Under the Pakistani volcano

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Via The Saker

November 04, 2018Under the Pakistani volcano

While Khan plays on a complex geopolitical chessboard, Chinese aid could be a financial lifeline as Islamabad faces off against deadly religious extremism

by Pepe Escobar (cross-posted with The Asia Times by special agreement with the author)

It has been a breathless week, huddled in the shadow of the simmering, bubbling, politico-religious volcano that is Imran Khan’s Pakistan.

And this week’s multi-faceted developments may just signal seismic shifts in Pakistan’s internal and external relations for the foreseeable future.

Before moving on to bloodier matters, let’s start with the “Mr. Khan Goes to China” episode – essential for reviewing all aspects of what is enthusiastically described by both sides as the “all-weather strategic cooperative partnership”.

Xi’s financial lifeline for Khan?

Prime Minister Khan, leading a fresh government elected in July and facing a range colossal challenges, set the tone from the start. He did not mince words.

“Countries go in cycles, they have their high points, they have their low points,” he said. “Unfortunately, our country is going through a low point at the moment with two very big deficits, a fiscal deficit and a current account deficit. And so we, as I’ve said, have come to learn.”

Arguably few teachers beat Chinese President Xi Jinping, praised by Khan as a role model. “China’s phenomenal achievements are worth emulating,” Khan said. “No other country has tackled poverty and corruption the way China has tackled it.”

The lynchpin of the strategic partnership is inevitably the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the flagship project of the New Silk Road, or Belt-and-Road Initiative (BRI). Before his stint as guest of honor of the First China International Import Expo in Shanghai, Khan met a crucial player in Beijing for CPEC financing: Jin Liquan, president of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

Right from the start, Pakistan’s new Planning Minister Makhdoom Bukhtiar was confident that Islamabad would not need to reschedule around $2.7 billion in Chinese loans due for repayment in 2018. Instead, what’s in the cards is an improved economic package centered on taking CPEC to the next level.

A financially stable Pakistan is absolutely crucial for the success of BRI. A Pakistani audit of projects approved by the previous Nawaz Sharif administration called for streamlining CPEC, not curtailing it. Now, Team Khan does not subscribe to the notion of CPEC as a debt trap.

With Saudi Arabia and China stepping in with cash, Islamabad may avoid becoming further indebted to the IMF and its trademark “strategic adjustments”- widely dreaded across the Global South for producing a toxic mix of austerity and inflation.

Pakistan juggles China, Iran, Saudi, Turkey

Pakistan is all about its prime geopolitical location, the crossroads of South Asia, Central Asia and West Asia.

For Beijing, Pakistan as a key BRI node mirrors its new role as a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). As Khan has clearly identified, this interconnection can only turbo-charge Pakistan’s geo-economic position – under the institutional framework of SCO. The Xi-Khan partnership may actually center around an economic win-win for Pakistan and the SCO.

Of course, myriad challenges lie ahead.

Take for instance Chinese Foreign Ministry’s spokesman Lu Kang having to clarify that “all the cooperation between China and Pakistan has nothing to do with territorial disputes.”

Kang was referring to the hoopla surrounding the fact that a Pakistani company launched a bus service from Lahore to Kashgar via Islamabad; essentially the northern CPEC route via the Karakoram Highway, which skirts Kashmir. China does not want any interference whatsoever in the ultra-volatile Kashmir dossier.

Saudi Arabia is also making some not-too-subtle moves. Islamabad’s official position is that Riyadh’s recent financial offer came with no strings attached. That’s unlikely to be the case; Saudi traditionally casts a long shadow over all matters Pakistani. “No strings” means Islamabad should keep closer to Riyadh, not Tehran.

The House of Saud – paralyzed by the fallout of the bloody Istanbul fiasco – will go no-holds-barred to prevent Islamabad from getting closer to Tehran. (Or Ankara, for that matter). A possibly emergent, long-term, game-changing Turkey-Iran-Pakistan alliance was the talk of the town – at least during the first part of this week of weeks.

That brings us to the crucial visitor Khan received in Islamabad before his trip to China: Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. Last month, 14 Iranian border guards were kidnapped by the Pakistan-based Jaish al-Adl Salafi-jihadi fanatics. Pakistan security forces have been helpless so far.

