clue what was going on. US media preferred to mock Khomeini's "fanaticism" - which at the time paled compared with Pope John Paul II, who considered women to be an inferior species. <br /><br />The Iranian bourgeoisie - modern, social democrat, inheriting the political line of Mossadegh - managed to drive a lot of support from progressives in Europe. At a time when Le Monde was still a very good newspaper and not the sub-American trash it is today, one just needed to read the dispatches by ace correspondent Eric Rouleau to confirm it. <br /><br />Khomeini, for his part, had the charisma (and that spectral voice on cassette tapes), supported by the only political organization tolerated by the Shah, the roughly 160,000 mullahs, who duly mobilized those wretched masses rendered useless by American agribusiness interests. <br /><br />Yet, from the beginning, Khomeini negotiated with the bourgeoisie - as when he named Mehdi Bazargan as prime minister and Bani Sadr as president (a socialist and a Western-style modernizer). Only when the Shah system was totally eradicated did Khomeini go into overdrive to purge everyone but his religious followers - recreating, on a smaller scale, the Shah's inferno, but in the name of Allah. Well, as Mao said, no revolution is a dinner party. <br /><br />As for Jimmy "Hamlet" Carter, he never officially recognized Khomeini as the Iranian leader. Washington didn't even try to talk to him. A whiff of geopolitical intelligence would have the Americans trying to share some tea when he was still exiled in Paris. But David Rockefeller and his parrot Kissinger would scream, so a cowed Carter retreated into his shell. After the Islamic revolution, Washington never returned the estimated US$60 billion the Shah, family and cronies stole from Iran. <br /><br />This catalogue of disinformation during the 1970s and 1980s is now mirrored by the disinformation of all these past few years about the Iranian nuclear program. No wonder most Americans - and plenty of Europeans - remain clueless. <br /><br />When Khomeini died - and I vividly remember every newspaper in Europe on June 5, 1989, sharing the front page between that and Deng Xiaoping ordering the Tiananmen massacre - the great philosopher Daryush Shayegan, a former professor at the University of Tehran, published a superb article in Liberation explaining the Big Picture, from the Shah's "legacy" to Khomeini. <br /><br />Shayegan wrote that both men, the Shah and the Imam, committed the same fatal mistakes and "incarnated, each their own way, two typically Iranian traits: cultural schizophrenia and the dream of grandeur". So the whole drama was about two juxtaposed Irans: Imperial Iran and "the suffering Iran of the blood of the Martyr". Both expressed an impossible dream and, "like the 12th century mystical poet Ruzbehan from Shiraz would say, the same 'dementia of the inaccessible'." <br /><br />Today, 35 years after the Islamic revolution, what Iranians seek is hardly inaccessible: the end of Western sanctions and the end of sections of the West perennially treating the country as a bunch of religious "fanatics". <br /><br />Russia, China, Turkey, Pakistan, other Asian nations, all Latin American nations, all African nations, all treat Iran as normal. Beyond the clash of "heroic flexibility" against American exceptionalism, if only the US establishment would finally get over it, and deal - realistically - with what happened in Tehran 35 years ago. Only then these talks in Vienna will go somewhere, and we may have a final nuclear deal in 2014. </p> Tue, 18 Feb 2014 10:47:00 -0800 Pepe Escobar, Asia Times 960070 at http://www.alternet.org World World iran united states Inside The New Cold War: Washington Sets Its Sights On Ukraine http://www.alternet.org/world/new-us-russia-cold-war <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">America&#039;s long arm tries to foist a coup on Ukraine to oust its pro-Russian leader.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_117960595.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Meet the new (cold) war, same as the old (cold) war. Same same, but different. One day, it's the myriad implications of Washington's "pivoting" to Asia - as in the containment of China. The next day, it's the perennial attempt to box Russia in. Never a dull moment in the New Great Game in Eurasia. <br /><br />On Russia, the denigration of all things Sochi - attributable to the inherent stupidity of Western corporate media "standards" - was just a subplot of the main show, which always gets personal; the relentless demonization of Russian President Vladimir Putin. [1] </p><p>Yet Nulandgate - as in US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria "neo-con" Nuland uttering her famous <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KIvRljAaNgg&amp;src_vid=CL_GShyGv3o&amp;feature=iv&amp;annotation_id=annotation_1604741885">"F**k the EU"</a> - was way more serious. Not because of the "profanity" (praise the Lord!), but for providing what US Think Tankland hailed as "an indicator of American strategic thinking". <br /><br />Here's the game in a nutshell. Germany remote controls one of the leaders of the Ukrainian protests, heavyweight boxer Vitali Klitschko. [2] <br /><br />"F**k the EU" is essentially directed towards Berlin and Klitschko, its key protege. Washington sees this going nowhere, as Germany, after all, has been slowly building a complex energy-investment partnership with Russia. <br /><br />The Obama administration wants results - fast. Nuland herself stressed (<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=861DJLR4Cek">check it out</a>, starting at 7:26) that Washington, over the past two decades, has "invested" over US$5 billion for the "democratization" of Ukraine. So yes: this is "our" game and the EU is at best a nuisance while Russia remains the major spoiler. Welcome to Washington's Ukrainian "strategy". <br /><br /><strong>The Ukrainian chessboard</strong></p><p>US Think Tankland now also peddles the notion that the Obama administration is expertly adept at a balance of power strategy. To include Libya as part of this "strategy" is a sick joke; Libya post-Gaddafi is a failed state, courtesy of humanitarian bombing by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Meanwhile, in Syria, the US "strategy" boils down to let Arabs kill Arabs in droves. <br /><br />Iran is way more complex. Arguably, the Obama administration calculates that through talks between Iran and the P5+1 - the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany - it will be able to outmaneuver the Russians, who are close to Tehran. This assuming the Obama administration really wants a nuclear deal with Iran that would later release the floodgates of Western business. <br /><br />On Syria, it's the Russian positions that have kept the upper hand; not to mention that Putin saved Obama from yet another Middle East war. As Syria was a Russian win, no wonder Washington dreams of a win in Ukraine. <br /><br />We can interpret what's goin' on now as a remix of the 2004 Orange Revolution. But The Big Picture goes way back - from NATO's expansion in the 1990s to American NGOs trying to destabilize Russia, NATO's flirt with Georgia, and those missile defense schemes so close to Russian borders. <br /><br />In already trademark Obama administration style, the State Department's support for anti-Russia, pro-EU protests in Ukraine qualifies as "leading from behind" (remember Libya?) <br /><br />It comes complete with "humanitarian" appeal, calls for "reconciliation" and good against evil dichotomy masking a drive towards regime change. Abandon all hope to find voices of sanity on US corporate media such as NYU and Princeton's Stephen Cohen, who cut to the chase <a href="http://www.thenation.com/article/178344/distorting-russia">in this piece</a>, stressing that the essential revelation of Nulandgate "was that high-level US officials were plotting to 'midwife' a new, anti-Russian Ukrainian government by ousting or neutralizing its democratically elected president - that is, a coup". <br /><br />Here the "strategy" clearly reveals itself as a US puppet now - coup or no coup - instead of an EU puppet later. No one in the Beltway gives a damn that Viktor Yanukovich was legally elected president of Ukraine, and that he had full authority to reject a dodgy deal with the EU. <br /><br />And no one in the Beltway cares that the protests are now being led by Pravy Sektor (Right Sector) - a nasty collection of fascists, football hooligans, ultra-nationalists and all sorts of unsavory neo-Nazi elements; the Ukrainian equivalents of Bandar Bush's jihadis in Syria. <br /><br />Yet the US "strategy" rules that street protests should lead to regime change. It applies to the Ukraine, but it does not apply to Thailand. <br /><br />Washington wants regime change in the Ukraine for one reason only; in the wider New Great Game in Eurasia context, that would be the rough equivalent of Texas defecting from the US and becoming a Russian ally. <br /><br />Still, this gambit is bound to fail. Moscow has myriad ways to deploy economic leverage in Ukraine; it has access to much better intel than the Americans; and the protesters/gangs/neo-Nazis are just a noisy minority. <br /><br />Washington, tough, won't give up, as it sees both the political crisis in Ukraine as the emerging financial crisis in Kazakhstan as "opportunities" (Obama lingo) to threaten Moscow's economic/strategic interests. It's as if the Beltway was praying for a widespread financial crisis in the Russia-led Customs Union (Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus). <br /><br />Pray in fact is all they've got, while the EU, for all the grandiose, rhetorical wishful thinking, remains a divided mess. After Sochi, Vlad the Hammer will be back in business with a vengeance. Nuland and co, watch your back. <br /><br />Notes:<br />1. <a href="http://rt.com/op-edge/western-media-russia-bashing-293/">Journalistic malpractice &amp; the dangers of Russia-bashing</a>, RT, February 9, 2014.<br />2. <a href="http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/eu-grooms-boxer-vitali-klitschko-to-lead-ukraine-opposition-a-938079.html">EU Grooming Klitschko to Lead Ukraine</a>, Der Spiegel Online, December 10, 2013. </p> Mon, 17 Feb 2014 10:32:00 -0800 Pepe Escobar, Asia Times 959678 at http://www.alternet.org World World ukraine russia america This Is the Week Where the World's Billionaires Gather in Davos and Pretend They're Saviors of the World http://www.alternet.org/world/week-where-worlds-billionaires-gather-davos-and-pretend-theyrew-saviors-world <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Masters of the Universe are flocking to tell it on the mountain this week.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2014-01-23_at_2.56.55_pm.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Masters of the Universe, vaguely real or totally fake, who want to play savior all flocked to Switzerland this week. In Montreux, one may "save" Syria at the very un-jazzy Geneva II charade, which I have dealt with <a href="http://rt.com/op-edge/syria-geneva-two-charade-015/">here</a>. In the interminable business meeting known as Davos, one has the possibility to save no less than the whole world. <br /><br />In Davos, as an extra bonus, one may even play savior of Syria. A 75-minute simulation session is on offer, where global suits may experience how it feels to be a Syrian refugee. The menu includes detention, being chased by a replica gun-toting militia, and being shouted at by aid workers. Luckily for the attendees, it does not include a meeting with Bandar Bush-sponsored beheading jihadis. The insufferable Bono is rumored to be participating. </p><p>London mayor Boris Johnson, duly accredited as one of the 2,500 delegates at the World Economic Forum, alongside the "financial elite", "world leaders", corporate honchos, and sundry royalty (mostly Hollywoodish), has defined Davos as "a constellation of egos involved in massive mutual orgies of adulation". <br /><br />Sessions avidly disputed by the ego constellation are routinely announced by cowbells ringing across the Congress Center. Each cowbell ringing until Saturday will be ultimately striking a tone matching the <a href="http://www.weforum.org/">theme</a> of the 2014 meeting; the quite modest "The Reshaping of the World: Consequences for Society, Politics and Business". This "reshaping" is being brought to you by many of the people who caused (or profited from) the 2007-2008 financial crisis. <br /><br /><strong>Stuck in the middle with Jesus</strong></p><p>Pope Francis - the new Jesus? - decided not to eschew his now trendy Franciscan abandon at the Vatican for the glitzy ski slopes, but sent a cardinal, Peter Turkson, to remind the Masters of the Universe of "a new, profound, sense of responsibility", which in thesis means they should care about inequality, the poor and the unemployed. That was the gist of the "Big Francis is watching you" message. <br /><br />Davos Day One opened with a session on the digital future. The Masters of the Universe were asked to name a gadget that changed their lives (credit default swaps don't qualify). Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer praised her smartphone. She also said that by the end of 2014 Yahoo! will be handling more traffic from mobile devices than from desktops; "2014 will be a tipping point ... it will change everyone's daily routines very fundamentally". <br /><br />Then there's the pesky matter of the NSA-centric Orwellian/Panopticon complex. Mayer said, "What's murky about some of what is happening today is people don't necessary[sic] know what data is being collected and about what is being used." Cisco's John Chambers for his part said there must be "cooperation" between the tech universe and the NSA. <br /><br />It was up to the father of the web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, to talk from the floor, and stress, "When you are operating at this level, you have no idea if these people are American citizens or been suspected of committing some sort of crime." He insisted on a "discussion" about what all this information is used for. <br /><br />Economist Nouriel Roubini cut to the chase, preferring to identify the immediate future trend: "In the third manufacturing revolution, we will have robotics, automation, 3D printing, nanotechnologies. But only skilled jobs will be created." Including inside the NSA. <br /><br /><strong>Clowns to the left, jokers to the right</strong></p><p>As Davos was rolling, the City of London told the Financial Times that British banks are not exactly happy with the idea of Britain exiting the European Union. As Jim Cowles, Citibank's CEO for Europe, the Middle East and Asia, told the FT, there's "mounting concern" among his clients over using the UK as a regional hub. Tell that to David of Arabia Cameron. <br /><br />That fits nicely with the Davos session "Is Europe Back?", which included, among others, former Bundesbank president and current chairman of UBS Axel Weber, economist Kenneth Rogoff and advertising guru Sir Martin Sorrell. <br /><br />Some of these eminences had to gall to affirm that Europe is "stronger" than a year ago. Sorrell said the UK and Germany are doing well, and he's "very bullish" about Germany, Poland and Russia. Yet he's worried about France, Italy and Spain. This passes in Masters of the Universe circles for "sound analysis". Axel Weber at least admitted that Europe as a whole "still feels like a crisis", and that "the economy is too weak to sustain the kind of growth in jobs we need to get out of this crisis". <br /><br />Sir Richard Branson - the Virgin godfather - who was apparently on a private meeting about the 2030 agenda for progress in the developing world, performed the customary brilliant PR move, leaking, "The war on drugs has failed". Seems like Branson has been to Portugal, which does not send people to jail for heroin possession. Oh yes, and time to start that Virgin route to Montevideo. <br /><br />On Africa, the buzzword in Davos is "democratic dividend". But when someone asked the president of Nigeria, Goodluck Elebe Jonathan, what happened to all that oil that miraculously "disappears" every year from the Niger Delta, he said there was no corruption. Maybe it's an act of God; he should consult Pope Francis. <br /><br />This being a predominantly Western talkfest, Russia-bashing was in order. It was duly provided by hedge fund honcho Bill Browder, who "predicted" that Vladimir Putin's government would collapse by early 2015 if the price of oil fell to $60 a barrel. Both things obviously barely qualify as wishful thinking. <br /><br />Browder also joined the BRICS-bashing <a href="http://business.time.com/2014/01/10/brics-in-trouble/?xid=gonewsedit&amp;google_editors_picks=true">chorus</a>, which has grown quite loud lately. The piece de resistance on Davos Day One was the speech by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. He said, "We must restrain military expansion in Asia, which otherwise could go unchecked"; military spending "must be transparent, and able to be verified"; and "We must create a process for crisis management and lay down rules that enforce the international control of the sea." <br /><br />What a lovely way to ingratiate himself with the Masters of the Universe by not so discreetly appealing for all of them to support Japan over China in the whole South China Sea islands dispute. <br /><br />So his message was "bet on Japan", and "only then can we get growth and prosperity in Asia". Does "growth" and "prosperity" ring a bell to all those familiar with the background of World War II? Apparently it does, because Abe also felt obliged to admit, "Japan has sworn an oath, never again to wage a war." And then he plugged Abenomics, through which "We can create economic growth, which will result in lasting peace in the region." <br /><br />So there's just a small sample of how Davos will be - unselfishly - saving the world until Saturday. Wait, there's more: Goldie Hawn expanding on the merits of meditation in a "mindfulness" panel. How come Pope Francis never thought about that? And to finally soothe all egalitarian spirits, nothing like a special Davos screening of the Mandela biopic, <em>Long Walk to Freedom</em>. <br /><br />Some Masters of the Universe such as Warren Buffett and Apple's Tim Cook thought they had better fish to capture, fry and profit from than to hit Davos. As for "security", in case an Obama drone strayed off target in the tribal areas and hit a Swiss mountain as if it was a Pashtun wedding party, not many around the real world would be shedding a tear. </p> Thu, 23 Jan 2014 11:48:00 -0800 Pepe Escobar, Asia Times 950750 at http://www.alternet.org World World davos What Is It That Causes a Great Power Like the U.S. to Rot from Within? http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/reliving-machiavelli-florence <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The wisdom Machiavelli is waiting for someone to make great use of it. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/neptune.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>FLORENCE — 2014 has barely dawned, and I'm standing in a cold, rainy evening at the Piazza della Signoria in Florence, staring at the round plaque on the floor — ignored by the throngs of Chinese tourists — celebrating the hanging and burning of the monk Savonarola in May 23, 1498, accused of conspiring against the Florentine Republic.</p><p>Yet I'm thinking — how could I not — of Machiavelli. He was only 29 on that fateful day. He was standing only a few feet away from where I am. What was he thinking?</p><p>He had seen how Savonarola, a popular Dominican preacher, had been hailed as the savior of the republic. Savonarola rewrote the constitution to empower the lower middle class; talk about a risky (populist) move. He allied Florence with France. But he had no counterpunch when the pro-Spanish pope Alexander VI imposed harsh economic sanctions that badly hurt Florence's merchant class (a centuries-old anticipation of US sanctions on Iranian bazaaris).</p><p>Savonarola had also conducted the original bonfire of the vanities, whose flaming pyramid included wigs, pots of rouge, perfumes, books with poems by Ovid, Boccaccio and Petrarch, busts and paintings of "profane" subjects (even — horror of horrors — some by Botticelli), lutes, violas, flutes, sculptures of naked women, figures of Greek gods and on top of it all, a hideous effigy of Satan.<br /><br />In the end, Florentines were fed up with Savonarola's hardcore puritan antics — and a murky papal Inquisition sentence sealed the deal. I could picture Machiavelli exhibiting his famous wry smile — as the bonfire had burned exactly one year before at the very same place where Savonarola was now in flames. The verdict: realpolitik had no place for a "democracy" directed by God. God, for that matter, didn't even care. It was only human nature that is able to condition which way the wind blows; towards freedom or towards servitude.</p><p>So this is what happened in that day at the Piazza della Signoria in 1498 — in the same year Lorenzo the Magnificent died and Christopher Columbus crossed the Atlantic on his third voyage to "discover" the New World; no less than the birth of Western political theory in the mind of young Niccolò.<br /><br /><strong>Study Humanity, Young Man</strong></p><p>Florence is the first modern state in the world, as Jacob Burckhardt makes it clear in his magisterial “The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy,” in awe about "the wondrous Florentine spirit, at once keenly critical and artistically creative.”<br /><br />Florentines spent a long time weaving the proud, patriotic tradition of a self-governing republic; a very Aristotelian set up according to which "the end of the state is not mere life, it is rather a good quality of life.” Very cooperative, with everyone involved, completely different from Plato's Republic, whose rules were imposed from above.<br /><br />At the dawn of the 15th century, Aristotle-reading Florentines eager to celebrate their civic and political freedom were busy on their way to carve — alongside their fabulous traditions of pictorial realism and fondness for classical architecture — no less than what became known as the Renaissance.</p><p>Why did Florence invent the Renaissance? Vasari's answer was as good as any: "The air of Florence making minds naturally free, and not content with mediocrity." It helped that education focused on the <em>studia humanitatis</em> — the "study of humanity" (on the way to oblivion now in the early 21st century), featuring history (to understand the greatness of ancient Greece and Rome); rhetoric; Greek and Roman literature (to improve eloquence); and moral philosophy, which boiled down to Aristotle's “Ethics.”</p><p>Machiavelli, born in 1469, the same year young Lorenzo de' Medici, or Lorenzo the Magnificent, his grandfather Cosimo's favorite, ascended to power after the death of his father Piero, lived for the most part in a Florence under the Medici. So he understood the nature of the (rigged) game; as crack historian Francesco Guicciardini put it, Lorenzo was a "benevolent tyrant in a constitutional republic.”