Khan and Zarif talked about that – but also talked about Khan’s offer to mediate between Iran and Saudi Arabia in trying to find a solution for the tragedy in Yemen. The fact is, a Tehran-Islamabad rapprochement is already a work in progress.

That is the sophisticated geo-political game Khan must play. Meanwhile at home, he has to get down and dirty as he gets to grips with violent domestic religious turmoil.

‘Go legal – or else…’

I’ve been in Islamabad since Monday – right on the lip of the volcano, and enjoying the privilege of being part of one of the most extraordinary geopolitical conferences in recent times, something that in the current polarizing dynamic could only happen in Asia, not the West. But that’s another story.

While I was parsing elaborate analyses of this geopolitical chessboard, reality intervened.

Or – perhaps – it was a graphic intimation that Pakistan may just be changing for the better.

Street blockades paralyzed key nodes of the nation because Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman laborer, in jail for nine years, was finally acquitted by the Supreme Court of spurious charges of blasphemy. There are less than 4 million Christians in Pakistan out of a total population of 197 million.

I was with a small group on the motorway to Peshawar, prior to taking a detour to Taxila – Alexander-the-Great land, where I planned further research on ancient Silk Roads – when suddenly we were halted.

A mullah was blaring his hate through a loudspeaker. A couple of his minions blocked all circulation.

Why the police would not dislodge this small group is the matter of all matters in Khan’s arguably new Pakistan. The highway standoff embodies the high-stakes grapple underway between the state and religion.

Back in Islamabad, as he led me around the campus of the National Defense University, Timoor Shah, a bright young man at the Center for Policy Studies, gave me a crash course on the nuances.

What a global audience should understand is this. On one side stand the state, the military and the judiciary. (Accusations continue to be hurled that Khan was privileged in the July elections by the military – the top institution in Pakistan – and an activist judiciary.) On the other side, stand fringe religious nuts and an opportunistic, discredited opposition.

The Tehreek-e-Labbaik (TLP), a minor extremist political party whose only platform is to punish blasphemy, has issued death threats against the three Supreme Court judges. Pakistan could do worse than import a strangle/bone-saw/dissolve-in-acid Saudi execution squad to deal with such groups.

It’s instructive to consider what the director general of the PR arm of the powerful intelligence service, ISI, Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor had to say: This is a legal matter and the Pakistan Army should not be dragged into it. Ghafoor also stressed, “We are close to winning the war against terrorism and our attention should not be diverted.”

Ghafoor told politico-religious parties protesting against the Supreme Court judgment – quite a few of which were firmly on the lunatic fringe – to go legal or else. Amid this, TLP chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi swears that that the Army has threatened to “destroy” his party.

The military sent a delegation, including ISI officials, to talk to the religious protesters. Ghafoor was careful to stress that the ISI is an intelligence department that reports to the prime minister.

In the end, the government caved in. Despite knowing that Aasia Bibi faces fundamentalist wrath and her only path to safety would be a one-way ticket out, they agreed to put her on something called the “Exit Control List.” Even that did not prevent TLP fanatics from threatening “a war if they sent Aasia Bibi out of the country.”

‘Taliban Godfather’ killed

As if all this were not toxic enough, on Friday evening Maulana Samiul Haq – the fabled “Godfather of the Taliban” – was stabbed to death in his house in Rawalpindi, Islamabad’s twin city.

Haq led the sprawling Darul Uloom Haqqania, a madrassa, or religious school, in Akhora Khattak, near Peshawar, founded in 1988. The madrassa graduated none other than Mullah Omar, as well as other Taliban notables.

Haq embodies a torrent of turbulence in modern Pakistani history – including his stints as senator during the Zia ul Haq and Nawaz Sharif administrations. He also tabled a notorious Sharia bill during Sharif’s last term.

But for me, the story was personal. In a tortuous way, Samiul Haq saved my life – courtesy of a letter of introduction he had signed after I visited his madrassa to follow a Talibanesque indoctrination in progress.

When, along with my photographer Jason Florio, we were arrested by the Taliban at a military base in Ghazni in the summer of 2000, we were only released from waiting six months to be tried as “spies” because of Samiul Haq’s letter.