<br /><br />Machiavelli's family was not wealthy — but totally committed to the ideal of civic humanism. Unlike Lorenzo, he may not have received the finest humanist education available, but Machiavelli studied Latin and read ancient philosophers and especially historians — Thucydides, Plutarch, Tacitus, and Livius, whose works were found in Florence's bookshops. In the ancient Greek and Roman heroes he saw examples of great virtue, courage and wisdom; what a sorry contrast with the corruption and stupidity of his contemporaries (we could say the same thing half a millennium later).</p><p>While Machiavelli was an Aristotelian, Lorenzo was somewhat a Platonist. Yet it was Cosimo's protege, the philosopher Marsilio Ficino, the coordinator of the Platonic Academy, who best explained it; Lorenzo did not believe in Plato, he used him. And on top of it he knew how to show off — as in installing Donatello's spectacularly ambisexual <em>David</em> on its pedestal in the cortile of the Palazzo Medici, and avidly promoting the leading philosopher among his circle of friends, the dashing Pico della Mirandola, known as the "man who knew everything" — or at least the entire range of human knowledge available in the Renaissance since the fall of Constantinople in 1453.<br /><br />And then, only one month after Savonarola's burning, the slender, beady black-eyed and black-haired man with a small head and aquiline nose, described by his biographer Pasquale Villari as "a very acute observer with a sharp mind" got a job; and for 14 years he was a loyal servant of the restored Florentine republic, always on horseback on sensitive missions, negotiating, among others, with pope Julius II, the king of France Louis XII, the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I, and the unpredictable, larger than life Cesare Borgia, the illegitimate second son of the man who would become pope Alexander VI. Machiavelli was in charge of Florence's foreign policy; definitely not your usual Beltway think-tank armchair "expert.”<br /><br />While Machiavelli was hanging out with Cesare Borgia, he became friends with Borgia's chief military engineer, none other than Leonardo da Vinci. One would need a Dante to imagine the dialogue between the man crafting the new science of politics and the most accomplished scientific mind of the Renaissance; the bifurcation of the humanist spirit, from art, poetry and philosophy into reality — politics and science.</p><p><strong>A Satire or a Living Book?</strong></p><p>As I sat down in my favorite <em>enoteca</em> in front of the Pitti palace to re-read “The Prince,” I also delved on other sources; there has been a deluge of books on Machiavelli celebrating the 500th anniversary of the writing of “The Prince,” which was concluded after roughly four months in late 1513. The best happened to be “Il sorriso di Niccolò” (Editori Laterza), by Princeton's Maurizio Viroli. Viroli established for good that Machiavelli was never a Medici puppet.<br /><br />Before he became secretary of the Second Chancery, in June 1498, Machiavelli was admittedly very close to Lorenzo the Magnificent. Soon after the Medicis returned to power in Venice after a period of exile, he had to endure the <em>strappado</em> — the Florentine torture of hands tied behind the back, body lifted to the ceiling by rope and pulley, and dropped straight down — no less than six times (is the CIA aware of it?). Yet he didn't become a rat: he was left to rot; and after 22 days was set free from his cell at the Bargello tower in early 1513 by the intervention of two Medici supporters.<br /><br />In the final years of his life, Machiavelli was under various guises at the service of pope Clemente VII, none other than Giulio de Giuliano de Medici. But the bottom line is that Machiavelli was not a Medici follower; he wanted above all for the Medici to follow his advice.</p><p>So he left jail, impoverished but not broken, retreated to his small farmhouse, and set out to write. “The Prince” came out as history — not political theory. Rousseau actually branded it a "satire.” Gramsci called it "a living book" — a celebration of a utopian Prince "via so many passionate, mythical elements that come alive in the conclusion, in the invocation of a really existing prince.” So Machiavelli in fact designed the myth of the founder and the redeemer of a free republic — imagining that the redemption of the state would be at the same time his own redemption after he was stripped of his job of secretary by a laconic communique and later accused of being a conspirator.</p><p>It has been a blessing to re-read “The Prince” alongside “The Discourses” — which, in time, became the intellectual and political guide of all who cherished the ideal of republican freedom in Europe and the Americas. “The Discourses” is Machiavelli's fusion of Polybius and Aristotle. The Romans had found out that a great empire was doomed if it did not keep Aristotle's balance of monarchy, aristocracy and democracy. Machiavelli went one step ahead; every real republic is actually doomed. In a free republic like in Ancient Greece and Rome, or Florence before the Medici, too much prosperity, success, greed — and overextension — distorts men's drive towards self-enrichment (or dissolves it into complacency) rather than keep it at the service of the state.<br /><br />The real rot comes from within — not from an external power. Think of the late Soviet Union. Think of the current decline of the American Empire. But then again, mediocre exceptionalists never got the picture; Leo Strauss, at the University of Chicago in the 1950s, taught that Machiavelli was "a teacher of evil.”<br /><br />As the rot from within grows, that's where the Prince steps in. He's like the Last Man Standing — very far from the idealized figure of a philosopher-king or a Platonic teacher. He's the ruler who pulls a corrupt society out of its devious, self-destructive ways and hurls it back towards sound political life — and preeminence. (Machiavelli was specifically thinking of someone to save Italy from foreign invaders and its own deaf, blind and dumb rulers).<br /><br />And if the Prince must resort to violence to defend the republic, it must never be gratuitous, but always subordinated to a well-argued <em>ragion di stato</em> (the 2003 bombing and occupation of Iraq obviously does not qualify). The Prince anyway is not a political messiah; rather a mix of the fox ("in order to recognize traps") and the lion ("to frighten off wolves"). The most apt contemporary version would be Vladimir Putin.</p><p>In that fateful day in May 1498, Machiavelli saw in Savonarola's burning how religious fundamentalism is incompatible with a successfully commercial and politically viable society (House of Saud princes never read “The Prince”). And then he displayed to us the wall of mistrust between ethics and the science of government — as if drawing an abridged road map for the future global hegemony of Western civilization.<br /><br />It's curioser and curioser how the Medici dynasty rejected “The Prince” at the time; after all, that was the ultimate handbook on how to become a (political) Godfather, in the post-Renaissance and beyond. In parallel, I always wondered what wise Ming dynasty courtiers would have made of “The Prince.” Probably, imperially, ignore it.<br /><br />So this is how I celebrated the half-a-millennium anniversary of “The Prince”; sharing a few glasses of Brunello, as if we were in a Florentine <em>osteria</em> in the early 16th century, with the spirit of a very distinguished senior civil servant of the Florentine Republic who was thrown out of office exactly as he was admitted; poor, incorruptible and with his dignity intact. I could not but admire his wry smile dying in his lips and barely hiding his pain — but then again, he knew we're nothing but playing a small part in this whole human, all too human, comedy.</p> Tue, 14 Jan 2014 11:30:00 -0800 Pepe Escobar, Asia Times 947095 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics World italy Aristotle ethics The Prince Niccolò Machiavelli Western political theory 1498 Renaissance 16th century Cosimo Medici Florence Maurizio Viroli Why Iran Is the Country to Watch in 2014 http://www.alternet.org/world/iran-country-watch-2014 <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">A tectonic shift in the geopolitical map could occur next year, with Iran finally emerging as the real superpower in Southwest Asia.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/images/managed/storyimages_1333658624_iranusflag.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>The big story of 2014 will be Iran. Of course, the big story of the early 21st century will never stop being US-China, but it's in 2014 that we will know whether a comprehensive accord transcending the Iranian nuclear program is attainable; and in this case the myriad ramifications will affect all that's in play in the New Great Game in Eurasia, including US-China. <br /><br />As it stands, we have an interim deal of the P5+1 (the UN Security Council's five permanent members plus Germany) with Iran, and no deal between the US and Afghanistan. So, once again, we have Afghanistan configured as a battleground between Iran and the House of Saud, part of a geopolitical game played out in overdrive since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 along the northern rim of the Middle East all the way to Khorasan and South Asia. </p><p><br />Then there's the element of Saudi paranoia, extrapolating from the future of Afghanistan to the prospect of a fully "rehabilitated" Iran becoming accepted by Western political/financial elites. This, by the way, has nothing to do with that fiction, the "international community"; after all, Iran was never banished by the BRICS, (ie Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), the Non-Aligned Movement and the bulk of the developing world. <br /><br /><strong>Those damned jihadis</strong></p><p>Every major player in the Barack Obama administration has warned Afghan President Hamid Karzai that either he signs a bilateral "security agreement" authorizing some ersatz of the US occupation or Washington will withdraw all of its troops by the end of 2014. <br /><br />Wily puppet Karzai will milk this for all it's worth - as in extracting hardcore concessions. Yet, whatever happens, Iran will maintain if not enlarge its sphere of influence in Afghanistan. This intersection of Central and South Asia is geopolitically crucial for Iranian to project power, second only to Southwest Asia (what we call the "Middle East"). <br /><br />We should certainly expect the House of Saud to keep using every nasty trick available to the imagination of Saudi Arabia's Bandar bin Sultan, aka Bandar Bush, to manipulate Sunnis all across AfPak with a target of, essentially, preventing Iran from projecting power. <br /><br />But Iran can count on a key ally, India. As Delhi accelerates its security cooperation with Kabul, we reach the icing on the Hindu Kush; India, Iran and Afghanistan developing their southern branch of the New Silk Road, with a special niche for the highway connecting Afghanistan to the Iranian port of Chabahar (Afghanistan meets the Indian Ocean). <br /><br />So watch out for all sorts of interpolations of an Iran-India alliance pitted against a Saudi-Pakistani axis. This axis has been supporting assorted Islamists in Syria - with nefarious results; but because Pakistan has also been engulfed in appalling violence against Shi'ites, Islamabad won't be too keen to be too closely aligned with the House of Saud in AfPak. <br /><br />Washington and Tehran for their part happen to be once more aligned (remember 2001?) in Afghanistan; neither one wants hardcore jihadis roaming around. Even Islamabad - which for all practical purposes has lost all its leverage with the Taliban in AfPak - would like jihadis to go up in smoke. <br /><br />All these players know that any number of remaining US forces and swarms of contractors will not fill the power vacuum in Kabul. The whole thing is bound to remain murky, but essentially the scenario points to the Central-South Asia crossroads as the second-largest geopolitical - and sectarian - battleground in Eurasia after the Levantine-Mesopotamian combo. <br /><br /><strong>Zero energy from our neighbor?</strong></p><p>As much as India, Iraq is also in favor of a comprehensive deal with Iran. And to think that Iran and Iraq might have been engaged in a silent nuclear arms race with one another at the end of the last century, just for Baghdad now to fiercely defend Tehran's right to enrich uranium. Not to mention that Baghdad depends on Iran for trade, electricity and material help in that no-holds-barred war against Islamists/Salafi-jihadis. <br /><br />Turkey also welcomes a comprehensive agreement with Iran. Turkey's trade with Iran has nowhere to go but up. The target is US$30 billion by 2015. More than 2,500 Iranian companies have invested in Turkey. Ankara cannot possibly support Western sanctions; it makes no business sense. Sanctions go against its policy of expanding trade. Moreover, Turkey depends on inexpensive natural gas imported from Iran. <br /><br />After deviating wildly from its previous policy of "zero problems with our neighbors", Ankara is now waking up to the business prospect of Syrian reconstruction. Iraq may help, drawing from its oil wealth. Energy-deprived Turkey can't afford to be marginalized. A re-stabilized Syria will mean the go-ahead for the $10 billion Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline. If Ankara plays the game, an extension could be in the cards - fitting its self-proclaimed positioning as a privileged Pipelineistan crossroads from East to West. <br /><br />The bottom line is that the Turkish-Iranian conflict over the future of Syria pales when compared with the energy game and booming trade. This points to Ankara and Tehran increasingly converging into finding a peaceful solution in Syria. <br /><br />But there's a huge problem. The Geneva II conference on January 22 may represent the nail in the coffin of the House of Saud's push to inflict regime change on Bashar al-Assad. Once again, this implies that Bandar Bush is ready to go absolutely medieval - plowing the whole spectrum of summary executions, beheadings, suicide and car bombings and all-out sectarianism all along the Iraqi-Syrian-Lebanese front. <br /><br />At least there will be a serious counterpunch; as Sharmine Narwani outlines <a href="http://english.al-akhbar.com/blogs/sandbox/security-arc-forms-amidst-mideast-terror-0">here</a>, the former "Shi'ite crescent" - or "axis of resistance" - is now reconstituting itself as a "security arc" against Salafi-jihadis. Pentagon conceptualizers of the "arc of instability" kind never thought about that. <br /><br /><strong>Missile nonsense, anyone? </strong></p><p>Adults in Washington - not exactly a majority - may have already visualized the fabulous derivatives of a Western deal with Iran by examining China's approval and the possibility of future Iranian help to stabilize Afghanistan. <br /><br />For China, Iran is a matter of national security - as a top source of energy (plus all those myriad cultural affinities between Persians and Chinese since Silk Road times). Threatening a country to which the US owes over $1 trillion with third-party, Department of the Treasury sanctions for buying Iranian oil seems to be off the cards, at least for now. <br /><br />As for Moscow, by coming with a diplomatic resolution to the chemical weapons crisis in Syria, Vladimir Putin no less than saved the Obama administration from itself, as it was about to plunge into a new Middle Eastern war of potentially cataclysmic consequences. Immediately afterwards, the door was opened for the first breach since 1979 of the US-Iran Wall of Mistrust. <br /><br />Crucially, after the Iranian nuclear interim deal was signed, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov went for the jugular; the deal cancels the need for NATO's ballistic missile defense in Central Europe - with interceptor bases in Romania and Poland set to become operational in 2015 and 2018, respectively. Washington has always insisted on the fiction that this was designed to counter missile "threats" from Iran. <br /><br />Without the Iranian pretext, the justification for ballistic missile defense is unsustainable. <br /><br />The real negotiation starts more-or-less now, in early 2014. Logically the endgame by mid-2014 would be <a href="http://www.niacouncil.org/site/DocServer/Extending_Hands_Unclenching_Fists.pdf">no more sanctions</a>in exchange for close supervision of Iran's nuclear program. Yet this is a game of superimposed obfuscations. Washington sells itself the myth that this is about somewhat controlling the Iranian nuclear program, an alternative plan to an ultra high-risk Shock and Awe strike to annihilate vast swathes of Iranian infrastructure. <br /><br />No one is talking, but it's easy to picture BRICS heavyweights Russia and China casually informing Washington what kind of weaponry and material support they would offer Iran in case of an American attack. <br /><br />Tehran, for its part, would like to interpret the tentative rapprochement as the US renouncing regime change, with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei paying the price of trading elements of a nuclear program for the end of sanctions. <br /><br />Assuming Tehran and Washington are able to isolate their respective confrontational lobbies - a titanic task - the benefits are self-evident. Tehran wants - and badly needs - investment in its energy industry (at least $200 billion) and other sectors of the economy. Western Big Oil is dying to invest in Iran. The economic opening will inevitably be part of the final agreement - and for Western turbo-capitalism this is a must; a market of 80 million largely well-educated people, with fabulous location, and swimming in oil and gas. [1] What's not to like? <br /><br /><strong>Peacemaker or just a trickster? </strong></p><p>Tehran supports Assad in large part to combat the jihadi virus - incubated by wealthy sponsors in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. So whatever the spin in Washington, there's no possibility of a serious solution for Syria without involving Iran. The Obama administration now seems to realize that Assad is the least bad among unanimously bad options. Who would have bet on it only three months ago? <br /><br />The interim deal with Iran is the first tangible evidence that Barack Obama is actually considering leaving his foreign policy mark in Southwest Asia/Middle East. It helps that the 0.00001% who run the show may have realized that a US president globally perceived as a dancing fool engenders massive instability in the Empire and all its satrapies. <br /><br />The bottom line is that Obama needs to respect his partner Hassan Rouhani - who has made clear to the Americans he must secure non-stop political backing by Khamenei; that's the only way to sideline the very powerful religious/ideological lobby in Tehran/Qom against any deal with the former "Great Satan". So "Great Satan" needs to negotiate in good faith. <br /><br />A realpolitik old hand (with a soft heart) would say that the Obama administration is aiming at a balance of power between Iran, Saudi Arabia and Israel. <br /><br />A more Machiavellian realpolitik old hand would say this is about pitting Sunni versus Shi'ite, Arabs versus Persians, to keep them paralyzed. <br /><br />Perhaps a more prosaic reading is that the US as a mob protector is no more. As much as everyone is aware of a powerful Israel lobby and an almost as powerful Wahhabi petrodollar lobby in Washington, it's never discussed that neither Israel nor the House of Saud have a "protector" other than the US. <br /><br />So from now on, if the House of Saud sees Iran as a threat, it will have to come up with its own strategy. And if Israel insists on seeing Iran as an "existential threat" - which is a joke - it will have to deal with it as a strategic problem. If a real consequence of the current shift is that Washington will not fight wars for Saudi or Israeli sake anymore, that's already a monumental game changer.<br /><br />Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin see it is in their interest to "protect" peacemaker Obama. And yet everyone remains on slippery territory; Obama as peacemaker - this time really honoring his Nobel Prize - may be just a mirror image. And Washington could always march towards regime change in Tehran led by the next White House tenant after 2016. <br /><br />For 2014 though, plenty of signs point to a tectonic shift in the geopolitical map of Eurasia, with Iran finally emerging as the real superpower in Southwest Asia over the designs of both Israel and the House of Saud. Now that's (geopolitical) entertainment. Happy New Year. </p> Tue, 24 Dec 2013 15:06:00 -0800 Pepe Escobar, Asia Times 940521 at http://www.alternet.org World World iran united states China Afghanistan The Guy Running One of the World's Largest Mercenary Armies Thinks He's a Sexy Badass Patriot http://www.alternet.org/books/guy-running-one-worlds-largest-mercenary-armies-thinks-hes-sexy-badass-patriot <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Erik Prince, a young millionaire US patriot with a Navy SEAL background, invests in a badass private army start-up to literally become the &quot;Prince of War.&quot;</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/civilianmercenary.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>It's the late 1990s' Clinton boom-boom years. You are a young millionaire US patriot with a Navy SEAL background. What are you gonna do? You invest in a badass private army start-up and you go fight "terra, terra, terra" across Dar al Islam. A single owner; no pesky stockholders; no board of directors; no government bureaucracy. You can be "nimble and aggressive". You become—literally—the Prince of War. What's not to like?<br /><br />This is Erik Prince's <i>My Way</i>, told with some measure of "contract humor" and the obligatory pious references to a "life's mission" to "serve God, family and the United States"; this is the inside story of how Blackwater turned into "something resembling its own branch of the military" and "the ultimate tool in the war on terror". In the manner of Audi extolling the merits of Vorsprung Durch Technik, Prince hails it as a "proud tale of performance excellence and driven entrepreneurialism".<br /><br />No question; God may be great, but he would certainly eschew a perpetual photo-op at the roof of the Sistine Chapel to be able to toy with such an awesome PMC (private military contractor). Prince, by the way, is ballsy enough to—correctly—depict Cristobal Colon, aka Columbus, in 1492 as a pioneering PMC.<br /><br />Inevitably, this also had to be the story of how Blackwater "was slagged as the face of military evil", "gun-toting bullets for hire". So forget about Jeremy Scahill's 2007 book <i>Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army</i> indicting Prince's creation; whatever end of the ideological spectrum—from an heir of Plato to an heir of Aristoteles and every political theorist in-between—the real fun for the reader starts when Prince meticulously destroys US "politicians" who "feign indignation and pretend my men hadn't done exactly what they had paid us handsomely to do".