This obviously pales when compared to the high-profile, principled move by the Pakistani Supreme Court to save Aasia Bibi from a death sentence.

But it could be the first salvo in a Khan-era Pakistani war against religious fundamentalism.

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A Glimpse Beyond the Unipolar Moment

 

October 13, 2018

by Norman Ball for the Saker Blog

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“Potentially the most dangerous scenario would be a grand coalition of China, Russia and perhaps Iran, an ‘anti-hegemonic’ coalition, united not by ideology but by complementary grievances” —Zbigniew Brzezinski

Are we reaching the penultimate and petulant back-end of the American Empire’s Unipolar Moment, a denouement hastened by a raft of sanctions regimes as imperiously doled out as they are laden with unconsidered paradox?

Though the sun is prohibited from casting its light between them, Nation and Empire are not an organically indivisible formation. Indeed Americans, no less than others, should relish the prospect of a resumed, unalloyed nationhood after decades of Empire co-optation. Few Americans realize the skulking entity that looms in the shadows of their overrun and diminished formal institutions as being a separable imposition capable of (to use a Benjamin Netanyahu phrase) drying up and blowing away.

Empire overlay is an uninvited and usurping agent bent on hostile, world-conquering aims to which America plays safe harbor and unwitting hostage in equal parts. Though the mode of exploitation varies, no nation on the world stage is left untouched by transnational exploitation.

EMPIRE EXPANSION

America, like all nations, is a boundaried fixity; whereas Empire despite travelling under the former’s name is a projective and extraterritorial expanse whose designs exceed the devise and interests of the nation-host itself. Invariably Empire doesn’t so much succumb to overreach as it overreaches the capacities of its nation-host; wrecking the balance sheet, debauching the currency, taxing the capacities of the deputized military and (most importantly as we shall see) sullying the conceptual coordinates so central to a nation’s actionable sense of self.

Post-Empire, the nation-host suffers the aftermath of ruinous inflation or worse. Empire, a continuous organism, bides its time before alighting elsewhere. Thus unipolarity is an Empire project in the same manner a tapeworm mimics the appetites of its host, the afflicted nation being little more than a body-snatched, debt-amassing hostage-vessel.

Daniel 2’s prophesied statue gives anthropic form (and thus systemic coherence) to Empire succession. Each empire ‘chapter’ pours into the next with corporeal fluidity, the respective statue material and animal totem befitting the situational needs of Empire in that historical moment. The anatomy suggests an eschatological continuum, hardly a severed procession of akimbo body parts. The purposeful succession of empires conducts human history to a terminus.

Usury is the arithmetically ordained travel-partner or Empire. Indeed the latter is more Babylonian mystery than secular-geopolitical formation. Through it, all earthly power and wealth is to be gathered under one aegis until no nation can lay claim to an autonomous storehouse. The whole purpose of human history is demonic consolidation by the God of this World.

In the same way, the events of the world prove less yielding to geopolitical analysis absent an explicit awareness of Paul’s Principalities or the slow-thighed onset of the Antichrist/Dajjal. As human history thins like gruel in the twilight, the spiritual backdrop moves inexorably to the fore.

(Understanding the present moment demands continual oscillation between the world-beyond and the world-at-hand. So be it.)

Sanctions negate the very notion of empiric expansion. Beneath all the bluster, continual recourse to a ‘remedy of retreat’ signals the exhaustion of Empire’s Pax Americana phase. Like medieval bleeding, the cure soon exceeds the lethality of the underlining disease.

For the moment, America’s economic activity, 25% of the world’s GDP, is a big party to be dis-invited from. Furthermore, 70% of that GDP is buffered from international trade disruptions as it consists of internal consumption. (In China, for example, the figure is closer to 40%). When push comes to shove the US economy is sufficiently self-contained such that a protracted period of inwardness is a viable course of action.

Joseph Micallef hardly overstate things trumpeting the arrival of American energy independence. One wonders how the Empire would coax the Nation to do its bidding absent the inducement of vulnerable overseas energy supplies. Of course this too argues for the end of the American phase of Empire:

“U.S. energy independence is going to be a game changer in international affairs and will have far-ranging consequences. It will drive a reorientation of U.S. foreign policy as profound as that driven by American dependence on foreign oil in the second half of the 20th century.”

While inconsistent with empiric expansion, sanctions and their threat can for a time inflict asymmetric damage on the sanctioned party –until some vague tipping point is reached.

Midwives to a nascent neo-nationalist era, President Trump and his formidable trade team have been leveraging (some would say weaponizing) America’s economic primacy in order to redirect product origination and trade flows.

For example the USMCA’s closing of the infamous NAFTA loophole or ‘trade toll’ will be a huge boon to US consumers and workers alike, not to mention an indirect trade assault on China which advantaged the loophole via finished goods assembly plants in Canada and Mexico. The so-called ‘regional vehicle content’ has been boosted from 62.5% to 75%.

What are the implications of this USMCA provision alone? Lexicology explains:

“Mexico and Canada are pushing for the smallest amount of North American parts in NAFTA automobile production. This means that Mexico and Canada can import the difference from China, Asia or Europe, finish the product with some basic assembly and then pass off the product to the American market- saving big money on tariffs for the original producing country in the process.”

The necessity of a resurgent manufacturing base is being characterized (correctly) as a national security (if not even a national dignity) issue with implications far beyond the usual econometric equilibrations.

What the world needs to understand is that the unacknowledged obverse of America First is Empire Never Again. America’s self-reclamation process on the trade front will be a boon for the planet. Re-nationalization is synonymous with ‘de-empirization’. As America reacquaints with nation-among-nations status, multipolar clusters will fill the void.

America the Empire routinely pulls the wool over America the Nation’s eyes. One deft bit of corporatist misdirection (articulated through that multinational stalking horse, the US Chamber of Commerce) has been to assure Americans they could thrive as a service-sector economy.

As nothing is gained alerting regular Americans to the divergent interests of Empire and Nation, the Empire is adept at posing as the Nation. (Besides, what people would knowingly seek empiric imprimatu anyway, a dubious appointment demanding more blood and treasure than it ever bestows?)

Globalists would have us favorably envision a world where the US holds the edge in 2030 Powerpoint presentations while China captures the high-performance medical device and industrial robotics markets. As Yogi Berra might say, “all left-handers over here to flip charts, all right-handers over there to flip burgers.  The rest of you come with me.” Yes, but where to exactly, Yogi? The Argentine Paradox circa 1950?

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The same can be said for Made in China 2025, from a Chinese perspective of course. Geopolitical hegemony is the goal, economic nationalism the rallying cry for respective domestic audiences. No wonder trade wars metastasize into shooting wars. No less than everything is at stake.

(Some expect that, with centuries of practice under its belt, the Chinese empire model, historically one of ebb-and-flow concentric flexibility, will improve upon the winner-take-all Western model. Time may tell.)

Parsimonious when it comes to sharing the planet’s ill-gotten gains with its erstwhile nation-host (American real incomes peaked in 1973), Empire is all too willing both to off-load the debt burden and share the vainglory of its overseas military exploits.

We seek evidence of the Heartland tiring of its conscription obligations, or that their nation’s subsidiary role has even dawned on the average American after nearly two decades of ruinously fruitless overseas campaigns. The enthusiastic reception afforded Clint Eastwood’s 2014 movie American Sniper —to belabor one cultural touchstone– is hardly a bullish indicator.

In fact, the Nation still wraps itself in the Empire’s exploits with a patriotic vigor that obliges it to insist, against all evidence, that Iraq and Afghanistan were missions of existential import to the safeguarding of American neighborhoods. That this misprision persists is a powerful testament to the Empire’s ability to enforce and sustain a narrative steeped in false consciousness to which clarifying epiphanies must forever be kept at bay. In recent months scores of alt-media sources have been exiled from Youtube in veiled recognition of their counter-narrative incursions. The Empire cannot relinquish narrative hegemony. The most decisive conflicts are conceptual.

Sartre famously called this insistent and externalized apparatus of persuasion America’s ‘implacable machine’. Eastwood, the Leni Riefenstahl of our time, fashions empire exploits into pastiches of Americana. This is pure propaganda. Empire is a rapaciously unnatural imposition. Rooted in no soil, it descends from above. Transnationalism sustains itself on grassroots alienation and collective misdirection.