<br /><br />And handsomely that was. To star as a brand new branch of the military/security complex earned Blackwater a cool US$2 billion, providing weaponized thrills to the Pentagon, the State Department and—in the shadows—the CIA. Not bad for an initial investment of $6 million—Prince family money—on what was initially concocted "as a cross between a shooting range and a country club for special forces personnel" in back-of-beyond Moyock in North Carolina, on the eastern edge of the Great Dismal Swamp.<br /><br />PMCs such as those employed by Blackwater—numbering a staggering 200,000—would end up representing 54 percent of the Pentagon's "workforce" in Afghanistan and Iraq, not including the 3,000 working for the State Department.<br /><br />Now for the bad news in what's billed as an inside story. Forget about finding anything about Blackwater in bed with the CIA. The agency redacted everything to unreadable status. What's left is a lame postscript by a neo-con.<br /><br />So nothing, for instance, about Blackwater Jason Bournes, uber-fixers past and present, and their adventures as part of an elite unit disguised under the bland acronym GRS (Global Response Staff). A clear case of (unwritten) shadow war. Just your average "surrogate army".<br /><br />In Afghanistan, immediately after 9/11, Blackwater's great coup was to befriend notorious Uzbek warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum. The contact was Charlie Santos, a US rep for Saudi-based Delta Oil.<br /><br />In the late 1990s, Santos was playing—what else—Pipelineistan, as in trying to convince the Taliban to accept the terms attached to the TAPI gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan and (maybe) India. We all know how that ended. But because the Taliban later put out a <i>fatwa</i> of sorts on Santos, he conquered Dostum's trust.<br /><br />As the CIA typically had no decent ground intel and could not trust the Pakistani ISI (Inter Services Intelligence, Blackwater stepped in, "delivering" to the CIA not only Dostum but the flamboyant King of Herat, warlord Ishmail Khan.<br /><br />Prince had me howling with laughter when he stresses that Blackwater maintained "the highest ethics while dealing with these contacts"; I pictured a Bunuel-esque Discreet Charm of the Afghan Bourgeoisie shot by Scorsese. Or Tarantino. Still one favor led to another, and by 2002 an incorporated offshoot, Blackwater Security Consulting, was tasked to provide security for the CIA headquarters in Kabul.<br /><br />Then came "Operation Iraq Freedom". Blackwater's contribution to the birth pangs of a "free Iraq" was to protect the repellent Paul Bremer, he of the ridiculous navy blazer-and-combat boots outfit, the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA).<br /><br />Prince does not explain the trickery for Blackwater to bag a $21.3 million, no-bid contract to become Bremer's detail; just a "someone in the Army's contracting department recommended Blackwater".<br /><br />I vividly remember Bremer's caravan in action in the streets of Baghdad in the fall of 2003; to say that average Iraqis were terrified is a huge understatement. Yet Prince alerts: these were no war profiteers; just your average, innocent "private company providing armed guards to a war zone".<br /><br />It would take a Fort Meade roomful of computers to check/correct/edit Prince's own version of, for instance, the "rebuilding" of Fallujah in April 2004—dubbed Operation Vigilant Resolve—after the murder of four Blackwater contractors; or the 2004 Blackwater versus the Mahdi Army four-hour battle in Najaf ("no credit for or mention of Blackwater").<br /><br />Still, the real meat is in the saga of Blackwater creating a "high-visibility deterrent" protecting the State Department; as in "If our motorcades didn't run, the State Department didn't run".<br /><br />Prince is at pains to insist, "we drove aggressively, sometimes offensively". Once again, sorry; with "an armored motorcade that trailed only the US Army and Marines", the average Baghdadi could not but see a bunch of lethal maniacs. Iraqis—Sunni and Shi'ite alike—invariably described Blackwater's shootings to me as "acts of terrorism".<br /><br />Who were these noble patriots/mercenaries? Prince answers: "Mainly former noncommissioned military officers and former members of the special operations services and elite light infantry ... Roughly two-thirds were former US Army; about one-quarter were Marines, and the rest former Navy SEALs, police SWAT team officers, and former federal agents from the FBI, Secret Service and other agencies."<br /><br />All of them of course "proudly patriotic", and cashing in as much as $650 for each 12-hour a day shift in the "hot zone".<br /><br />Talk about a super-deal for the Bush administration; Prince quotes reports certifying Blackwater as "a more cost-effective security option in Baghdad" than the Pentagon.<br /><br />Blackwater reached the apex by 2007: nearly 2,500 contractors deployed in almost a dozen countries, with a database of 50,000 former special forces, soldiers and retired law enforcement types. Then came The Fall.<br /><br />Prince is most effective—and unforgiving—while depicting the sunset George W Bush years: "By late 2007 the company I'd built from scratch was being ground down by the plate tectonics of political battles in Washington." The State Department was "legitimately terrified of the operational secrets I could divulge—specifically, the fact that everything Blackwater's men did in Iraq was by State's direct command."<br /><br />And politicians—what else is new—didn't have a clue: "We were, after all, part of what then CENTCOM head Admiral William Fallon once gruffly referred to as the government's 'surrogate army'."<br /><br />By 2009, "Blackwater was publicly dragged through the mud." And this while the State Department was also dirty as hell.<br /><br />Yet by late 2009, after four years of Blackwater's "myriad duties", the "surrogate army" had earned over $1 billion from Foggy Bottom. Mud never tasted so good. PR nightmare or not, the company was finally renamed "Xe Services", which, according to Prince, "means ... nothing. Which was exactly the point."<br /><br />The early Obama years were bitter. Prince blames Hillary Clinton's State Department for "theatrically exploding its relationship with Blackwater" in 2009—and on top of it handing the ultra-lucrative gig to another contractor, Triple Canopy.<br /><br />It was time to bow out; Prince sold Blackwater in 2010; it's now a softy outfit known as Academi—still protecting diplomats and providing "training". PMC competitors DynCorp and Triple Canopy, though, are still thriving, not to mention the Brits with Aegis and Blue Mountain.<br /><br />Make no mistake—with or without Blackwater, "surrogate armies" are the future. The United Nations will eventually use them; peacekeeping forces—I've seen a few—are usually staffed by frankly incompetent soldiers from very low-income countries. Prince does not seem to want to corner this market, even though, in the mid-2000s, Blackwater pitched exactly the same thing to the State Department: a "relief with teeth" humanitarian team, as in a privately trained 1,700-strong "peacekeeping package", complete with its own air force, helicopters, cargo ships, aerial surveillance, medical supply chain and combat group.<br /><br />Prince now lives in Abu Dhabi and sees Africa as the new Holy Grail (AFRICOM would concur), investing in logistics/security services to the booming oil and gas industry. He has delocalized and diversified—just like the Pentagon; one may bet that at least half of the Pentagon's humongous budget will remain outsourced for the foreseeable future.<br /><br />And the revolving door is not going away—with so many aspiring Princes of War leaving the sprawling Pentagon-centric system to launch their own start-ups and sell stuff to their former buddies on the inside, not to mention ensuring that the militarized assembly line keeps churning "unsung heroes". So many wars on myriad global terrors to prosecute, so precious few surrogate armies.<br /><br /><i>Civilian Warriors: The Inside Story of Blackwater and the Unsung Heroes of the War on Terror</i>, by <b><i>Erik Prince</i></b>. Portfolio Hardcover (November 18, 2013). ISBN-13: 978-1591847212. Price US$15.33 (Kindle $13.99); 416 pages.</p> Fri, 06 Dec 2013 11:34:00 -0800 Pepe Escobar, Asia Times 933563 at http://www.alternet.org Books Books erik prince 1990s Navy SEAL Prince of War My Way blackwater Private military contractors The Hysteria Brigade: Israel and Saudi Arabia Are Up In Arms Over the Iran Deal http://www.alternet.org/world/israel-and-saudi-arabia-against-diplomacy-iran <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Could the U.S. Congress, backed by Israel and the Wahhabists, impose new sanctions to scuttle diplomacy with Iran?</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/bibi-bombbb.jpeg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>The 34-year Wall of Mistrust between the US and Iran started tumbling down on Sunday at 3 am local time in Geneva. Or has it? <br /><br />It is, after all, only a mutually acknowledged "first step" - a deal to start negotiating a real deal (see the full text <a href="http://media.farsnews.com/media/Uploaded/Files/Documents/1392/09/03/13920903000147.pdf">here </a>) And the terms, for Iran, are harsh. <br /><br />Iran will be allowed to trade again in gold, petrochemicals, car and plane parts, and will have some US$4.2 billion in oil sales unfrozen. Yet a fortune remains in permafrost - including $10 billion in European banks. And there is still $50 billion with Iran's Asian energy clients - China, India, Japan, South Korea, Turkey - that still cannot be repatriated. <br /><br />Over the next six months Iran must; stop enriching uranium above 5%; dilute its stock of 20%-enriched uranium; install no more centrifuges; refrain from fueling the heavy-water reactor in Arak; and accept a lot more International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections (which have unearthed no evidence whatsoever uranium has been diverted to weaponization). </p><p>Predictably, the spin war unleashed the minute the deal was clinched in Geneva centers on Iran's right to enrich uranium. US Secretary of State John Kerry said no; not implicit in the document. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said yes, implicit in the deal and in the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) itself.<br /><br />In a Voltairean best of possible worlds, we're just at the stage of a road map for a definitive deal allowing Iran its rightful, peaceful nuclear program (enrichment included) under non-stop IAEA monitoring and far away from breakout nuclear capacity. <br /><br />One of the key points of the deal is that the P5+1 (United States, Britain, France, Russia and China plus Germany) will "not impose new nuclear-related sanctions for six months, if Iran abides by its commitments under this deal, to the extent permissible within their political systems." <br /><br />Would it be then "permissible" for the US Congress - operating under Israeli and Wahhabi petrodollar remote control - to come up with even more sanctions and scotch a future deal for good? That's a possibility. So it depends on the Obama administration's political capital to prevent it. Then, ideally, by May 2014 we could have the building blocks for the end of the key UN/US sanctions that constitute a de facto oil and banking blockade of Iran. <br /><br /><strong>Now for the hysteria brigades</strong></p><p>Perhaps the trillion-dollar enigma of the moment is this: Has the Obama administration abandoned the notion of regime change in Tehran for good? <br /><br />It may be too early to tell. A case can certainly be made of this being a "lose-lose" proposition for Tehran. If Tehran follows every single concession - as it will - and by May 2014 there are no actual major dividends, there won't be much incentive to discuss a definite deal. <br /><br />And if the hardliners in Tehran regain the upper hand and Iran restarts enriching uranium to 20% that will be branded as a deal-breaker. And yet another nasty sanctions package will follow, not to mention the full resurrection of the dogs of war. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and his team have repeatedly made it clear to US negotiators they only have a small window of opportunity before hardliners of the Revolutionary Guards variety try to revert to confrontational mode. <br /><br />Immediately after the deal was signed, Rouhani once again stressed Tehran does not want and will never build a nuclear weapon; one just needs to be reminded of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei's fatwas branding a nuclear weapon as anti-Islamic. <br /><br />And to think that all this could have happened 10 years ago, in early 2003, when the Khatami administration in Tehran - via Swiss intermediation - offered to put everything on the table; the nuclear program, Hezbollah, even normalization with Israel. <br /><br />Predictably, the neo-con cabal led by Dick, Rummy and Wolfie utterly rejected negotiating with a certified member of the "axis of evil" (as in George W Bush's 2002 State of the Union address); the clueless neo-cons were entertaining wet dreams of snuffing out Saddam Hussein and then embarking on the next adventure, "real men go to Tehran"-style. Kerry couldn't help but invoke it in Geneva to add polish to what's being spun as the major foreign policy victory of two Obama administrations. <br /><br />Predictably, the very restricted circle of those against even the idea of Geneva completely freaked out. That starts with neo-cons and assorted Republicans who have backed every demented horse in recent geopolitical history, from the embryo of al-Qaeda in 1980s Afghanistan to the Contras in Nicaragua, from the Mujahideen-e-Khalq "exiled" in Iraq to Bandar Bush's goons let loose in Syria. <br /><br />In the Wahhabi petrodollar front, the House of Saud's King Abdullah had already met in extreme urgency with self-deposed emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani and Kuwait's Sheikh Sabah in Riyadh on the eve of the breakthrough in Geneva. <br /><br />And then there's that sociopath posing as Israeli Prime Minister, Bibi Netanyahu. Imagine his reaction when he read those finally unfrozen reports about months of secret US-Iranian negotiations in Oman. [1] The bottom line: Bibi was totally frozen out of the New Great Game in Eurasia by the Obama administration. <br /><br />In the US, dangerous nut jobs are bound to crank up the hysteria, calling for Israel to bomb Iran. [2] As if a nuclear-armed-to-the-teeth nation - which never signed the NPT and does not allow IAEA inspections - could attack a non-nuclear nation, which has signed the NPT and allows a rash of intrusive inspections. That will make it even more explicit to the whole planet that the rogue state here is Israel. <br /><br />Vigilance, though, remains essential. Desperate, isolated Likudniks will try anything to derail Geneva, including a string of false flags. <br /><br /><strong>Pivot to Persia or bust </strong></p><p>Now for the grown-ups. In terms of Russian foreign policy, it's now a string of victories. Syria. Ukraine. And now Iran. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is a man who can do no wrong, especially in the developing world, as the absolute majority of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) supports Iran's legitimate nuclear rights. <br /><br />Russia and also China (in the usual, silent but imposing background) consider a strong Iranian economy - as well as a stable Syria - matters of supreme self-interest. Both abhor the possibility of Bandar Bush's goons spreading out from Syria towards the Caucasus and even Xinjiang. Both want an Iran normalized with the West as a crucial stabilizing factor in Southwest Asia. The question is whether the Western, financial Masters of the Universe will allow a sovereign, independent Iran in the same league of Russia and China. That would only solidify yet a new Asian integration victory in the New Great Game in Eurasia. <br /><br />The real test starts now. It should always be stressed that a practically full Western blockade of Iran - financial and in oil sales - is still in effect. Tehran is still confined to export only 1 million barrels of oil a day. Yet the temptation may be great to sideline cynicism and bet on the Obama administration realizing that everything of consequence in Southwest Asia revolves around Iran. And once again I'll go for broke; there can't possibly be a pivoting to Asia without a pivot to Persia. <br /><br />Notes:<br />1. <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/11/24/us-iran-nuclear-bilateral-idUSBRE9AN0FB20131124">U.S., Iran held secret talks on march to nuclear deal</a>, Reuters, November 24, 2013.<br />2. <a href="http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/abject-surrender-united-states_768140.html?nopager=1">Abject Surrender by the United States</a>, Weekly Standard, November 24, 2013. </p> Tue, 26 Nov 2013 12:07:00 -0800 Pepe Escobar, Asia Times 929454 at http://www.alternet.org World World Israel iran saudi arabia Shutdown Gives Birth to a 'De-Americanized' World—And China is Stepping Into the Void http://www.alternet.org/world/de-americanized-world-and-china <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">China says a new international reserve currency should be created to replace the dominant US dollar.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_114638557.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>This is it. China has had enough. The (diplomatic) gloves are off. It's time to build a "de-Americanized" world. It's time for a "new international reserve currency" to replace the US dollar. <br /><br />It's all here, in a <a href="http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/indepth/2013-10/13/c_132794246.htm">Xinhua editorial</a>, straight from the dragon's mouth. And the year is only 2013. Fasten your seat belts - and that applies especially to the Washington elites. It's gonna be a bumpy ride. <br /><br />Long gone are the Deng Xiaoping days of "keeping a low profile". The Xinhua editorial summarizes the straw that broke the dragon's back - the current US shutdown. After the Wall Street-provoked financial crisis, after the war on Iraq, a "befuddled world", and not only China, wants change. </p><p>This paragraph couldn't be more graphic:</p><blockquote>Instead of honoring its duties as a responsible leading power, a self-serving Washington has abused its superpower status and introduced even more chaos into the world by shifting financial risks overseas, instigating regional tensions amid territorial disputes, and fighting unwarranted wars under the cover of outright lies.</blockquote><p>The solution, for Beijing, is to "de-Americanize" the current geopolitical equation - starting with more say in the International Monetary Fund and World Bank for emerging economies and the developing world, leading to a "new international reserve currency that is to be created to replace the dominant US dollar". <br /><br />Note that Beijing is not advocating completely smashing the Bretton Woods system - at least for now, but it is for having more deciding power. Sounds reasonable, considering that China holds slightly more weight inside the IMF than Italy. IMF "reform" - sort of - has been going on since 2010, but Washington, unsurprisingly, has vetoed anything substantial. <br /><br />As for the move away from the US dollar, it's also already on, in varying degrees of speed, especially concerning trade amongst the BRICS group of emerging powers (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), which is now overwhelmingly in their respective currencies. The US dollar is slowly but surely being replaced by a basket of currencies. <br /><br />"De-Americanization" is also already on. Take last week's Chinese trade charm offensive across Southeast Asia, which is incisively leaning towards even more action with their top commercial partner, China. Chinese President Xi Jinping clinched an array of deals with Indonesia, Malaysia and also Australia, only a few weeks after clinching another array of deals with the Central Asian "stans". <br /><br />Chinese commitment to improve the Iron Silk Road reached fever pitch, with shares of Chinese rail companies going through the roof amid the prospect of a high-speed rail link with and through Thailand actually materializing. In Vietnam, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang sealed an understanding that two country's territorial quarrels in the South China Sea would not interfere with even more business. Take that, "pivoting" to Asia. <br /><br />All aboard the petroyuan<br />Everyone knows Beijing holds Himalayas of US Treasury bonds - courtesy of those massive trade surpluses accumulated over the past three decades plus an official policy of keeping the yuan appreciating very slowly, yet surely. <br /><br />At the same time, Beijing has been acting. The yuan is also slowly but surely becoming more convertible in international markets. (Just last week, the European Central Bank and the People?s Bank of China agreed to set up a US$45-$57 billion currency swap line that will add to the yuan's international strength and improve access to trade finance in the euro area.) <br /><br />The unofficial date for full yuan convertibility could fall anywhere between 2017 and 2020. The target is clear; move away from piling up US debt, which implies, in the long run, Beijing removing itself from this market - and thus making it way more costly for the US to borrow. The collective leadership in Beijing has already made up its mind about it, and is acting accordingly. <br /><br />The move towards a full convertible yuan is as inexorable as the BRICS move towards a basket of currencies progressively replacing the US dollar as a reserve currency. Until, further on down the road, the real cataclysmic event materializes; the advent of the petroyuan - destined to surpass the petrodollar once the Gulf petro-monarchies see which way the historical winds are blowing. Then we will enter a completely different geopolitical ball game. <br /><br />We may be a long way away, but what is certain is that Deng Xiaoping's famous set of instructions is being progressively discarded; "Observe calmly; secure our position; cope with affairs calmly; hide our capacities and bide our time; be good at maintaining a low profile; and never claim leadership." <br /><br />A mix of caution and deception, grounded on China's historical confidence and taking into consideration serious long-term ambition, this was classic Sun Tzu. So far, Beijing was laying low; letting the adversary commit fatal mistakes (and what a collection of multi-trillion-dollar mistakes... ); and accumulating "capital". <br /><br />The time to capitalize has now arrived. By 2009, after the Wall Street-provoked financial crisis, there were already Chinese rumblings about the "malfunctioning of the Western model" and ultimately the "malfunctioning of Western culture". <br /><br />Beijing has listened to Dylan (with Mandarin subtitles?) and concluded yes, the times they-are-a-changing. With no foreseeable social, economic and political progress - the shutdown is just another graphic illustration, if any was needed - the US slide is as inexorable as China, bit by bit, spreading its wings to master 21st century post-modernity. <br /><br />Make no mistake; the Washington elites will fight it like the ultimate plague. Still, Antonio Gramsci's intuition must now be upgraded; the old order has died, and the new one is one step closer to being born. </p> Thu, 17 Oct 2013 14:34:00 -0700 Pepe Escobar, Asia Times 911685 at http://www.alternet.org World World China us China's Time to Shine: Why the U.S. Government Shutdown Makes Beijing Happy http://www.alternet.org/world/why-us-government-shutdown-makes-beijing-happy <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">President Obama&#039;s canceled trip to the APEC summit leaves the Chinese president basking in center stage glow.