The Vineyard’s Saker indirectly acknowledges this differentiated two-headedness when he says, “Russia does represent an existential threat, not for the United States as a country or for its people, but for the AngloZionist Empire, just as the latter represents an existential threat to Russia.” He might just as easily have extended the empire threat to America itself. Where Saker offers daylight, Eastwood extends the darkness of a confused nation.

It would surprise many Americans to know that their nation hosts one of the least democratically answerable national governments in the world (though far fewer would be surprised today than, say, two years ago). Trump, the exogenous usurper, is trying to reverse this expropriation of the country’s traditional Madisonian Institutions by the Security State’s Trumanite Network (what Michael Glennon calls our Double Government, the prior terminology being his).

How did the empire accomplish this parallel sovereignty?

The hijack occurred in two sizable chunks (the 1947 National Security Act and the USA Patriot Act of 2001). Yes, America has a divided government alright. Just not in the sense American civics classes define the concept.

Moreover this sovereignty split occurred without benefit of referendum or Constitutional Convention. The division was assented to –and furtively institutionalized– over the ensuing post-WW2 decades by the nation’s elected leadership, the latter bartering away democratic self-determination and their own discretionary power for more attractive post-public sector career vistas.

A further lubricant was mass fear, something the Security State excels at fanning. This is a toxic oroborus: fear rationalizes enhanced security measures, obliging it in turn to identify more threats and thus promulgate more fear.

America’s captured political system (captured, in the main, by treasonous greed) perennially offers no material recourse away from Empire objectives. Carroll Quigley exposed the degradation of choice mounted by the two-party charade decades ago. His protestations fell on deaf ears.

Then came Trump, arguably more detested by ‘Rino’ Republicans for helicoptering onto their half-acre of Quigleyan turf than the Democrats who openly shower their contempt upon him, aided by a not-so-secret confederation of Senior Executive Service (SES)personnel and an assorted Five Eyes gallery of International Men of Mystery.

That new attention is being drawn to this fissure is a function of the Trumanites’ open rebellion against Trump’s subversive (Madisonian revivalist) presidency. Trump has forced the Deep State to the surface, a process that compels an explicit –and never before attempted– referendum on globalism, something the movement cannot possibly prevail on as the closest thing it possesses to a natural constituency is a beholden media, George Soros’ checkbook and a traitorous ruling class.

These transnational Trumanites, the true empire-builders, seek geopolitical hegemony, (over)-employing trade sanctions as a tool towards that end. Whereas Trump, a businessman to his core, seeks only comparative advantage and level playing fields i.e. trade for its own sake. Trump has the inclinations of a competitor and possesses an abiding faith in the productive capacities of his fellow Americans. His America-first exertions are sincere.

Despite a near-daily (and 92% negative) onslaught of CIA-Mockingbird anti-Trump vitriol, there is a dawning realization that the current President is as close to an anti-Empire crusader as any POTUS can possibly be, given the powerful institutional constraints (and Trumanite presence) he must work within. (The latter qualification cannot be emphasized enough.)

Just this week in his essay ‘Trump Has Done More to Take On and Take Down the American Empire Than Any Other President’, Gareth Porter concedes, with the obligatory reluctance attending any favorable Trump assessment that, “…[despite] Trump’s multiple serious personal and political failings…[his] unorthodox approach has already emboldened him to challenge the essential logic of the US military empire more than any previous president.”

Creditably, Porter manages to overcome his early subjectively-derived aversions with dispassionate analysis. More thinkers will follow. Trump will never inspire great wellsprings of affection. Yet shouldn’t likability deficits fall within the rehabilitative purview of Oprah Winfrey and her top shelf of gauzy sofa lens? History books are replete with highly eccentric, yet transformative, leaders. Who but the most media-besotted automatons really care?

As for our beleaguered trading partners, the list of American pariahs (sanctioned and tariffed) grows by the month: China, Russia, Iran, Turkey come immediately to mind, obviously in varying modes and degrees. What happens should the EU (the world’s 2nd largest ‘economy’) continue to trade with Iran under a “special payments entity” arrangement despite US warnings? For the record, India has no plans to cease its Iranian oil purchases. This comes at the cost of American producers as will European demand absorbed by the onset of Nordstream 2.