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_114638557.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>The latest superpower dysfunctional spectacular, aka the US shutdown, has forced President Barack Obama to cancel an entire Asian trip. First the White House announced Obama was shutting down Malaysia and the Philippines - supposed stars of the "pivoting to Asia". Then it was finally confirmed he was also shutting down the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) summit in Bali on Tuesday and the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and East Asia summit next Thursday in Brunei. </p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">That leaves Chinese President Xi Jinping to bask, unrivalled, in center stage glow. As if any extra Stateside "help" was needed, and as if Xi was not already on a roll. </span><br /><br />On Thursday, Xi became the first foreign leader ever to address the Indonesian parliament in Jakarta. He stressed that Beijing wanted by all means to boost trade with ASEAN to a whopping US$1 trillion by 2020 - and establish a regional infrastructure bank. <br /><br />His message, in a nutshell: China and "certain Southeast Asian countries" must solve their wrangling over territorial sovereignty and maritime rights "peacefully" - as in we will discuss that messy South China Sea situation (he made no direct reference to it in his speech) but don't let that interfere with our doing serious business in trade and investment. Who is ASEAN to say no? <br /><br />And then, after upstaging Obama in Indonesia (hefty tomes could be penned about that), and signing the requisite $30 billion-plus deals (mostly in mining), Xi was off to Malaysia. <br /><br />Compare Xi's Indonesian triumph - complete with his glamorous wife Peng Liyuan wearing batik - to a recent visit by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who, for all practical purposes, wanted to convince the Indonesians to essentially encircle China. Elaborately polite as usual, the Indonesians brushed Abe aside. China is Indonesia's biggest trading partner after Japan, and it's bound to overtake Tokyo soon. <br /><br />Beijing has already agreed to discuss a legally binding Code of Conduct in the South China Sea with ASEAN. A working group met last month in Suzhou. Four of the 10-member ASEAN (but not Indonesia) are involved in the South China Sea dispute - which, predictably enough, is all about unexplored oil and gas wealth. The Philippines will keep accusing Beijing, as it did last month, of violating the - for the moment informal - Code of Conduct. Indonesia has volunteered as mediator. It won't be a rose garden, but the fact is China and ASEAN are already talking.<br /><br /><strong>Pivoting with myself </strong></p><p>It's a bit of a problem when you announce - with great fanfare, and at the Pentagon, of all places - a "pivoting to Asia" to enhance the role of "Asia Pacific to US prosperity and security", and you cannot even pivot yourself to Asia for a few days to pitch it in person. In fact there's no pivoting to being with - at least for now. The Obama administration has been focused not only on two immensely complex dossiers - Syria and Iran - but also trying to contain Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's dementia in Israel and the increasingly fearful and paranoid House of Saud. <br /><br />So what would Obama have been up to in Asia? Well, in the Philippines he would have tried to clinch a deal for "greater flexibility" for the Pentagon to use military bases. To say that is "controversial" is a huge understatement. <br /><br />And in Malaysia, Obama would have pushed harder for the already infamous Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) - essentially a corporate racket that is a great deal for US multinationals but not exactly for Asian interests. TPP is the American answer to China boosting its already massive business ties all over Asia. <br /><br />Former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohammad has seen TPP - which excludes China - for what it is, and he's absolutely not convinced TPP will allow Malaysia easier access to the American market. <br /><br />So in the end it was left to Xi to stage yet another Southeast Asian triumph. Beijing may offer Kuala Lumpur a wealth of investment without pesky TPP-style interference on how the country runs its state-owned enterprises or how it dispenses government contracts. And on top of it, Xi got a personal shot at trying to get Malaysia on his side in negotiations about the Code of Conduct for the South China Sea. <br /><br />Xi of course will be the star of the APEC summit in Bali. Then Premier Li Keqiang heads the Chinese team to the East Asia Summit in Brunei and extends his business trip further to Thailand and Vietnam. <br /><br />Now compare this Chinese offensive, relentless as an accelerating Lamborghini Aventador, with the unstated but palpable perception, all across Southeast Asia, of the creaking Chevrolet that represents the US "pivoting". A bet can be made that US Think Tankland once again will carp about the loss of American reliability or, better yet, "credibility" - even as it defends the future of the pivoting, justifying it not only as an American strategic decision but in the name of Southeast Asian interests. <br /><br />That is nonsense. The top cheerleader of the US pivoting is Japan - and Japan is widely regarded, in different shades of gray all across Southeast Asia, as a US puppet. What is certain is that the Obama no-show only reinforces the predominant perception that current US foreign policy is an absolute mess. And that while the US does shutdowns, China does business. </p> Fri, 04 Oct 2013 09:21:00 -0700 Pepe Escobar, Asia Times 905544 at http://www.alternet.org World World China america Why the 'Jihadi' Mall Attack in Kenya Is the Perfect Pretext for America to Spread Its Empire Deeper into Africa http://www.alternet.org/world/why-jihadi-mall-attack-kenya-perfect-pretext-america-spread-its-empire-deeper-africa <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Dick Cheney must feel vindicated; the West is finally consolidating his ‘vision’ of Al-Qaeda as a mercenary shadow army disguised as global Terror Inc. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/photo_1380019297501-5-0.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p align="left" class="style1">So what was Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen - the Al-Qaeda-linked Somali outfit - really up to in Kenya?</p><p align="left" class="style1">A mall in the capital of East Africa’s biggest economy, part owned by Israelis, offering the “supreme experience of shopping” for the local elite and upper middle class, diplomats and expats. It seems to be the perfect target for an attack with minimal logistics (assault rifles and grenades) and bent on inflicting maximum casualties.</p><p align="left" class="style1">But was it just ‘senseless terror’? Blowback? Or a game of shadows?</p><p align="left" class="style1">I’ve been trying to travel across Somalia for years, but contacts have always stressed; for a lone Westerner with no ‘protection’ – not to mention a lot of ammo – that’s certified suicide. The best one can do is to try to piece together the jigsaw puzzle.</p><p align="left" class="style1"><strong>Al-Shabaab split</strong></p><p align="left" class="style1">Originally, al-Shabaab (Mujahideen Youth Movement) derives from the Islamic Courts movement that was in power in Somalia until they were repelled by invading Ethiopian troops in 2007.</p><p align="left" class="style1">It’s crucial to keep in mind that a great number of Somalis – including businessmen - praised the Islamic Courts for bringing back some measure of security and disarming countless militias, something the country had not experienced since the early 1990s.</p><p align="left" class="style1">That feeling even superseded the fact the courts wanted to establish Sharia law and forbid everyone from listening to music and chewing<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khat"><strong> khat</strong></a>. So the courts had strong social support. And yet, predictably, the Bush administration at the time branded them as “terrorists”.</p><p align="left" class="style1">Al-Shabaab remained one of the factions active in Mogadishu until the summer of 2011. But then they were kicked out of the capital and also kicked out of the port of Kismayu, their main base, later in 2012. AMISOM – the not-exactly-peacekeeping, somewhat fighting forces of Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda, among others, under the umbrella of the African Union – was gradually ramping up the pressure.</p><p align="left" class="style1">Al-Shabaab’s power base remains unbelievably poor rural Somalia. Until recently the group was led mostly by Somali clan elders. A smatter of foreign jihadis with ground experience from Afghanistan to the Maghreb is to be found. But the bulk of the fighting force is essentially composed of bored teenagers bought by roughly $300 and the vision of meeting 72 virgins in paradise.</p><p align="left" class="style1">The crucial al-Shabaab/Al-Qaeda link also dates from 2012. Some al-Shabaab leaders not only disagreed, but decided to vote with their feet. After all, al-Shabaab had always been essentially about Somali nationalism.</p><p align="left" class="style1">Al-Shabaab’s internal split is crucial to understand the full picture. After important defections and certainly gruesome executions, for the past three months Emir Abu Zubayr seems to be fully in charge. He is not a Somali nationalist, like the defectors; he wants to pursue the aiming-for-a-globalized-emirate Al-Qaeda way.</p><p align="left" class="style1"><strong>What is Kenya up to?</strong></p><p align="left" class="style1">Al-Shabaab duly claimed the attack on Westgate mall via their Twitter account. A fog of witnesses claim the attackers did not speak Swahili, but Arabic or Somali; some were disguised as women; and they might have even included a notorious female British jihadi, the so-called “white widow” Samantha Lewthwaite. In sum: a mini-Jihad Inc.</p><p align="left" class="style1">Al-Shabaab stressed only “infidels” were killed in the raid, and made sure this was revenge against invading Kenyan troops active in Somalia since 2011. Previous attacks in Mogadishu this year featured a car bomb and a suicide bomber, but no attempt to take hostages. <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/23/nairobi-terror-kenya-africa"><strong>Here </strong></a>is an excellent summary of why Kenya, and why now, written by the son of my late friend and former Asia Times editor Tony Allison.</p><p align="left" class="style1">Nairobi’s long game is to protect its two key industries – the safari trail and shipping (centered on the port of Mombasa). This has evolved into the strategy of creating a buffer state in southern Somalia. Not by accident, in this region, Jubaland, a lot of unexplored oil wealth is the key part of the story.</p><p align="left" class="style1">That’s the background for the Kenyan invasion of southern Somalia in 2011 - when al-Shabaab was kicked out of Kismayu. Very important; the US and France were key in the military support department. Kenya’s army, frankly, is a joke, and would never pull it off by itself. The invasion was effusively hailed in the West and – where else? - the UN Security Council.</p><p align="left" class="style1">It's because Kenya expelled al-Shabaab from Kismayu that AMISOM managed to further secure Mogadishu – with Kenyan troops included in the mix. And yet, also predictably, Kenya’s adventure in southern Somalia was seen by most Somalis as an occupation, not a liberation.</p><p align="left" class="style1">So here we find the embryo of blowback. The Kenyan invasion managed to fire up Somali popular support for al-Shabaab all over again; people even forgot that for a long while al-Shabaab chose to let Somalis die in droves, victims of famine, instead of accepting Western aid.</p><p align="left" class="style1">Thus Kenya acting as a US-France puppet ultimately provoked the Westgate mall blowback. Not to mention that Washington has been droning Somalia non-stop from a base in neighboring Djibouti.</p><p align="left" class="style1"><strong>Dick Cheney’s Al-Qaeda dream</strong></p><p align="left" class="style1">But all this is only part of the story. For the Big Picture, we need to go back to NATO’s ‘humanitarian’ bombing of Libya into a failed state; a development that spawned the Libya-Syria connection.</p><p align="left" class="style1">We need to remember that Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) had merged with the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) in 2007; this was announced by Ayman al-Zawahiri himself. After the destruction of Libya, AQIM invaded northern Mali – which led to yet another French delirium of grandeur. And then the LIFG, now ‘supported’ by NATO, activated the connection with Syria – with jihadis, funds and weapons fueling non-stop the so-called ‘Free’ Syrian Army.</p><p align="left" class="style1">In parallel, al-Shabaab also connected to the LIFG and AQIM; and, ultimately, they all connected with - guess who - Al-Nusra Front in Syria. Even the head of AFRICOM, Gen. Carter Ham, <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-18592789"><strong>had to admit</strong></a> part of the story in 2012.</p><p align="left" class="style1">In fact this was no admission; it was supposed to happen. NATO propelling the Libya-Syria connection would inevitably expand Al- Qaeda’s operational reach, from AQIM to AQAP and by extension al-Shabaab. The serpent bites its own tail; a Western military offensive leads to scattered jihadi response; blowback ensues; and thus the need for more Western military muscle, ad infinitum.</p><p align="left" class="style1">So yes; LIFG, AQIM, AQAP, Boko Haram in Nigeria, al-Shabaab, Al-Nusra Front; this acronym/branding spectacular is all interconnected. When manipulated by the US and asserted European poodles as a geopolitical switch – which can be turned on and off – it works wonders.</p><p align="left" class="style1">From Washington’s point of view, to have it reactivated on and off is essential to keep the so-called “light footprint” in Africa, which Nick Turse conclusively <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175743/tomgram%3A_nick_turse%2C_africom%27s_gigantic_%22small_footprint%22/#more"><strong>demonstrated </strong></a>is anything but light.</p><p align="left" class="style1">Whenever jihadi blowback happens, that’s perfect to ramp up Western hysteria – and demonization of Muslims in general. Moreover, the Westgate mall attack will be the perfect pretext to ramp up US and UK ‘efforts’ inside Somalia. Shady ‘foreign assistance teams’ from the US, UK and Israel, after all, are already in place and crucially deploying from bases in Kenya.</p><p align="left" class="style1">Somalis who have nothing to do with al-Shabaab may and will pay the price – as much as Syrians who detest Al-Nusra Front are victims of the West’s blind, blank support of ‘rebels’. Dick Cheney must feel vindicated; the West is finally consolidating his ‘vision’ of Al-Qaeda as a mercenary shadow army disguised as global Terror Inc. And everything’s under control, of course. Except the wretched ‘collateral damage’ caught in the crossfire.</p> Tue, 24 Sep 2013 14:03:00 -0700 Pepe Escobar, Asia Times 900656 at http://www.alternet.org World World africa Lights, Camera, Action: The Diplomatic Stage is Set For Obama and Iran's New President http://www.alternet.org/world/stage-set-america-and-iran-talk <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The spoilers--Israel and Saudi Arabia--will work hard to scuttle any chance of reconciliation between the U.S. and Iran.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/official_photo_of_hassan_rouhani_7th_president_of_iran_august_2013.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>The stage is set. By now it's established Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has given full authority to the new administration of President Hassan Rouhani to talk directly to Washington about Iran's nuclear program. <br /><br />This happened only a few days after US President Barack Obama leaked that letters had been exchanged between himself and Rouhani. <br /><br />Rouhani's empowerment was first confirmed later last week by extremely credible former nuclear negotiator ambassador Seyed Hossein Mousavian in <a href="http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2013/09/13/commentary/the-u-s-with-iran-in-syria/#.UjlCoxZiiRL">this op-ed</a> published in Japan. Mousavian was Rouhani's deputy in Iran's Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) from 1997 to 2005. Then Rouhani himself expanded on it this Wednesday in <a href="http://worldnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/09/18/20561148-irans-president-rouhani-we-will-never-develop-nuclear-weapons?lite">an interview with NBC</a>. <br /><br />It's crucial to consider the Supreme Leader's exact position. This past Tuesday, he addressed the elite of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) in Tehran. [1] The key quote: "We don't accept nuclear weapons, not for the sake of the US or others, but because of our beliefs, and when we say that no one should have nuclear weapons, certainly we are not after them either." </p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">Khamenei fully endorsed Rouhani's diplomatic offensive, emphasizing - not cryptically - two concepts: "heroic flexibility", as in a wrestler sometimes giving way for tactical reasons but never losing sight of the rival; and "champion's leniency" - which happens to be the subtitle of a book Khamenei himself translated from Arabic about how the second Shi'ite imam, Hasan ibn Ali, managed to prevent a war in the 7th century by showing flexibility towards his enemy. </span><br /><br />Does that mean that a historic meeting between Obama and Rouhani next Tuesday on the sidelines of the annual UN General Assembly in New York is all but certain? No. Predictably, the White House has already exercised plausible deniability - as in Obama "not expected to meet" Rouhani. <br /><br />What the process implies though, is that Washington and Tehran should be talking, sooner or later, at the highest level. <br /><br /><strong>Watch the spoilers </strong></p><p>Crucially, Khamenei also told the IRGC, "It is not necessary for the guards to have activities in the political field." This implies they are out of the new nuclear negotiations, in a further confirmation of how the nuclear dossier has been transferred to the Foreign Ministry. Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is the man in charge. He will be traveling to New York with Rouhani. <a href="http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2013/09/12/323403/obama-being-pushed-into-trap-on-syria/">Here</a> is an excellent insight into his frame of mind. As for former foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi, now appointed by Rouhani as the head of Iran's atomic energy agency, he told the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna that it was time to "end the so-called nuclear file". <br /><br />The whole process, now in dizzying speed, is a radical departure from the Ahmadinejad years, when the IRGC was politicized to the extreme. One day before Khamenei's speech, Rouhani himself asked the IRGC to "stay above and beyond political currents". <br /><br />So Iran is now advancing pieces in the chessboard. There's no substantial American response, so far. But the spoilers in the game are already on overdrive. <br /><br />Not by accident Israel has ramped up its moves to stress the great "existential threat" to itself is the "strategic arc that extends from Tehran, to Damascus to Beirut" - as expressed by outgoing Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren. [2] <br /><br />What is now clear is that Tel Aviv would rather have al-Qaeda-style jihadis of the Jabhat al-Nusra mould in power in Damascus than a secular Arab republic under Bashar al-Assad. That's yet another proof, if needed, of the confluence of interests between Israel and those paragons of democracy, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) petro-monarchies. No wonder all these players are bitterly despised by the Arab street. <br /><br />Tel Aviv will go no holds barred to bombard the Syrian chemical weapons dossier - pressuring for "conditions" that might include non-existent Iranian weapons and pressuring for everyone to believe Assad - with Hezbollah and Iran's complicity - is not cooperating with chemical weapons inspectors. Syrian "rebel" military leader, General Selim Idriss - an Israeli-GCC puppet - has already started the campaign, saying Damascus has transferred chemical weapons to Lebanon and Iraq. <br /><br />As for the House of Saud, the monarchy regards Russian diplomacy as worse than poison. They don't want even the possibility of a Geneva II conference - as Prince Bandar bin Sultan, aka Bandar Bush, head of the Saudi General Intelligence Directorate, told Putin in person. They want regime change, they want it now, and they will keep weaponizing the most lethal "rebel" factions, now on overdrive. <br /><br />The Obama administration must have registered Moscow's message that Syria is indeed a Russian "red line" - as important to Russia as Israel to the US. And the White House must have registered Khamenei's own message via Sultan Qaboos of Oman; the gist of it was that "whoever intends to destroy Syria should be prepared to lose their oil and gas in the region". <br /><br />The solution for the Syrian chemical weapons impasse, as reported by Asia Times Online, was worked out by Damascus, Tehran and Moscow - and later supported by Beijing. It did, in fact, save the Obama administration from itself. <br /><br />Yet, <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e9dnWrC13jg">an interview</a> late last week, Obama reverted to the same old (misleading) message, when referring to Iran:</p><blockquote>I think what the Iranians understand is that the nuclear issue is a far larger issue for us than the chemical weapons issue, that the threat against ... Israel that a nuclear Iran poses is much closer to our core interests. That a nuclear arms race in the region is something that would be profoundly destabilizing.