The US Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) maintains a list of sanctioned nations and programs.  It’s well worth a look.

Weapon system defections present a knottier dilemma as military and trade considerations commingle. The Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) of 2017 addresses punitive measures and waiver procedures; a bill opposed, it must be said, by President Trump. Turkey, a NATO member, is taking delivery of the Russian S400 missile defense system, playing havoc with weapons (F35) inter-operability, among other things.

Commenting on the likelihood that India will extract a waiver from the US for the purchase of a S400 system, Fort Russ’ Joaquin Flores suggests America’s quiet acquiescence may be the biggest news of all, indicative perhaps of a dawning realization in Washington that the sanction whip is losing its lash:

“But the real signal here is that the US is willing to publicly also disclose that a waiver is possible…that in its gambit to shore up the empire and force countries to choose Atlanticism over Multipolarity, it will not by way of hubris or over-playing, engender the very multipolarity [it] presently work[s] against.”

Flores surfaces the nub of the paradox: By waiving sanctions and allowing breakaways on a case-by-case basis, does unipolarity preserve itself by exception or compromise itself by non-inclusion? A contrary beast, this unipolarity.

First of all, absolute power is an unnatural configuration if it isn’t a fairy tale altogether. Kenneth Waltz, one of the 20th century’s leading scholars on International Relations, recognized unipolarity as being among the most tenuous of international power arrangements.

Fully consummated unipolarity contends with no nemesis at the gate, no rudely apparent countervailing force with which to remind itself that power consolidation is always an asymptotic function forever falling short of omnipotence. Whereas bipolarity increases overall system stability as each power has only the other to regard warily. A vigorous checkmate ensues. Like a two-headed Cerberus, power is affixed to one mode of action.

In short, power is a distributed resource requiring a corner of contested ground upon which to construct an antithetical lever. One can calibrate power only in the context of someone else existing beyond one’s own locus of control.

Until history fully resolves itself, the ascendant antithesis must germinate in a strange province that forever looms on the frontier of the prevailing thesis. In this way, ideas inhabit their own conceptually balkanized geographies.

Is internal contradiction the ultimate empire-killer? In his 2013 essay, ‘The Inevitable Has Happened in Egypt’, Alastair Crooke surfaces a dialectical reality, in the context of that particular moment’s crisis, the Muslim Brotherhood’s massacre at the hands of Egyptian President al-Sisi. Speaking to the larger demise of the USSR and the lessons drawn, in Sunni circles, from its collapse, he observed:

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One has to think Crooke intended ‘omnipotence’ instead of ‘omniscience’. Beyond that, he captures the Hegelian primacy of ideas (as opposed to the brute accouterments of tanks, planes and automobiles) as being the first-order Empire battleground.

As Flores suggests, the unipolar moment does have an antithetical nemesis. It exists, not for the moment at least, in the guise of a discrete nation-contender, but rather from amidst the inchoate forces of over-extension, hubris and internal contradiction.

One way for unipolarity to hasten its own demise is to persist in the practice of briskly escorting bad actors out of the Big Tent. At some point a critical mass of delinquent nations finds itself on the outside-looking-in; to which a new inside and fresh synthesis are baptized. The formative institutions, structures and initiatives already exist: OBOR, BRI, BRICS, AIIB, SCO.

The evolving role of the Shanghai Cooperative Organization (SCO) for example is on vivid exhibit his week with rather self-conscious pronouncements of multilateral cooperation, due no doubt to American trade frictions with key members Russia,  China and India. These are the formative orbits that can exert and accelerate gravitational tugs away from prevailing global governance models and power centers.

Left untended, yawning internal contradictions lead to a strange and strident logic rooted in self-injury and geopolitical masochism: By shooting myself in the foot, I promise you will bleed to death. A spiritual forebear? Bob Dylan with ‘it’s alright Ma, I’m only bleeding.’

Analyzed in myopic isolation, each sanction regime may indeed conform to a calculus of advantageously asymmetric bleeding. That is, Empire appears to crush each recalcitrant outlaw in serial procession.

Yet how fully considered is the cumulative effect of a dozen rocks being hurled simultaneously at a Goliath convinced of his insuperable size? Death ensues at the instigation of a thousand Davids. Perhaps the Empire’s quant-model betrays a methodological flaw in its singular regard for each battle to the exclusion of the cumulative toll of mounting departures.

Trumpism, the exuberant renewal of national self-confidence by a man who exudes it to the near-level of parody, obliquely acquiesces to the death of empire (without formally announcing it). Out of America’s re-acquaintance with itself springs a psychic reinvestment in the traditional facets of the American character, sublimated arguably since the Nixon Shock of 1970: enterprise, self-reliance, innovation and a can-do work ethic.

For those who doubt the powerful emotional and psychic ramifications of the Trump renationalization, watch this steel worker tear-up at the realization he’s been rescued from oblivion. Work is a moral calling that instills purposeful existence. Trade merely extends that calling beyond a nation’s borders. Fellow Glaswegian Adam Smith was not a Wall Street economist running balance-of-payment Excel spreadsheets for the ‘grand’ purpose of sector fund allocations. He was a moral philosopher.

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The American people, most of them anyway, could have frankly gone to hell as far as the bankers were concerned. The enterprise costs (a productively idled and hollowed-out nation) proved fantastically exorbitant. No privilege accrued to the common man. Middle America became the Military Industrial Praetorian Guard hiring pool.

Recalling Major General Smedley Butler (the bold-face mine):

“War is a racket. It always has been.

It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.”

Sanctions betray the unipolar moment’s faltering grasp. They are the unacknowledged road back from Empire to Nation. The contracting enterprise puts the best face on what can only be deemed a mutually assented to rejection. For, equally, the sanctioned nation is declining its prescribed role within the Empire playbook. Thus sanctions better resemble a divorce stemming from mutually irreconcilable differences than a unilateral flash of Empire pique.

Trump, almost certainly, is accepting of these geopolitical normalizations, which ultimately will entail the cessation of the US Dollar as reserve currency.

Hegemony is succumbing to variegation. There are other globally-aware approaches. Pope Francis’ polyhedral globalism for example combines comparative advantage with the inherent dignity of each nation’s native culture. Monoculture is a Unipolar aim. Global economies-of-scale seek to arbitrage away –to flatten– indigenous human character. Uniqueness is the lumpy stew that bedevils rote, commodity pricing.

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The sanctioned nation makes a calculation that its interests are better served relinquishing the benevolent gaze of Washington. In so doing, it embarks on a path alone.

But not so alone as to be lonely. Not anymore. Other diasporees have preceded it. As will a re-nationalized America in due course.

Norman Ball, MBA aka Full Spectrum Domino is an author, poet, political scientist and businessman whose writings have appeared in Counterpunch, Asia Times, Dissident Voice, Global Research and Russia Insider, among others. His last book ‘East-West Dialectics, Currency Resets & the Convergent Power of One’ is available on Amazon. He can be reached either via his Youtube channel, Facebook or gspressnow@gmail.com

UNO : birth of the post-Western world

Thierry Meyssan

Thierry MeyssanPolitical consultant, President-founder of the Réseau Voltaire (Voltaire Network). Latest work in French – Sous nos Yeux. Du 11-Septembre à Donald Trump (Right Before our Eyes. From 9/11 to Donald Trump).

DAMASCUS (SYRIA)
The administration of the UNO had been hoping for a clash between the pro- and anti-Trump factions during the General Assembly. What actually happened was very different. While several States, including France, denounced the methods of the resident of the White House, Russia undertook an analysis of the Western alliance. According to Moscow, most of our current problems are due to the desire of the old colonial powers to conserve their domination of the rest of the world – at whatever the cost. In order to overtake them, a formidable coalition has been born.
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The hearing of the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly.

Despite appearances, the procession of the heads of State and government, or Ministers for Foreign Affairs, at the General Assembly of the United Nation was not without purpose. It’s true that most of them, having little to say, addressed their interior public opinions by blaming UNO incompetence and calling for a respect for the law. But many of their interventions went straight to the heart of the matter – how to resolve the disputes between States and guarantee peace?