</blockquote><p>There is no "threat" to Israel because there will be no nuclear Iran - as Khamenei, once again, has just stressed. The (undeclared) nuclear power is Israel, not Iran. And chemical weapons were never an issue to begin with; Obama's own, reckless, "red line" turned into an issue as a means to possibly enforce his previous red line, "Assad must go". <br /><br />Here, I had a shot at drawing <a href="http://rt.com/op-edge/obama-iran-meeting-syria-dossier-972/">the Big Picture</a>. Last week, on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) meeting in Kyrgyzstan, Rouhani met with both Putin and China's President Xi Jinping. They are now working on a concerted strategy not only in Syria but also in terms of Iran's nuclear dossier. <br /><br />Russia and China firmly support Iran's right for a civilian nuclear program. And first and foremost, the BRICS group (Brazil, India and South Africa being its other members), as well as emerging regional powers such as Indonesia, Argentina and Iran itself, will keep increasing their push towards a multi-polar international order under the rule of law, instead of the usual US hegemon going on a rampage. <br /><br />Diplomacy is trying to have a shot at solving the Syrian tragedy. And diplomacy should have a shot at solving the 34-year Wall of Mistrust between Washington and Tehran. The question is whether Obama will have the "heroic flexibility" to stare down the spoilers. <br /><br />Notes:<br />1. <a href="http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13920626001292">Supreme Leader Reiterates Iran's Opposition to N. Weapons</a>, Fars News Agency, September 17, 2013. <br />2. <a href="http://www.jpost.com/Syria-Crisis/Oren-Jerusalem-has-wanted-Assad-ousted-since-the-outbreak-of-the-Syrian-civil-war-326328">Israel wanted Assad gone since start of Syria civil war</a>, Jerusalem Post, September 17, 2013. </p> Thu, 19 Sep 2013 12:17:00 -0700 Pepe Escobar, Asia Times 898747 at http://www.alternet.org World World iran america Syria Crisis Hasn't Been Magically Resolved -- There's a Lot More Cruel Tricks and War Games Coming Down the Pike http://www.alternet.org/world/syria-crisis-hasnt-been-magically-resolved-theres-lot-more-cruel-tricks-and-war-games-coming <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Russia throws a lifeline to save Barack Obama from his self-spun &quot;red line&quot; on Syria, but nothing&#039;s over yet.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/photo_1378763796656-10-0.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>The frantic spin of the millisecond is that the White House is taking a "hard look" at the Russian proposal for Bashar al-Assad to place Syria's chemical weapons arsenal under UN control, thus defusing (or at least postponing) yet another US war in the Middle East. <br /><br />Oh, the joys of the geopolitical chessboard - Russia throwing a lifeline to save US President Barack Obama from his self-spun "red line". <br /><br />True diplomats are supposed to prevent wars - not pose as warmongers. American exceptionalism is of course exempted. So just as Secretary of State John Kerry had the pedal on the metal selling in a London press conference yet another war, his beat up Chevy was overtaken by a diplomatic Maserati: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. <br /><br />This was Kerry's slip: "... [Assad] could turn over any single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week. Turn it over. All of it. And without delay and allow the full and total accounting for that. But he isn't about to do it, and it can't be done obviously." </p><p><br />It can be done, obviously, as Lavrov turned Kerry's move against him - forwarding a two-step proposal to Damascus: Syria turns its chemical weapons to UN control and later agrees with their destruction, as well as joining the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem lost no time in agreeing. The devil, of course, is in the fine print. <br /><br />Somebody help me! What's the message? <br />Predictably, all hell broke loose at the State Department. Damn! Bloody Russki peacenik! A Kerry spokeswoman said this was a "rhetorical argument". It was just "talk". Damascus and Moscow have a horrible track record. This was just a "stalling tactic''. Washington could not trust Assad. And even if there was a "serious" proposal, that would not delay the White House's push to sell its war in the US Congress. <br /><br />Yet two hours later, closet future US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton saw it as ... a serious proposal, "suggested by Secretary Kerry and the Russians". And she made clear she was for it after meeting with Obama himself. <br /><br />Meanwhile, the bat-shit crazy department kept the pedal on the metal, with National Security Adviser Susan "Wolfowitz" Rice busy warning that chemical attacks in Syria are a "serious threat to our national security" including to "citizens at home''. What, no "mushroom cloud"? <br /><br />Yet just as "on message" was up in smoke, magically, deputy national security adviser Tony Blinken, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf and Hillary herself started talking in unison (somebody forgot to brief Rice). And the White House decided to take its "hard look". Sort of. Because expectations are not that high. And the push to war in the US Congress is bound to continue. <br /><br />Not even hardcore Beltway junkies have been able to keep track in real time of the Obama administration's ever-shifting "policy". This is how it (theoretically) stands. "Assad is responsible for the gas attack." Translation; he did not order it, directly (no one with half a brain, apart from the Return of the Living Dead neo-cons, believes the current White House "evidence" sticks). But he's still "responsible". And even if Jabhat al-Nusra did it - with "kitchen sarin" imported from Iraq, as I proposed <a href="http://rt.com/op-edge/war-chemical-weapons-obama-syria-120/">here</a> - Assad is still "responsible"; after all he must protect Syrian citizens. <br /><br />In his Monday TV Anschluss, Obama, clinging to the lifeline, was quick to steal Lavrov's credit, saying he had "discussed" the broad outlook of what Russia announced directly with Putin at the Group of 20 summit last week. This has not been corroborated by Moscow. <br /><br />Obama told CNN this was a "potentially positive thought''. And he was keen to stress it only happened not because his Designated War Salesman slipped, but because of a "credible military threat''. To NBC, he kept peddling what Kerry defined as an "unbelievably small" attack; the US "can strike without provoking a counter-attack". Yet to CNN he admitted, "the notion that Mr Assad could significantly threaten the United States is just not the case''. So why the need for the "unbelievably small" kinetic whatever? That's too much of a metaphysical question for US journalism. <br /><br /><strong>You have the right to remain inspected</strong></p><p>Now for the fine print. Everybody knows what happened to Saddam Hussein and Colonel Gaddafi after they gave up their deterrence. Assuming both Washington and Damascus accept Lavrov's proposal, this could easily be derailed into an Iraqi-style ultra-harsh inspection regime. At least in theory, no US Air Force will attack UN inspectors at Syrian chemical weapons depots. As for false flags, don't underestimate the deep pockets of Saudi Arabia's Prince Bandar bin Sultan - aka Bandar Bush. <br /><br />Still, considering Washington won't abandon its real agenda - regime change - Obama might eventually be re-presented with his full Emperor hand to "supervise" the chemical weapons handover and "punish" any infringement, real or otherwise, by Damascus, facilitated by the usual spies infiltrated into the inspectors mechanism. As in, "If you complain, we bomb." <br /><br />The key point in all this, though, is that, for Damascus, chemical weapons are just a detail - they are worthless on the battlefield. What matters is the 250,000-strong Syrian Arab Army (SAA), as well as military support by Iran and especially Russia - as in badass missiles of the Yakhont variety or S-300 (even 400) systems. Destroying the weapons - assuming Damascus agrees - is a very long-term proposition, measured in years; even Russia and the US have not destroyed theirs. By then, the myriad gangs of the "Un-Free" Syrian Army may have been thoroughly defeated. <br /><br />Obama may have read the writing on the (bloody) wall; forget about convincing the US Congress to bomb Damascus when there's a real diplomatic way out on the table. Yet nothing changes in the long run. Those who are paying or cheering in the sidelines for this operation - from Bandar Bush to Tel Aviv - want by all means to smash Damascus, for the benefit of Israel in terms of strategic balance, and for the benefit of the House of Saud in terms of isolating Iran in the Middle East. <br /><br />So Lavrov's chess move is not a checkmate; it is a gambit, meant to prevent the United States from becoming al-Qaeda's Air Force, at least for now. The quagmire would then move to a negotiating table - which would include those chemical weapons inspections. <br /><br />No wonder assorted Western-weaponized psychos and jihadis on the ground in Syria don't like this one bit. It's happening just as more damning circumstantial evidence of false flags galore surface. <br /><br />RT has been informed that the "rebels" may be planning a monster false flag on Israel, to be launched from Assad-controlled ground. [1] <br /><br />And then there's the release of two former hostages detained for five months by the "rebels" in appalling conditions; Domenico Quirico, a correspondent for La Stampa, and Belgian historian Pierre Piccinin. Here is a shortened version of Quirico's story, <a href="http://www.lastampa.it/2013/09/09/esteri/quirico-it-is-madness-to-say-i-knew-it-wasnt-assad-who-used-gas-FjJDJ8oeEI19AZbyKIVBHJ/pagina.html">in English</a>. <br /><br />I talked to a very close friend at La Stampa who spoke directly with Quirico. He confirmed that Quirico and Piccinin overheard a Skype conversation between a "rebel" speaking very bad English, who introduced himself as a "FSA General", and somebody speaking very good English on the other side of the line. It was clear from the conversation that the Assad government was NOT responsible for the gas attack in Ghouta. So Quirico is admitting exactly what Piccinin told Belgian TV. It may not be conclusive; yet as proof goes, it certainly beats the Israeli-fed White House intel. <br /><br />Unlike Piccinin, Quirico cannot tell the whole true story; most of all because La Stampa, a newspaper owned by the Agnelli family, very close to Henry Kissinger, is staunchly pro-"rebel". Here's a translation of what <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FG5QteeaNxc&amp;feature=share">Piccinin</a> said:</p><blockquote>It's a moral duty that we have, Domenico and myself, to say it was not the government of Bashar al-Assad that used sarin gas, or other nerve agent, in the Damascene suburb of Ghouta. We are certain about this, it's a conversation that we captured, even if it pains me to say it; I ferociously support the Free Syrian Army, and its fair struggle for democracy.</blockquote><p>Needless to say, none of this crucial development is being fully reported by US corporate media. <br /><br />The Anschluss continues. Obama is addressing US public opinion this Tuesday night. Don't expect him to announce yet another twist to the "Obama doctrine" - criminalizing "evil" dictators who use Agent Orange, napalm, white phosphorous and depleted uranium against other people. </p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Pepe Escobar is the author of <a href="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0978813820/simpleproduction/ref=nosim">Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War</a> (Nimble Books, 2007), <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Red-Zone-Blues-snapshot-Baghdad/dp/0978813898">Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge</a> (Nimble Books, 2007), and <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Obama-Does-Globalistan-Pepe-Escobar/dp/1934840831">Obama does Globalistan</a> (Nimble Books, 2009). </p> </div></div></div> Tue, 10 Sep 2013 11:26:00 -0700 Pepe Escobar, Asia Times 894536 at http://www.alternet.org World World syria The Whole World Is Watching Obama's Farcical Campaign to Attack Syria Unravel http://www.alternet.org/world/case-syria-attack-built-farce <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">President Barack Obama is being led to intervention by the Israel lobby, the House of Saud and the industrial-military-security complex.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/photo_1378730952070-4-0_1.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>There's nothing ''tragic'' about the fact that during this week - marking the 12th anniversary of 9/11 - Obama will be fighting for its bombing ''credibility'' trying to seduce Republican hawks in the US Congress while most of the warmongers du jourhappen to be Democrats. </p><p><br />Republicans are torn between supporting the president they love to hate and delivering him a stinging rebuke - as much as they are aching to follow the orders of their masters, ranging from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee to military contractors. Once again, this is farce - caused by the fact that a man elected to finish off wars is eager to start yet another one. And once again without a United Nations vote. <br /><br />The White House ''strategy'' in this crucial negotiating week boils down to this; to convince the US Congress that the United States must start a war on Syria to punish an ''evil dictator'' - once again, as bad as Hitler - for gassing children. The evidence? It's ''indisputable''. <br /><br />Well, it's not ''irrefutable''. It's not even ''beyond-a-reasonable-doubt''. As Obama's Chief of Staff Denis McDonough admitted, with a straight face, it boils down to ''a quite strong common sense test, irrespective of the intelligence, that suggests that the regime carried this out''. <br /><br />So if this is really about ''common sense'', the president is obviously not being shown by his close coterie of sycophants this<a href="http://atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/MID-03-090913.html" http:="">compendium of common sense</a>, compiled by a group of top, extremely credible former US intelligence officials, which debunks all the ''evidence'' as flawed beyond belief. To evoke a farce from 12 years ago, this clearly seems to be a case of ''facts being fixed around the policy''. <br /><br />And to compound the farce, this is not even as much about Syria per se as about ''sending a message to Iran'', code for ''if you keep messing with us, you're going to be bombed.'' <br /><br /><strong>Follow the plutocrats </strong></p><p>Then there's the ''credibility'' farce. The Obama administration has convoluted the whole world in its own self-spun net, insisting that the responsibility for the ''red line'' recklessly drawn by the president is in fact global. Yet the pesky ''world'' is not buying it. <br /><br />The Arab street doesn't buy it because they clearly see through the hypocrisy; the desperate rush to ''punish'' the Bashar al-Assad government in Syria while justifying everything the apartheid state of Israel perpetrates in occupied Palestine. <br /><br />The Muslim world doesn't buy it because it clearly sees the demonization only applies to Muslims - from Arafat to bin Laden to Saddam to Gaddafi and now Assad. It would never apply to the military junta in Myanmar, which was clever enough to engineer an ''opening''; the next day Westerners were lining up to kiss the hem of Burmese longyis. <br /><br />It would never apply to the Islam Karimov dictatorship in Uzbekistan because ''we'' always need to seduce him as one of our bastards away from Russia and China. <br /><br />It eventually applies, on and off, to the Kim dynasty in North Korea, but with no consequences - because these are badass Asians who can actually respond to an US attack. <br /><br />Informed public opinion across the developing world does not buy it because they clearly see, examining the historical record, that Washington would never really be bothered with the sorry spectacle of Arabs killing Arabs, or Muslims killing Muslims, non-stop. The 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war is a prime piece of evidence. <br /><br />At the Group of 20 summit last week, the BRICS group of emerging powers - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - as well as Indonesia and Argentina, clearly stressed that a war on Syria without UN Security Council approval would qualify Obama as a war criminal. <br /><br />Even among the European poodles ''support'' for the White House is extremely qualified. Germany's Angela Merkel and even France's attack dog Francois Hollande said the primacy is with the UN. The European Union as a whole wants a political solution. It's enlightening to remember that the EU in Brussels can issue arrest warrants for heads of EU governments guilty of war crimes. Someone in Paris must have warned attack dog Hollande that he would not welcome the prospect of slammer time. <br /><br />''Evil'' as a political category is something worthy of the brain dead. The key question now revolves around the axis of warmongers - Washington, Israel and the House of Saud. Will the Israel lobby, the more discreet but no less powerful Saudi lobby, and the Return of the Living Dead neo-cons convince the US Congress to fight their war? <br /><br />And then there's the curioser and curioser case of al-Qaeda - essentially the Arabic denomination for a CIA database of US-Pakistani-Saudi trained mujahideen during the 1980s: the oh so convenient transnational bogeyman that ''legitimized'' the Global War On Terror (GWOT) of the George W Bush years; the ''opening'' for al-Qaeda to move to Iraq; and now, no middle men; the CIA and the Obama administration fighting side-by-side with al-Qaeda in Syria. No wonder the denomination ''al-CIAeda'' has gone viral. <br /><br />With farce after farce after farce piling up in their own Tower of Babel, the much-vaunted ''US credibility'' is in itself the biggest farce of all. Politically, no one knows how the vacuum will be filled. It won't be via the UN. It won't be via the BRICS. It won't be via the G-20 - which is seriously divided; at least new multipolar players are carrying way more weight than US poodles. <br /><br />Much would be made to restore ''US credibility'' if the Obama administration had the balls to force both the House of Saud and Qatar (''300 people and a TV station'', in the epic definition of Saudi Arabia's Prince Bandar Sultan - aka Bandar Bush) to end once and for all their weaponizing of hardcore ''rebels'' and ultimately hardcore jihadis, and accept Iran in the negotiating table for a real Geneva II peace process in Syria. It won't happen because this bypasses farce. <br /><br />Once again; helpless Barack is just a paperboy. The plutocrats in charge are getting extremely nervous. The system is melting - and they need to act fast. <br /><br />They need a Syria as docile as the Arab petro-monarchies. They want to hit Russia bad - and then discuss missile defense and Russian influence in Eastern Europe from a position of force. They want to hit Iran bad - and then continue to issue ultimatums from a position of force. They want to facilitate yet another Israeli attempt to capture southern Lebanon (it's the water, stupid). They want a monster gas pipeline from Qatar for European customers bypassing Iran and Syria as well as Gazprom. Most of all, this is all about control of natural resources and channels of distribution. <br /><br />These are real motives - and they have nothing to do with farce. Farce is only deployed to kill any possibility of real diplomacy and real political discussion. Farce is a theatrical mask - as in ''humanitarian'' imperialism - the ''acceptable'' version of the Dick Cheney-run years. <br /><br />It's as if Dick Cheney had never left the building; paperboy Barack is Dick Cheney with a ''human'' face. The only good outcome in this multi-sorrowful tale is that the real ''international community'', all around the world, has seen the naked Emperor in all its (farcical) glory. </p> Mon, 09 Sep 2013 10:10:00 -0700 Pepe Escobar, Asia Times 893861 at http://www.alternet.org World World syria obama The New Axis of Evil: Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the Pentagon Are Backing Egypt's Bloody Crackdown http://www.alternet.org/world/saudi-arabia-israel-and-pentagon-are-backing-egypts-bloody-crackdown <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The Egyptian crisis is the latest battleground for regional and global powers seeking to push their own agendas.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/g20.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>I have <a href="http://rt.com/op-edge/egypt-protests-terror-muslim-brotherhood-526/">argued</a> that what has just happened in Egypt is a bloodbath that is not a bloodbath, conducted by a military junta responsible for a coup that is not a coup, under the guise of an Egyptian "war on terror". Yet this newspeak gambit - which easily could have been written at the White House - is just part of the picture. <br /><br />Amid a thick fog of spin and competing agendas, a startling fact stands out. A poll only 10 days ago by the <a href="http://www.ecmeg.com/">Egyptian Center for Media Studies and Public Opinion</a> had already shown that 69% were against the July 3 military coup orchestrated by the Pinochet-esque Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. </p><p>So the bloodbath that is not a bloodbath cannot possibly be considered legitimate - unless for a privileged coterie of Mubarakists (the so-called fulool), a bunch of corrupt oligarchs and the military-controlled Egyptian "deep state". <br /><br />The Muslim Brotherhood (MB) government led by Mohamed Morsi may have been utterly incompetent - trying to rewrite the Egyptian constitution; inciting hardcore fundamentalists; and bowing in debasement in front of the International Monetary Fund. But it should not be forgotten this was coupled with permanent, all-out sabotage by the "deep state". <br /><br />It's true that Egypt was - and remains - on the brink of total economic collapse; the bloodbath that is not a bloodbath only followed a change in the signature on the checks, from Qatar to Saudi Arabia (and the United Arab Emirates). As Spengler has demonstrated on this site (see <a href="http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/MID-01-080713.html">Islam's civil war moves to Egypt</a>, Asia Times Online, July 8, 2013), Egypt will remain a banana republic without the bananas and dependent on foreigners to eat any. The economic disaster won't go away - not to mention the MB's cosmic resentment. <br /><br />The winners, as it stands, are the House of Saud/Israel/ Pentagon axis. How did they pull it off? <br /><br /><strong>When in doubt, call Bandar </strong></p><p>In theory, Washington had been in (relative) control of both the MB and Sisi's Army. So on the surface this is a win-win situation. Essentially, Washington hawks are pro-Sisi's Army, while "liberal imperialists" are pro-MB; the perfect cover, because the MB is Islamic, indigenous, populist, economically neoliberal, it wants to work with the International Monetary Fund, and has not threatened Israel. <br /><br />The MB was not exactly a problem for either Washington and Tel Aviv; after all ambitious ally Qatar was there as a go-between. Qatar's foreign policy, as everyone knows, boils down to cheerleading the MB everywhere. <br /><br />So Morsi must have crossed a pretty serious red line. It could have been his call for Sunni Egyptians to join a jihad against the Bashar al-Assad government in Syria (although that's formally in tune with Barack Obama's "Assad must go" policy). Arguably, it was his push to install some sort of jihadi paradise from the Sinai all the way to Gaza. The Sinai, for all practical purposes, is run by Israel. So that points to a green light for the coup from both the Pentagon and Tel Aviv. <br /><br />Tel Aviv is totally at ease with Sisi's Army and the flush Saudi supporters of the military junta. The only thing that matters to Israel is that Sisi's Army will uphold the Camp David agreements. The MB, on the other hand, might entertain other ideas in the near future. <br /><br />For the House of Saud, though, this was never a win-win situation. The MB in power in Egypt was anathema. In this fateful triangle - Washington, Tel Aviv and Riyadh - what remains to be established is who was been the most cunning in the wag the dog department. <br /><br />That's where the Incredibly Disappearing Qatar act fits in. The rise and (sudden) fall of Qatar from the foreign policy limelight is strictly linked to the current leadership vacuum in the heart of the Pentagon's self-defined "arc of instability". Qatar was, at best, an extra in a blockbuster - considering the yo-yo drifts of the Obama administration and that Russia and China are just playing a waiting game. <br /><br />Sheikh Hamad al-Thani, the emir who ended up deposing himself, clearly overreached not only in Syria but also in Iraq; he was financing not only MB outfits but also hardcore jihadis across the desert. There's no conclusive proof because no one in either Doha or Washington is talking, but the emir was certainly "invited" to depose himself. And not by accident the Syrian "rebel" racket was entirely taken over by the House of Saud, via the spectacularly resurfaced Bandar Bush, aka Prince Bandar bin Sultan. <br /><br />So the winners once again were the Saudis - as the Obama administration was calculating that both the MB and the al-Qaeda nebulae would then fade into oblivion in Syria. That remains to be seen; it's possible that Egypt from now on may attract a lot of jihadis from Syria. Still, they would remain in MENA (Middle East-Northern Africa). <br /><br />As for Sisi, he was clever enough to seize the "terror" theme and pre-emptively equate MB with al-Qaeda in Egypt, thus setting the scene for the bloodbath that is not a bloodbath. The bottom line is that a case can be made that the Obama administration has in fact subcontracted most of its Middle East policy to the House of Saud. <br /><br /><strong>Pick your axis </strong></p><p>Only two days before the bloodbath that is not a bloodbath, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey was in Israel getting cozy with General Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, discussing the proverbial "threats that could emanate out of the region - globally and to the homeland - and how we can continue to work together to make both of our countries more secure". It's unthinkable they did not discuss how they would profit from the imminent bloodbath that is not a bloodbath. <br /><br />At the same time, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon bombastically announced a new "<a href="http://www.defensenews.com/article/20130814/DEFREG04/308140014/Israeli-DM-Urges-US-Action-Syria-Warns-Axis-Evil-">axis of evil</a>"; Iran, Syria and Lebanon. That implies Tehran, Damascus and, significantly, Beirut as a whole (not only the predominantly Shi'ite southern suburbs). Ya'alon explicitly told Dempsey it was "forbidden" for them to win the civil war in Syria. <br /><br />Considering that the Central Intelligence Agency itself has deemed the civil war in Syria as a "top threat" to US national security in case al-Qaeda-style outfits and copycats take over in an eventual post-Assad situation; and at the same time Washington is extremely reluctant to stop "leading from behind", a case can be made that Israel may be entertaining another invasion of Lebanon. An always alert Sheikh Nasrallah, Hezbollah's secretary-general, has already been talking about the possibility. <br /><br />Then Dempsey went to Jordan - which already holds around 1,000 US troops, F-16s with crews, and an array of Patriot missiles. The spin is that the Pentagon is helping Amman with "border control techniques" as in one of those favorite Pentagon acronyms, ISR ("intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance"). <br /><br />That's just spin. Most of all Dempsey went to survey the progress of the recent batch of anti-tank missiles, bought by - who else - the Saudis and supplied by the CIA, via Jordan, to (in theory) selected "good rebels" in southern Syria. Those "rebels", by the way, were trained by US Special Forces inside Jordan. Obviously Damascus will be preparing a counterpunch to this offensive by the American/Saudi/Jordanian axis. <br /><br /><strong>Pick your evil </strong></p><p>There's hardly any "American credibility" left in the Middle East - apart from puppet entities like Jordan and selected elites in the feudal Gulf, that "democratic" realm of corruption, mercenaries and imported proletariats treated like cattle. <br /><br />It hardly helps that US Secretary of State John Kerry has recommended Robert Ford, the former US ambassador to Syria, as the next US ambassador to Egypt. <br /><br />Perception is everything. Informed opinion all across the Middle East immediately identifies Ford as a creepy death squad facilitator. His CV prior to Syria - where he legitimized the "rebels" - is matchless; sidekick to sinister John Negroponte promoting the "Salvador Option" in Iraq in 2004. The "Salvador Option" is code for US-sponsored death squads, a tactic first applied in El Salvador (by Negroponte) in the 1980s (causing at least 75,000 deaths) but with deep origins in Latin America in the late 1960s throughout the 1970s. <br /><br />Sisi will keep playing his game according to his own master plan - bolstering the narrative myth that the Egyptian army defends the nation and its institutions when in fact defending its immense socio-economic privileges. Forget about civilian oversight. And forget about any possible independent political party - or movement - in Egypt. <br /><br />As for Washington, MB or "deep state", even a civil war in Egypt - Arabs killing Arabs, divide and rule ad infinitum - that's fine, as long as there is no threat to Israel. <br /><br />With Israel possibly mulling another invasion of Lebanon; the Kerry "peace process" an excuse for more settlements in Palestine; Bandar Bush back practicing the dark arts; the pre-empting of any possible solution to the Iranian nuclear dossier; Egypt in civil war; Syria and also Iraq bleeding to death, what's left is the certified proliferation of all kinds of axes, and all kinds of evil. </p><p><strong><em>Editor's Note:</em> The following is a followup article Escobar wrote on August 16: </strong></p><p><strong>Hi, I'm your new Axis of </strong><strong>Evil</strong></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">By</span><span style="font-size: 12px;"><span style="font-size: 12px;"> </span>Pepe</span><span style="font-size: 12px;"> Escobar</span></p><p>Egypt's ‘bloodbath that is not a bloodbath’ has shown that the forces of hardcore suppression and corruption reign supreme, while foreign interests - the House of Saud, Israel and the Pentagon - support the military's merciless strategy.</p><p>Stop. Look at the photos. Linger on dozens of bodies lined up in a makeshift morgue. How can the appalling bloodbath in Egypt be justified? Take your pick. Either it’s Egypt’s remix of Tiananmen Square, or it’s the bloodbath that is not a bloodbath, conducted by the leaders of the coup that is not a coup, with the aim of fighting “terror”.</p><p>It certainly was not a crowd clearing operation – as in the New York Police Department ‘clearing’ Occupy Wall Street. As a Sky journalist tweeted, it was more like “a major military assault largely on unarmed civilians”, using everything from bulldozers to tear gas to snipers.</p><p>Thus the scores indiscriminately killed – with crossfire estimates ranging from the low hundreds (the “interim government”) to at least 4,500 (the Muslim Brotherhood), including at least four journalists and the 17-year-old Asmaa, daughter of top Muslim Brotherhood politician Mohamed El Beltagy.</p><p>El Beltagy, before being arrested, said, crucially, “If you do not take to the streets, he [as in General Abdul-Fattah al-Sisi, the leader of the coup that is not a coup who appointed the interim government] will make the country like Syria.”</p><p>Wrong. Sisi is not Bashar al-Assad. Don’t expect passionate Western calls for “targeted strikes” or a no-fly zone over Egypt. He may be a military dictator killing his own people. But he’s one of “our” bastards. <br /><br /><strong>What we say goes</strong></p><p>Let’s look at the reactions. The lethargic poodles of the European Union called for “restraint” and described it all as “extremely worrying.” A White House statement said the interim government should “respect human rights” – which can be arguably interpreted as the Manning/Snowden/droning of Pakistan and Yemen school of human rights.</p><p>That pathetic excuse for a diplomat, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, at least was blunt: “Egypt is an important partner for NATO through the Mediterranean Dialogue.” Translation: the only thing we really care about is that those Arabs do as we say.</p><p>Stripped of all rhetoric – indignant or otherwise – the key point is that Washington won’t cut its $1.3 billion annual aid to Sisi’s army no matter what. Wily Sisi has declared a “war on terror”. The Pentagon is behind it. And the Obama administration is tagging along – reluctantly or not.</p><p>Now let’s see who’s in revolt. Predictably, Qatar condemned it; after all Qatar was bankrolling the Morsi presidency. The Islamic Action Front, the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, encouraged Egyptians to keep protesting to “thwart the conspiracy” by the former regime – as in Mubarakists without Mubarak.</p><p>Turkey – which also supports the Muslim Brotherhood - urged the UN Security Council and the Arab League to act quickly to stop a “massacre”; as if the UN and the Saudi-controlled Arab League would interrupt their three-hour-long expense account lunches to do anything.</p><p>Iran – correctly - warned of the risk of civil war. That does not mean that Tehran is blindly supporting the Muslim Brotherhood – especially after Morsi had incited Egyptians to join a jihad against Assad in Syria. What Tehran has noted is that the civil war is already on. <br /><br /><strong>Let’s aim for the kill</strong></p><p>“Byzantine” does not even begin to explain the blame game. The bloodbath that is not a bloodbath happened as the Sisi-appointed “government” had promised it would engage in a military-supported “transition” that would be politically all-inclusive.</p><p>Yet, fed up with six weeks of protests denouncing the “coup that is not a coup,” the interim government changed the narrative and decided to take no prisoners.</p><p>According to the best informed Egyptian media analyses, Deputy Prime Minister Ziad Baha Eldin and Vice President for foreign affairs Mohamed ElBaradei wanted to go soft against the protesters, while Interior Minister Gen. Mohammad Ibrahim Mustafa and the Defense Minister - Sisi himself - wanted to go medieval.</p><p>The first step was to pre-emptively blame the Muslim Brotherhood for the bloodshed – just as the Muslim Brotherhood blamed Jemaah Islamiyah for deploying Kalashnikovs and burning churches and police stations.</p><p>A key reason to launch the “bloodbath that is not a bloodbath” this Wednesday was an attempt by the Muslim Brotherhood to march on the perennially dreaded Interior Ministry. Hardcore Ibrahim Mustafa would have none of it.</p><p>Sisi’s minions appointed 25 provincial governors, of which 19 are generals, in perfect timing to “reward” the top military echelon and thus solidify the Egyptian “deep state”, or actually police state. And to crown the “bloodbath that is not a bloodbath,” Sisi’s minions declared martial law for a month. Under these circumstances, the resignation of Western darling ElBaradei won’t make Sisi lose any sleep.</p><p>The original spirit of Tahrir Square is now dead and buried , as a Yemeni miraculously not targeted by Obama’s drones, Nobel Peace Prize winner Tawakkul Karman, pointed out.</p><p>The key question is who profits from a hyper-polarized Egypt, with a civil war pitting the well-organized, fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood against the military-controlled “deep state”.</p><p>Both options are equally repulsive (not to mention incompetent). Yet the local winners are easily identifiable: the counter-revolution, as in the fulool – diehard Mubarakists – a bunch of corrupt oligarchs, and most of all the deep state itself.</p><p>Hardcore repression rules. Corruption rules. And foreign domination rules (as in Saudi Arabia, who’s now paying most of the bills, alongside the UAE).</p><p>Internationally, the big winners are Saudi Arabia (displacing Qatar), Israel (because the Egyptian army is even more docile than the Brotherhood), and – who else – the Pentagon, the Egyptian army’s pimp. Nowhere in the Milky Way this House of Saud/Israel/Pentagon axis can be spun as “good for the Egyptian people”. <br /><br /><strong>Sheikh Al-Torture is our man</strong></p><p>A quick recap is in order. In 2011, the Obama administration never said, “Mubarak must go” until the last minute. Hilary Clinton wanted a “transition” led by CIA asset and spy chief Omar Suleiman – widely known in Tahrir Square as “Sheikh al-Torture”.</p><p>Then a Washington inside joke was that the Obama administration had gleefully become a Muslim Brotherhood cheerleader (allied with Qatar). Now, like a yo-yo, the Obama administration is weighing on how to spin the new narrative - the ‘loyal’ Egyptian army courageously wiping out the “terrorist” Muslim Brotherhood to “protect the revolution.”</p><p>There was never any revolution to begin with; the head of the snake (Mubarak) was gone, but the snake remained alive and kicking. Now it’s met the new snake, same as the old snake. Additionally, it’s so easy to sell to the uninformed galleries the Muslim Brotherhood = al-Qaeda equation.</p><p>Pentagon supremo Chuck Hagel was glued on the phone with Sisi as the July 3 “coup that is not a coup” was taking place. Pentagon spin would want us to believe that Sisi promised Hagel he would be on top of things in a heartbeat. Virtually 100% of the Beltway agreed. Thus the official Washington spin of “coup that is not a coup.” Tim Kaine from Virginia, at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, even extolled those model democracies, the UAE and Jordan, in their enthusiasm for the “coup that is not a coup.”</p><p>It’s essential to outline the five countries that have explicitly endorsed the “coup that is not a coup.” Four of them are GCC petro-monarchies (members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, also known as Gulf Counter-Revolution Club); Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait and Bahrain. And the fifth is that little monarchy, Jordan, the GCC wants to annex to the Gulf.</p><p>Even more pathetic than Egypt’s so-called liberals, some leftists, some Nasserists and assorted progressives defending Sisi’s bloodlust has been the volte-face of Mahmoud Badr, the founder of Tamarrod – the movement that spearheaded the massive demonstrations that led to Morsi’s ouster. In 2012, he blasted Saudi Arabia. After the coup, he prostrated himself in their honor. At least he knows who’s paying the bills.</p><p>And then there’s Ahmed al-Tayyeb, the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, the Vatican of Sunni Islam. He said, “Al-Azhar…did not know about the methods used for the dispersal of the protests except through media channels.” Nonsense; he has repeatedly praised Sisi.</p><p><strong>Feel free to adore my eyelashes</strong></p><p>There’s no other way of saying it; from Washington’s point of view, Arabs can kill each other to Kingdom Come, be it Sunnis against Shiites, jihadis against secularists, peasants against urbanites, and Egyptians against Egyptians. The only thing that matters is the Camp David agreements; and nobody is allowed to antagonize Israel.</p><p>So it’s fitting that Sisi’s minions in boots asked Israel to keep their drones near the border, as they need to pursue their “war on terror” in the Sinai. For all practical purposes, Israel runs the Sinai.</p><p>But then there’s the cancellation of a delivery of F-16s to Sisi’s army. In real life, every US weapons sale across the Middle East has to be “cleared” with Israel. So a case can be made that Israel – for the moment - is not exactly sure what Sisi is really up to.</p><p>It’s quite instructive to read what Sisi thinks of “democracy” – as demonstrated when he was at the US War College. He’s essentially an Islamist – but most of all he craves power. And the MB is standing in his way. So they have to be disposed of.</p><p>Sisi’s “war on terror” is arguably a roaring success as a PR stunt to legitimize his run for a popular mandate. He’s trying to pose as the new Nasser. He’s Sisi the Savior, surrounded by a bunch of Sisi groupies. A columnist wrote in Al-Masry Al-Youm that Sisi doesn't even need to issue an order; it’s enough to “just flutter his eyelashes”. The Sisi-for-president campaign is already on.</p><p>Anyone familiar with US-propped 1970s tin-pot Latin American dictators is able to spot one. This is no Savior. This is no more than an Al-Sisi-nator – the vainglorious tin-pot ruler of what my colleague Spengler bluntly defined as a banana republic without the bananas.</p><div> </div><p> </p> Fri, 16 Aug 2013 10:27:00 -0700 Pepe Escobar, Asia Times 883698 at http://www.alternet.org World World egypt Israel america The Egyptian Revolution Is Dead and Buried — Only a New Pharoah and Imperial Outside Powers Are Celebrating http://www.alternet.org/world/why-egypt-doomed <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Internationally, the big winners are Saudi Arabia, Israel, and – who else – the Pentagon, the Egyptian army’s pimp. Domestically, there&#039;s a new boss in town. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/photo_1375606290108-1-0.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p><em><strong>Editor's Note:</strong>The following are two articles from <a href="http://atimes.org">Asia Times</a> -- the first by Pepe Escobar on the geopolitical maneuvers around the latest bloodbath, and the second by MK Bhadrakumar on Egypt's new domestic political situation.</em></p><p><strong>Hi, I'm your new Axis of</strong><strong>Evil</strong></p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">By</span><span style="font-size: 12px;"><span style="font-size: 12px;"></span>Pepe</span><span style="font-size: 12px;">Escobar</span></p><p>Egypt's ‘bloodbath that is not a bloodbath’ has shown that the forces of hardcore suppression and corruption reign supreme, while foreign interests - the House of Saud, Israel and the Pentagon - support the military's merciless strategy.</p><p>Stop. Look at the photos. Linger on dozens of bodies lined up in a makeshift morgue. How can the appalling bloodbath in Egypt be justified? Take your pick. Either it’s Egypt’s remix of Tiananmen Square, or it’s the bloodbath that is not a bloodbath, conducted by the leaders of the coup that is not a coup, with the aim of fighting “terror”.</p><p>It certainly was not a crowd clearing operation – as in the New York Police Department ‘clearing’ Occupy Wall Street. As a Sky journalist tweeted, it was more like “a major military assault largely on unarmed civilians”, using everything from bulldozers to tear gas to snipers.</p><p>Thus the scores indiscriminately killed – with crossfire estimates ranging from the low hundreds (the “interim government”) to at least 4,500 (the Muslim Brotherhood), including at least four journalists and the 17-year-old Asmaa, daughter of top Muslim Brotherhood politician Mohamed El Beltagy.</p><p>El Beltagy, before being arrested, said, crucially, “If you do not take to the streets, he [as in General Abdul-Fattah al-Sisi, the leader of the coup that is not a coup who appointed the interim government] will make the country like Syria.”</p><p>Wrong. Sisi is not Bashar al-Assad. Don’t expect passionate Western calls for “targeted strikes” or a no-fly zone over Egypt. He may be a military dictator killing his own people. But he’s one of “our” bastards. <br /><br /><strong>What we say goes</strong></p><p>Let’s look at the reactions. The lethargic poodles of the European Union called for “restraint” and described it all as “extremely worrying.” A White House statement said the interim government should “respect human rights” – which can be arguably interpreted as the Manning/Snowden/droning of Pakistan and Yemen school of human rights.</p><p>That pathetic excuse for a diplomat, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, at least was blunt: “Egypt is an important partner for NATO through the Mediterranean Dialogue.” Translation: the only thing we really care about is that those Arabs do as we say.</p><p>Stripped of all rhetoric – indignant or otherwise – the key point is that Washington won’t cut its $1.3 billion annual aid to Sisi’s army no matter what. Wily Sisi has declared a “war on terror”. The Pentagon is behind it. And the Obama administration is tagging along – reluctantly or not.</p><p>Now let’s see who’s in revolt. Predictably, Qatar condemned it; after all Qatar was bankrolling the Morsi presidency. The Islamic Action Front, the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, encouraged Egyptians to keep protesting to “thwart the conspiracy” by the former regime – as in Mubarakists without Mubarak.</p><p>Turkey – which also supports the Muslim Brotherhood - urged the UN Security Council and the Arab League to act quickly to stop a “massacre”; as if the UN and the Saudi-controlled Arab League would interrupt their three-hour-long expense account lunches to do anything.</p><p>Iran – correctly - warned of the risk of civil war. That does not mean that Tehran is blindly supporting the Muslim Brotherhood – especially after Morsi had incited Egyptians to join a jihad against Assad in Syria. What Tehran has noted is that the civil war is already on. <br /><br /><strong>Let’s aim for the kill</strong></p><p>“Byzantine” does not even begin to explain the blame game. The bloodbath that is not a bloodbath happened as the Sisi-appointed “government” had promised it would engage in a military-supported “transition” that would be politically all-inclusive.</p><p>Yet, fed up with six weeks of protests denouncing the “coup that is not a coup,” the interim government changed the narrative and decided to take no prisoners.</p><p>According to the best informed Egyptian media analyses, Deputy Prime Minister Ziad Baha Eldin and Vice President for foreign affairs Mohamed ElBaradei wanted to go soft against the protesters, while Interior Minister Gen. Mohammad Ibrahim Mustafa and the Defense Minister - Sisi himself - wanted to go medieval.</p><p>The first step was to pre-emptively blame the Muslim Brotherhood for the bloodshed – just as the Muslim Brotherhood blamed Jemaah Islamiyah for deploying Kalashnikovs and burning churches and police stations.</p><p>A key reason to launch the “bloodbath that is not a bloodbath” this Wednesday was an attempt by the Muslim Brotherhood to march on the perennially dreaded Interior Ministry. Hardcore Ibrahim Mustafa would have none of it.</p><p>Sisi’s minions appointed 25 provincial governors, of which 19 are generals, in perfect timing to “reward” the top military echelon and thus solidify the Egyptian “deep state”, or actually police state. And to crown the “bloodbath that is not a bloodbath,” Sisi’s minions declared martial law for a month. Under these circumstances, the resignation of Western darling ElBaradei won’t make Sisi lose any sleep.</p><p>The original spirit of Tahrir Square is now dead and buried , as a Yemeni miraculously not targeted by Obama’s drones, Nobel Peace Prize winner Tawakkul Karman, pointed out.</p><p>The key question is who profits from a hyper-polarized Egypt, with a civil war pitting the well-organized, fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood against the military-controlled “deep state”.</p><p>Both options are equally repulsive (not to mention incompetent). Yet the local winners are easily identifiable: the counter-revolution, as in the fulool – diehard Mubarakists – a bunch of corrupt oligarchs, and most of all the deep state itself.</p><p>Hardcore repression rules. Corruption rules. And foreign domination rules (as in Saudi Arabia, who’s now paying most of the bills, alongside the UAE).</p><p>Internationally, the big winners are Saudi Arabia (displacing Qatar), Israel (because the Egyptian army is even more docile than the Brotherhood), and – who else – the Pentagon, the Egyptian army’s pimp. Nowhere in the Milky Way this House of Saud/Israel/Pentagon axis can be spun as “good for the Egyptian people”. <br /><br /><strong>Sheikh Al-Torture is our man</strong></p><p>A quick recap is in order. In 2011, the Obama administration never said, “Mubarak must go” until the last minute. Hilary Clinton wanted a “transition” led by CIA asset and spy chief Omar Suleiman – widely known in Tahrir Square as “Sheikh al-Torture”.</p><p>Then a Washington inside joke was that the Obama administration had gleefully become a Muslim Brotherhood cheerleader (allied with Qatar). Now, like a yo-yo, the Obama administration is weighing on how to spin the new narrative - the ‘loyal’ Egyptian army courageously wiping out the “terrorist” Muslim Brotherhood to “protect the revolution.”</p><p>There was never any revolution to begin with; the head of the snake (Mubarak) was gone, but the snake remained alive and kicking. Now it’s met the new snake, same as the old snake. Additionally, it’s so easy to sell to the uninformed galleries the Muslim Brotherhood = al-Qaeda equation.</p><p>Pentagon supremo Chuck Hagel was glued on the phone with Sisi as the July 3 “coup that is not a coup” was taking place. Pentagon spin would want us to believe that Sisi promised Hagel he would be on top of things in a heartbeat. Virtually 100% of the Beltway agreed. Thus the official Washington spin of “coup that is not a coup.” Tim Kaine from Virginia, at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, even extolled those model democracies, the UAE and Jordan, in their enthusiasm for the “coup that is not a coup.”</p><p>It’s essential to outline the five countries that have explicitly endorsed the “coup that is not a coup.” Four of them are GCC petro-monarchies (members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, also known as Gulf Counter-Revolution Club); Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait and Bahrain. And the fifth is that little monarchy, Jordan, the GCC wants to annex to the Gulf.</p><p>Even more pathetic than Egypt’s so-called liberals, some leftists, some Nasserists and assorted progressives defending Sisi’s bloodlust has been the volte-face of Mahmoud Badr, the founder of Tamarrod – the movement that spearheaded the massive demonstrations that led to Morsi’s ouster. In 2012, he blasted Saudi Arabia. After the coup, he prostrated himself in their honor. At least he knows who’s paying the bills.</p><p>And then there’s Ahmed al-Tayyeb, the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, the Vatican of Sunni Islam. He said, “Al-Azhar…did not know about the methods used for the dispersal of the protests except through media channels.” Nonsense; he has repeatedly praised Sisi.</p><p><strong>Feel free to adore my eyelashes</strong></p><p>There’s no other way of saying it; from Washington’s point of view, Arabs can kill each other to Kingdom Come, be it Sunnis against Shiites, jihadis against secularists, peasants against urbanites, and Egyptians against Egyptians. The only thing that matters is the Camp David agreements; and nobody is allowed to antagonize Israel.</p><p>So it’s fitting that Sisi’s minions in boots asked Israel to keep their drones near the border, as they need to pursue their “war on terror” in the Sinai. For all practical purposes, Israel runs the Sinai.</p><p>But then there’s the cancellation of a delivery of F-16s to Sisi’s army. In real life, every US weapons sale across the Middle East has to be “cleared” with Israel. So a case can be made that Israel – for the moment - is not exactly sure what Sisi is really up to.</p><p>It’s quite instructive to read what Sisi thinks of “democracy” – as demonstrated when he was at the US War College. He’s essentially an Islamist – but most of all he craves power. And the MB is standing in his way. So they have to be disposed of.</p><p>Sisi’s “war on terror” is arguably a roaring success as a PR stunt to legitimize his run for a popular mandate. He’s trying to pose as the new Nasser. He’s Sisi the Savior, surrounded by a bunch of Sisi groupies. A columnist wrote in Al-Masry Al-Youm that Sisi doesn't even need to issue an order; it’s enough to “just flutter his eyelashes”. The Sisi-for-president campaign is already on.</p><p>Anyone familiar with US-propped 1970s tin-pot Latin American dictators is able to spot one. This is no Savior. This is no more than an Al-Sisi-nator – the vainglorious tin-pot ruler of what my colleague Spengler bluntly defined as a banana republic without the bananas.</p><p>***</p><p><strong>Pharaoh al-Sisi sits tight </strong><br />By M K Bhadrakumar <br style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;" /><br style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;" />The highly opportunistic stance taken by the "big powers" who are veto-holding permanent members of the United Nations Security Council has prevented that august body from articulating an outright condemnation of the brutality with which the Egyptian military massacred more than 1,000 civilians in Cairo on Wednesday. <br /><br />This must be counted as one of the most shameful moments that the UN Security Council has been put through in its sad history of over six decades. The fault lies entirely at the doorstep of the White House and the Kremlin. <br /><br />Both Washington and Moscow have chosen to view the Egyptian developments largely through the geopolitical prism and their<br />respective self-interests, singularly devoid of any human compassion or political morality. Their credentials to take to the high ground on the Middle East issues - Palestine problem or Syria or the Arab Spring - have now come under severe scrutiny. </p><p><br />The Security Council met in New York on Thursday in a closed-door session at the joint request of Britain, France and Australia and came up with the lowest-level response that the UN's most powerful body is capable of making on international issues with regard to the grave escalating crisis in Egypt. <br /><br />Maria Cristina Perceval, the ambassador of Argentina, which holds the rotating post of the presidency of the Security Council, found herself in the awkward position of speaking to the press with cowardly words dictated by the big powers from behind the curtain:</p><blockquote>Members first of all expressed their sympathy to the victims and regretted the loss of life. The view of council members is that it's important to end violence in Egypt, that the parties exercise maximum restraint. And there was a common desire on the need to stop violence and to advance national reconciliation.</blockquote><p>Perceval, however, had the last laugh by deftly distancing her country, which still bears the deep scars left behind by military dictatorships, from the Security Council's shameful stance by reiterating Argentina's unequivocal condemnation of "the coup d'etat" against president Mohamed Morsi and Wednesday's "brutal repression" against popular demonstrations that filled the streets of the main cities of Egypt: and urging the Egyptian junta to "totally and immediately cease the spiral of violence let loose in recent days against unarmed citizens". <br /><br />Curiously, the UN itself has not minced words in condemning the massacre in Cairo. Secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon condemned the Egyptian junta in the "strongest terms". The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said in a statement in Geneva,</p><blockquote>The number of people killed or injured, even according to the government's figures, point to an excessive, even extreme, use of force against demonstrators. There must be an independent, impartial, effective and credible investigation of the conduct of the security forces. Anyone found guilty of wrongdoing should be held to account. <br /><br />Egypt's security forces are bound by the rule of law and must act with full respect for human rights, including the rights to free speech and peaceful assembly.</blockquote><p>Doing little, too late<br />In comparison, US President Barack Obama has resorted to diplomatic tight-rope walking. He announced the cancellation of a planned military exercise with Egypt, but he still wouldn't cut off US aid - and he is still unwilling to call the "coup" by its real name; instead, he strove to convey his measured displeasure at the Egyptian military's brutal use of force against the protestors in Cairo. In a verbose statement, Obama said, inter alia,</p><blockquote>While Mohamed Morsi was elected president in a democratic election, his government was not inclusive and did not respect the views of all Egyptians. We know that many Egyptians, millions of Egyptians, perhaps even a majority of Egyptians were calling for a change in course ... Instead, we've seen a more dangerous path taken through arbitrary arrests, a broad crackdown on Mr Morsi's associations and supporters, and now tragically the violence that's taken the lives of hundreds of people and wounded thousands more. <br /><br />The United States strongly condemns the steps that have been taken by Egypt's interim government and security forces. We deplore violence against civilians ... We oppose the pursuit of martial law. <br /><br />But while we want to sustain our relationship with Egypt, our traditional cooperation cannot continue as usual when civilians are being killed in the streets and rights are being rolled back ... I've asked my national security team to assess the implications of the actions taken by the interim government and further steps that we may take as necessary with respect to the US-Egyptian relationship ... We believe that the state of emergency should be lifted, that a process of national reconciliation should begin ... and that commitments must be kept to pursue transparent reforms of the constitution and democratic elections of a parliament and a president.</blockquote><p>Obama has tried to get away with the next-to-impossible - distance the US from the Cairo massacre but without alienating the generals in Cairo. Unsurprisingly, it took him one full day after the massacre took place to craft a balanced stance. <br /><br />It comes of a piece with his abysmal record on Egypt - doing little, doing it too late, and ending up sending mixed messages and thereby eroding even further the US's capacity (or willingness) to influence events. Canceling the US' military exercise with Egypt, which was scheduled for September, has become unavoidable in the prevailing anarchic conditions in Egypt and Obama has indulged in sophistry by claiming it as a deliberate political decision. <br /><br />The core issue remains: how does he hope to meet the US objectives in Egypt by canceling the military exercise at a time when the junta has its hands full with other preoccupations anyway and "inter-operability" with the US armed forces is the last thing on its mind? <br /><br />At any rate, the kind of tank-on-tank military exercise that the US holds with Egypt has little relevance to today's threat perceptions in the Middle East, which almost entirely emanate out of the exigencies of counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism. In sum, Obama opted for good optics by scuttling an inconsequential event. <br /><br />On the contrary, if there is a moment to order a suspension of military aid to Egypt, this is it. It will be a strategic error on Obama's part not to suspend the aid - US$1.55 billion including $1.3 billion to the Egyptian military - and instead weaken the US credibility further when the junta has so openly disregarded repeated US calls on the generals to desist from causing bloodshed. <br /><br />However, as things stand, there is little chance of Obama doing anything that would even remotely damage Washington's equations with the Egyptian generals. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke to the Egyptian army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Thursday to convey that the recent violence might jeopardize US-Egyptian military cooperation but also assuring him that the Obama administration hoped to maintain its military relationship with Cairo. <br /><br />The dilemma facing the Obama administration continues to be that it is under compulsion to appear to support democracy in Egypt and live up to its own rhetoric to be on the "right side of history" but on the other hand it is under even bigger compulsion to safeguard the US' strategic interests in Egypt, primarily in terms of the junta pursuing policies that serve Israel's security interests and preserving the 1979 peace treaty as well as continuing to provide privileged access to the Suez Canal for the US Navy that is critical at the operational level to the perpetuation of Washington's military dominance of the Middle East and its regional hegemony. <br /><br />Complicated thought processes<br />Paradoxically, the Russian stance on Egypt almost entirely devolves upon exploiting the US's acute policy dilemma. Whereas Obama has at least opened his mouth to say something, the Kremlin maintains a stony silence and will only show its hand after Obama plays out of turn. <br /><br />Ironically, the Egyptian Embassy in Moscow has said that Cairo counts on Russia's assistance in "this trying time, as it used to in the past" (before Anwar Sadat purged Egypt of Soviet experts and advisers). Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov held a telephone conversation with his Egyptian counterpart Nabil Fahmy on Thursday but the foreign ministry in Moscow did not divulge details except to say that the two diplomats discussed the "latest developments in Egypt". <br /><br />What transpired at another level in Moscow could be a pointer to the Russian thinking and policy priorities as they continue to evolve at the moment - a telephone talk between Mikhail Bogdanov, the Russian President's envoy for the Middle East and deputy foreign minister, and Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates, which was, interestingly, at the latter's instance. <br /><br />An unidentified source in the Russian foreign ministry later claimed,</p><blockquote>Both sides [Russia and the UAE] came out for peaceful, non-violent resolution of problems of countries in the region, respect for sovereignty of states and non-interference in their internal affairs. The sides agreed to maintain a vigorous Russia-Emirates political dialogue on issues of mutual interest, including prospects for partnership between Russia and the Cooperation Council of the Arab States of the Gulf.</blockquote><p>It is realistically possible to take a window seat on the complicated thought processes racing through the Russian mind. First of all, the UAE has been one of the handful of countries that fully back the Egyptian junta by insisting that what is happening in Cairo is a law and order issue. The foreign ministry in Abu Dhabi issued a statement on Thursday to declare support for the junta:</p><blockquote>The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs re-affirms its understanding of the sovereign measures taken by the Egyptian government after having exercised maximum self-control. <br /><br />What is regretful is that political extremist groups have insisted on the rhetoric of violence, incitement, disruption of public interests and undermining of the Egyptian economy, which has led to the regretful events.</blockquote><p>The UAE has so far offered the Egyptian junta aid worth $3 billion and has been second only to Saudi Arabia in bankrolling the military coup in Cairo. Paradoxically, the generous help from the petrodollar oligarchies of the Persian Gulf (which are terrified of the regional appeal of the Muslim Brotherhood) is enabling the Egyptian generals to withstand whatever pressure from Washington. <br /><br />Conversely, it will be of immense interest to Moscow if the divergence of interests accentuates in the coming period between the US and its oil-rich Gulf Cooperation Council allies over the ticklish issue of extending support to the military junta in Cairo. The point is, any such divergence will be, quintessentially speaking, over the future directions of the Arab Spring and in turn it is bound to cast shadows on the conflict in Syria, where Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been among the most ardent backers of the rebel fighters. <br /><br />It is in Moscow's interests to keep lines of communication open to Saudi Arabia and the UAE over the Syrian developments at a time when the Western powers are more or less disengaging from any sort of significant military involvement in the conflict. Moscow will be pleasantly surprised that the developments in Egypt, which are of vital interest and core concern to the petrodollar oligarchies of the Persian Gulf region, find Russia, Saudi Arabia and the UAE increasingly on the same page. <br /><br />All three find the Brotherhood to be a toxic substance in the body politic of the Middle East and all three find it abhorrent that political Islam has been gaining ascendancy as the life force of the new Middle East. Russia has proscribed the Muslim Brotherhood as a subversive organization. <br /><br />Besides, Russia has happy memories of dealings with the officer corps of the Egyptian military in the Soviet era and will be inclined to see them as a "secular" bulwark against the deluge of "Islamism". It does not seem particularly perturbed about the possibility that into the void created by any retreat of the moderate Brotherhood in Egypt, the Salafists, who are the kindred souls of the forces it battles in the North Caucasus (and whom the Saudis nurture as instruments of regional policy in the Greater Middle East) might enter as the vanguard of "Islamism". <br /><br />But what really counts today for Moscow is not the fate of Islamism, but geopolitics. Any alienation between the Pentagon and the Egyptian military can dramatically pitchfork Moscow as the mentor of the generals in command in Cairo. Egypt is the epicenter of Middle Eastern politics, and a revival of influence in Cairo can boost Russia's regional influence as a whole on a variety of fronts and holds the potential to project it as an arbiter of peace and stability. <br /><br />The spin-off in terms of arms exports and other economic benefits is equally self-evident. Naturally, the Kremlin is keenly watching how Obama wriggles out of his Egyptian predicament. <br /><br />From current trends, Moscow will be gratified to see that the US president is steadily failing to have any meaningful impact on the behavior of the Egyptian generals, who are convinced that they have an existential struggle in hand and who are not inclined to turn back mid-stream to accommodate the Brotherhood in an "inclusive" democracy. <br /><br />The Egyptian generals will be pleased that US aid continues, but while American assistance is desirable, it is not an absolute pre-requisite of survival if it comes at an unacceptable political price. This is where benefactors such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE, which have promised $12 billion financial support - and potentially, Russia, which is a major arms supplier - could come in handy for the Egyptian junta. <br /><br />Suffice to say, after a gap of some 42 years, a window of opportunity is opening for Russia to stage a political comeback in the corridors of power in Cairo as a big-time player. It was on July 18, 1972, that then Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat summarily announced the expulsion of around 5,000 Soviet military advisors and 15,000 air force personnel in Egypt. <br /><br />Having said that, Washington can be expected to do everything possible, no matter what it takes, to see that that the window on the Nile banks doesn't open enough for a bear to squeeze through, and indeed the US still has vast residual powers to read the riot act to erring generals and rowdyish Persian Gulf autocrats. In the present climate of US-Russia relations, the Obama administration is certainly not going to roll over and make space for Russia in the Middle East. <br /><br />The stalemate at the UN Security Council on Thursday is a fairly accurate reflection of the absorbing battle of wits between the big powers vying for influence in Cairo. Of course, the winner is Sisi, the new pharaoh on the Nile - for the time being at least. <br /><br />Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar served as a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service for over 29 years, with postings including India's ambassador to Uzbekistan (1995-1998) and to Turkey (1998-2001).</p> Fri, 16 Aug 2013 10:15:00 -0700 Pepe Escobar, M K Bhadrakumar, Asia Times 883687 at http://www.alternet.org World World egypt How Edward Snowden's Russia Move Explodes the Myth of American Dominance http://www.alternet.org/world/edward-snowdens-russia-move-explodes-myth-american-dominance <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Washington became powerless to do anything to the NSA whistleblower after Russia granted him asylum.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/edward_snowden_mirror.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>So what is the "extremely disappointed" Obama administration, the Orwellian/Panopticon complex and the discredited US Congress to do? Send a Navy Seal Team 6 to snatch him or to target assassinate him - turning Moscow into Abbottabad 2.0? Drone him? Poison his borscht? Shower his new house with depleted uranium? Install a no-fly zone over Russia? <br /><br />Edward Snowden, under his new legal status in Russia, simply cannot be handed over to Bradley Manning's lynch mob. Legally, Washington is now as powerless as a tribal Pashtun girl facing an incoming Hellfire missile. A President of the United States (POTUS) so proud of his constitutional law pedigree - recent serial trampling of the US constitution notwithstanding, not to mention international law - seems not to have understood the message. </p><p>Barack Obama virtually screamed his lungs out telling Russian President Vladimir Putin he had to hand him Snowden "under international law". Putin repeatedly said this was not going to happen. <br /><br />Obama even phoned Putin. Nothing. Washington even forced European poodles to down Bolivian President Evo Morales's plane. Worse. Moscow kept following the letter of Russian law and eventually granted temporary asylum to Snowden. <br /><br />The Edward Snowden saga has turned the Pentagon's Full Spectrum Dominance doctrine on its Hydra-head. Not only because of the humbling of the whole US security state apparatus, but also for exploding the myth of Full Spectrum Dominance by POTUS. <br /><br />Obama revealed himself once again as a mediocre politician and an incompetent negotiator. Putin devoured him as a succulent serving of eggs benedict. Glenn Greenwald will be inflicting death by a thousand leaks - because he is in charge of Snowden's digital treasure chest. And Snowden took a taxi and left the airport - on his own terms. <br /><br />Layers and layers of nuances have been captured in <a href="http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2013/08/obama-starting-to-lose-it-over-snowden.html">this fascinating discussion</a> at Yves Smith's blog - something impossible to find across Western corporate media. For POTUS, all that's left is to probably boycott a bilateral meeting with Putin next month, on the sidelines of the G20 summit in St Petersburg. Pathetic does not even begin to explain it. <br /><br /><strong>I did it my way </strong></p><p>What a boost for good literature; Snowden spent most of his time in airport transit reading Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, a collection of Chekhov stories, a history of the Russian state by 19th century historian Nikolai Karamzin - and learning the Cyrillic alphabet. <br /><br />He did take a taxi to the bright side when he left Sheremetyevo, alongside Sarah Harrison of WikiLeaks. He may have gone to a FSB safehouse - with zero chance of the CIA's Moscow station finding him, although his lawyer said he would choose his place of residence and form of protection. His father Lon may soon visit. Even self-described "pole-dancing superhero" girlfriend Lindsay Mills may soon resurface. <br /><br />How he must have relished to close the nerve-racking waiting game by having the last word - as in his statement published by WikiLeaks; "Over the past eight weeks we have seen the Obama administration show no respect for international or domestic law, but in the end the law is winning. I thank the Russian Federation for granting me asylum in accordance with its laws and international obligations." <br /><br />Snowden is legally allowed to work - and has already received a job offer, by the founder of Vkontakte (Russia's Facebook), Pavel Durov, to be a member of his "all-star security team". By 2018 he will be entitled to Russian citizenship. He promised Putin he won't leak "information that may harm the US" - the key condition for the asylum request to be granted. But then he does not have to; Greenwald has everything since those heady initial days in Hong Kong. What's Washington to do? Turn Greenwald's apartment in Rio into a Pashtun wedding party? <br /><br />The timing could not have been more dramatic. Snowden finally landed in Russia immediately after Greenwald revealed the details of XKeyscore [1] - once again stressing how US public opinion, US media and the cosmically inept US Congress had no clue about the full extent of the NSA's reach. "Constitutional checks and balances", anyone? <br /><br />There's got to be a serious glitch with the collective IQ of these people. The Obama administration as well as the Orwellian/Panopticon complex are in shock because they simply cannot stop death by a thousand leaks. The Roving Eye is among those who suspect the NSA has no clue about what Snowden, as a systems administrator, was able to download (especially because someone with his skills can easily delete traces of access). Even the top NSA robot - General Keith Alexander - admitted on the record the "no such agency" does not know how Snowden pulled it off. He could have left a bug, or infected the system with a virus. The fun may have not even started. <br /><br /><strong>Watch lame duck POTUS </strong></p><p>Credit to some cynical latitudes, as in South America, where people for years have been joking, "the gringos spy on everything we do"; the Internet, after all, was originally an American military program. Professor John Naughton of Britain's Open University goes one step ahead, [2] stressing that "the days of the internet as a truly global network are numbered." What lies ahead is balkanization - geographical subnets governed by the US, China, Russia, Iran, etc. <br /><br />Naughton also stresses that the US and other Western sub-powers have lost their legitimacy as governors of the internet. To top it off, there's no more "internet freedom agenda", as parroted by the Obama administration. <br /><br />This Big Brother obsession with watching, tracking, monitoring, controlling, decoding virtually everything we do digitally is leading to monumental stupidities like Google searches attracting armed US government's agents to one's house, as is pricelessly detailed <a href="https://medium.com/something-like-falling/2e7d13e54724">here</a>. And still Paranoia Paradise has not isolated Washington from a major ass kicking in Afghanistan and Iraq, or has foreseen the 2008 financial crisis; but then again it probably did, and the elites who arbitraged all that massive inside information royally profited from it. <br /><br />For the moment, what we have is an Orwellian/Panopticon complex that will persist with its unchecked powers; an aphasic populace; a quiet, invisible man in a Moscow multitude; and a POTUS consumed with boundless rage. Watch out. He may be tempted to wag the (war) dog. </p> Fri, 02 Aug 2013 12:02:00 -0700 Pepe Escobar, Asia Times 877650 at http://www.alternet.org World World russia Snowden nsa The NSA and Pentagon Dream of Total Information Awareness http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/nsa-and-pentagon-dream-total-information-awareness <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">PRISM&#039;s Dark Side of the Moon-ish logo expresses the military&#039;s ultimate wet dream: &#039;Full spectrum dominance&#039; over all of us.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/nsa.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><blockquote><p><em>The lunatic is in my head / The lunatic is in my head<br />You raise the blade / you make the change <br />You re-arrange me 'til I'm sane. <br />You lock the door / And throw away the key<br />There's someone in my head but it's not me</em><br />- Pink Floyd, Brain Damage</p></blockquote><p>Let's talk about <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/06/us-tech-giants-nsa-data">PRISM</a>. And let's see some implications of the Edward Snowden-leaked National Security Agency (NSA) Power Point presentation for Total Cyber-Domination. <br /><br />What's in a name? A prism breaks light into a spectrum of color. PRISM, as expressed in its Dark Side of the Moon-ish logo, is no less than a graphic expression of the ultimate Pentagon/neo-con wet dream; the Full Spectrum Dominance doctrine. </p><p>The NSA—also known as No Such Agency—is part of the Pentagon. <br /><br />Full Spectrum Dominance was conceptualized in the Pentagon's 2002 Joint Vision 2020.[1] It's the Pentagon/NSA blueprint for the foreseeable future; in trademark Pentagonese, it identifies "four capabilities"—dominant maneuver, precision engagement, focused logistics and full-dimensional protection". In sum: Total Information Awareness (TIA). <br /><br /><strong>Care for a Drive to Utah?</strong></p><p>The new, US $2 billion NSA Utah Data Center was uncovered by Wired way back in March 2012.[2] Call it the Matrix—rather a key node of the Matrix. It will be up and running in September. <br /><br />The Utah Matrix node is the <a href="http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cross-check/2013/06/07/u-s-never-really-ended-creepy-total-information-awareness-program/">Total Information Awareness dream</a> come true. TIA, if anyone remembers, was a Bush 1.0 invention concocted by DARPA that was killed by the US Congress in 2003, allegedly because it would destroy the privacy of American citizens. <br /><br />Well, iiiiit's back—as the Utah Matrix node. And fully privatized—operated by the usual legions of contractors with top-secret clearances. <br /><br />Enter—again—the privatized racket. In March, Director of National Intelligence (DNI) <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T9ss2_0emOY">James Clapper flatly denied</a> the NSA collects "any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans." That was a flat out lie. And Senator Dianne Feinstein let it pass. <br /><br />Former NSA and DNI director Mike McConnell now happens to be vice chairman of Booz Allen Hamilton—Snowden's employer up to this week. Talk about revolving door; from the NSA to Booz Allen to DNI and back to Booz Allen. Only this year McConnell has already raked in US $1.8 million by selling Booz Allen shares and options.[3] Clapper, the current DNI, is a former Booz Allen executive. <br /><br />The US government spin feels like the dark monolith in Kubrick's 2001. PRISM is benign. PRISM is legal. It only targets non-US citizens outside of the US. Well, it "may" sweep US citizens' digital information; that's also legal but we can't tell you how. <br /><br />But then there's the mantra PRISM has been essential to foil major terrorist plots; that has been thoroughly debunked.[4] What is never acknowledged is that PRISM is TIA in action. Anyone—with the right clearance—may use TIA to amass serious inside financial information and make staggering profits. So yes, follow the money. <br /><br /><strong>Snowden Goes TIA </strong></p><p>Google is adamant there is a "serious misperception" concerning PRISM, according to its chief legal officer David Drummond. Google insists "there's no lockbox, there's no backdoor" for NSA's direct access to its servers. But "legal restrictions" won't allow Google to explain how. <br /><br />Unbounded by "legal restrictions," Snowden was certainly smart enough to smell a rat, major rats. After the Clapper denial, he could not possibly trust congress. Not to mention the parroting US mainstream media. He did contact the Washington Post—but eventually settled on Glenn Greenwald, who's definitely not mainstream. The UK Guardian's position is more dubious; it badly wants to crack the American market, but at the same time solemnly ditched, even smeared, Julian Assange after it got what it wanted from him. <br /><br />Snowden is surfing the PR tsunami as a master—and controlling it all the way. Yes, you do learn a thing or two at the CIA. The timing of the disclosure was a beauty; it handed Beijing the ultimate gift just as President Obama was corralling President Xi Jinping in the California summit about cyber war. As David Lindorff nailed it, now Beijing simply cannot let Snowden hang dry.[5] It's culture; it's a matter of not losing face. <br /><br />And then Snowden even doubled down—revealing the obvious; as much as Beijing, if not more, Washington hacks as hell.[6] <br /><br />Following the money, the security privatization racket and Snowden's moves—all at the same time—allows for a wealth of savory scenarios, starting with selected players embedded in the NSA-centric Matrix node making a financial killing with inside information. <br /><br />Snowden did not expose anything that was not already known—or at least suspected—since 2002. So it's business as usual for those running the game. The only difference is the (Digital Blackwater) Big Brother is Watching You ethos is now in the open. TIA, a bunch of wealthy investors and a sound business plan—privatized Full Spectrum Dominance—all remain in play. From now on, it's just a matter of carefully, gradually guiding US public opinion to fully "normalize" TIA. After all, we're making all these sacrifices to protect you.</p><p><strong>Notes:</strong></p><p>1. <a href="http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=45289">Joint Vision 2020 Emphasizes Full-spectrum Dominance</a>, <em>American Forces Press Service</em>, June 2, 2000.<br />2. <a href="http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2012/03/ff_nsadatacenter/">The NSA Is Building the Country’s Biggest Spy Center (Watch What You Say)</a>, <em>Wired</em>, March, 2012.<br />3. <a href="http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/06/11/booz-allen-vice-chairman-mcconnell-former-government-official-nets-1-8-million-on-stock-sales.html">Booz Allen Vice Chairman McConnell, Former Government Official, Nets $1.8 Million on Stock Sales</a>, <em>The Daily Beast</em>, June 11, 2013.<br />4. <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/12/nsa-surveillance-data-terror-attack">NSA surveillance played little role in foiling terror plots, experts say</a>, <em>The Guardian</em>, June 12, 2013.<br />5. <a href="http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/06/12/why-is-edward-snowden-in-hong-kong/">Why is Edward Snowden in Hong Kong?</a>, <em>Counterpunch</em>, June 12, 2013.<br />6. <a href="http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/article/1259508/edward-snowden-us-government-has-been-hacking-hong-kong-and-china">Edward Snowden: US government has been hacking Hong Kong and China for years</a>, <em>South China Morning Post,</em> June 12, 2013.</p><p><em>Published with permission from <a href="http://atimes.com/atimes/World/WOR-02-130613.html">Asia Times</a>. </em></p> Fri, 14 Jun 2013 10:19:00 -0700 Pepe Escobar, Asia Times 855242 at http://www.alternet.org Civil Liberties Civil Liberties News & Politics nsa NSA Leak pentagon Total information awareness Full Spectrum Dominance Elite Enrichment and Police Repression: The Sparks That Lead to the Turkish Rebellion http://www.alternet.org/world/economic-anger-and-police-repression-spark-turkey-protests <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The plan to destroy one of Istanbul&#039;s last green spaces is part of a globally tested neoliberal plan to clear the way for economic enrichment at the top.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/photo_1370367671900-27-0.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Is this the Turkish Spring? No, at least not yet. Is Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan the new Mubarak? No, at least not yet. <br /><br />History keeps warning us it takes just a spark to light a political bonfire. The recent spark in Istanbul was provided by a small group of very young environmentalists organizing a peaceful sit-in, Occupy-style, in Taksim Square to protest the planned destruction of one of the city center's few remaining public green spaces, Gezi park. <br /><br />Gezi park's destruction follows a globally tested neoliberalism racket; it will be replaced by a simulacrum - in this case a replica of the Ottoman Artillery Barracks - housing, what else, yet another shopping mall. It's crucial to note that the mayor of Istanbul, also from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), owns a retail chain that will make a killing out of the mall. And the man holding the contract for this "redevelopment" is no less than Erdogan's son-in-law. </p><p>Predictably harsh police repression led to the protesters being joined by top cadres from Turkey's main opposition party, the Republican People's Party (CHP). And sooner rather than later, the Taksim Square green theme morphed into a Tahrir square-style "Down with the dictator". <br /><br />By Saturday, Taksim Square was crammed with tens of thousands of people; a multitude had walked across the Bosphorus Bridge from the Asian side of Istanbul, banging pots and pans Argentina 2002 cacerolazo-style, openly trampling the law against pedestrians crossing the bridge. Police duly upgraded the repression to water cannons, pepper spray and tear gas. <br /><br />The behavior of a mostly cowed Turkish broadcast media was predictably appalling - perhaps not surprising when 76 journalists are in jail accused of supporting "terror" and other unspecified "crimes". This may also be interpreted as a reflection of US and North Atlantic Treaty Organization hold over a precious ally - as in "OK, smash a few skulls, but don't kill anybody". <br /><br />Print media at least exhibited some redeeming features. Hurriyet - a newspaper that used to exercise its critical faculties - recovered some of its dignity by printing headlines such as "Erdogan no longer almighty". Zaman - which is part of the network of the moderate Islamist Gulen movement - showed how worried it is with Erdogan and the AKP's overwhelming power, with editorials condemning his "excessive" behavior and supporting the protesters. <br /><br />Meanwhile, in the US and the European Union, Ankara has not really been condemned - just the usual, vapid, "concern". Turkey after all is the ultimate CNN poster country; it's totally "on message" in its brand of autocracy-enabling neoliberalism (as are the Gulf Cooperation Council petro-monarchies). To be violently condemned - and threatened with strikes - is the "privilege" of Iran and Syria. <br /><br /><strong>Take it to the bridge</strong></p><p>How fitting that this all started with the "redevelopment" of Gezi park. However, this is just a small node in a vast scheme - a slew of AKP mega-projects all across Istanbul that totally exclude the input of civil society. <br /><br />Turkey may have become the world's 17th largest economy in the world, but it's growing at only 3% in 2013 (even is that is much better than Europe). The AKP has certainly noted that the Turkish economic miracle rests on clay feet, based on products of low added value very dependent on markets - in agriculture, small industry or tourism. <br /><br />Enter a planned third bridge over the Bosphorus - part of a new US$2.6 billion, 260 kilometer highway linking Thrace to Anatolia circumventing the Istanbul metropolis and one of the key nodes of the European Union-supported Europe-Caucasus-Asia transport corridor (TRACECA). <br /><br />In the 2011 election,s Erdogan opened his campaign spinning a "crazy project"; a 50 km canal from the Sea of Marmara to the Black Sea to be completed by 2023 - the centenary of the Turkish Republic - to the tune of up to $20 billion. The objective is not only to decongest the Bosphorus but, alongside the building of a third bridge and a third harbor, to transfer the axis of Istanbul to the not-yet-developed north of the city. That would include two new towns and a third airport as well. <br /><br />The AKP has described this ambitious policy as "urban transformation". The pretext is the risk of a major earthquake - such as the one in 1999. For what amounts to a major real estate speculation bonanza, Erdogan and the AKP rely on two government agencies, TOKI and KIPTAS, who have been setting prices way too high for the average Turk. The prime target is the upper middle classes who vote AKP. <br /><br />The AKP is absolutely obsessed with controlling Istanbul - which accounts for 85 of the 550 Parliament members (Ankara, the capital, is worth only 31). Erdogan and his cohorts have been at the helm of Greater Istanbul since 1994, at the time as members of the Refah party. Erdogan started his conquest of Turkey from the former Ottoman capital. <br /><br />AKP-sponsored mega-projects have been conceived as the ultimate platform to project emerging Turkey into post-globalization, milking to the maximum the cliche of a "bridge between civilizations". After all, 50% of Turkey's exports originate in Istanbul. The urban-political marketing of these mega-projects will condition Turkey's global credibility among the usual suspects, "international investors". It has nothing to do with social cohesion or respect for the environment. It's fair to argue that the Taksim Square movement has totally grasped the implications of this authoritarian, profit-hungry logic of development. <br /><br /><strong>Friends of Turkey, anyone?</strong></p><p>Erdogan may have admitted, grudgingly, that his police forces overreacted. Yet he can do no better than accuse the protesters, derided as "looters", of being "linked with terror" and having "dark ties"; their sole aim would be to cost the AKP votes in the 2015 parliamentary elections. He bragged he could bring out a million AKP supporters to the streets for every 100,000 protesters. Well, 5,000 of them have already managed to throw stones at his office in Besiktas. <br /><br />Protests have already spread to Izmir, Eskisehir, Mugla, Yalova, Antalya, Bolu, Adana and even AKP strongholds such as Ankara, Kayseri and Konya. They are at the tens of thousands. As car horns and residents banging pots and pans from balconies supporting the protests are now to be heard every night in Ankara and Istanbul (even in sleepy residential areas on the Asian side), this may be reaching hundreds of thousands. <br /><br />There's no question the Taksim Square/Occupy Gezi/Down with the Dictator movement is quickly expanding to a cross-section of secular Turkey totally opposed to the AKP and Erdogan's highly personalized/autocratic mix of hardcore neoliberalism and conservative religion. <br /><br />Secular Turks also clearly see how Erdogan is trying to milk all he can from a hazy "peace process" with the Kurdish PKK so he can amass enough votes for a constitutional referendum. The referendum would erase the parliamentary system and install a presidential system - very handy as Erdogan's term as prime minister expires in 2015, and he yearns to remain in the helm as president. <br /><br />Erdogan may have a solid majority across conservative Anatolia. But he may also be playing with fire. This is a man who over two years ago was yelling, "Mubarak must listen to his people" - and so should Assad in Syria. Now the majority of Turks totally reject Ankara's "logistical support" for the "rebel" Syrian gangs. <br /><br />The irony cherry in the cake is Damascus, now gleefully warning Erdogan to curb the violent repression, listen to "his people", or resign. <br /><br />What next? Erdogan installs a no-fly zone over Istanbul (or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization installs a no-fly zone over Erdogan)? The Turkish "rebels" receive direct support from Damascus, Tehran and Hezbollah? Damascus calls for a "Friends of Turkey" international get-together?</p> Tue, 04 Jun 2013 11:19:00 -0700 Pepe Escobar, Asia Times 850146 at http://www.alternet.org World World turkey occupy gezi