The first three days were marked by the speech by Donald Trump (United States) and the responses by Emmanuel Macron (France) and Hassan Rohani (Iran). But all these complications were shattered on the fourth day with the intervention by Sergueï Lavrov (Russia), when he presented the map of the post-Western world.

World collapse according to Donald Trump

President Trump, whose speeches are usually extremely disorganised, had on this occasion prepared a finely structured text [1]. Distinguishing himself from his predecessors, he affirmed that he gave privilege to « independence and cooperation », rather than « governance, control and international domination » (in other words, his national interests rather than those of the « American Empire »). He followed by enumerating the readjustments of the system he had set in motion.

- The USA has not declared commercial war on China, but is in the process of re-establishing its balance of payments. Simultaneously, the US is trying to restore an international market founded on free market competition, as demonstrated by their position in the energy sector. The US has become a major exporters of hydrocarbons, and would therefore benefit from high prices, but it opposes the existence of an intergovernmental cartel, the OPEC, and is calling for lower prices.
- It is opposed to the structures and treaties of globalisation (that is to say, from the point of view of the White House, transnational financial imperialism), notably the UN Human Rights Council, the International Criminal Court, and UNRWA. Of course, this is not a claim for torture (which was legitimised by George Bush Jr. in his day) nor crime, nor starving the Palestinians, but the destruction of the organisations which instrumentalise their object in order to achieve other goals.
- Concerning the migrations from Latin America to the United States, and also within the interior of the South American continent itself, the US intends to end them by treating the problem at its roots. For the White House, the problem results from the rules imposed by globalist Treaties, notably NAFTA. President Trump has therefore negotiated a new agreement with Mexico which links exports to respect for the social rights of Mexican workers. He intends to return to the original Monroe doctrine – meaning that the multinationals will no longer be able to interfere in the governing of the continent.

The reference to the Monroe doctrine merits an explanation, since the expression suggests US colonialism at the beginning of the 20th century. Donald Trump is an admirer of the foreign policies of two very controversial personalities, Presidents Andew Jackson (1829-1837) and Richard Nixon (1969-74). The Monroe doctrine (1823) was elaborated during the intervention of a man who at that time was no more than General Jackson in the Spanish colony of Florida. At that time, James Monroe wanted to protect the American continent from European imperialism. It was the « era of good feelings ». He therefore pledged that the United States would not intervene in Europe if Europe stopped intervening in the Americas. It was only three quarters of a century later, notably with Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909), that the Monroe doctrine would be used as a screen to hide US imperialism in Latin America.

The defence of the old world by Emmanuel Macron and Hassan Rohani

In a strange inversion of roles, French President Emmanuel Macron presented himself as the European Barack Obama facing up to the US Charles De Gaulle, as played by Donald Trump. Macron symbolically declared war, stating: « Let us sign no more commercial agreements with powers which do not respect the Paris Agreement » (which means no more agreements with the United States) – an odd way to defend multilateralism!

The French President began with Donald Trump’s implicit assessment – the crisis of the current « liberal Westphalian order » [2]. This means the crisis of nation-States who are badly shaken by economic globalisation. But this strategy was only intended to more efficiently oppose the solution proposed by the White House, which he qualified as the « law of the strongest ». He therefore described the French solution, « based around three principles – the first is the respect for sovereignty, the very foundation of our charter; the second is the reinforcement of our regional cooperation; and the third is the implementation of more robust international guarantees ».

But then his speech zoomed off into the stratosphere to end in a lyrical exaltation, during which Emmanuel Macron allowed himself a moment of juvenile hypocrisy reaching to the limits of schizophrenia.

- As an example of « the respect for sovereignty », he called for a refusal to « substitute oneself for the Syrian people » when we decide who will become their leader… while at the same time forbidding President el-Assad to present himself for election by his compatriots.

- Concerning the « reinforcement of regional cooperation », he mentioned the support offered by the African Union to the French anti-terrorist operation in the Sahel. But this operation was in reality only the land-based wing of a larger plan directed by AfriCom, for which the US army supplied the airborne wing. The African Union itself has no real army as such, and acts only to legalise a colonial operation. Similarly, the sums invested for the development of the Sahel – which the French President quoted not in Euros, but in dollars – mixes true African projects with foreign aid for development. The impotence of this endeavour has long been clear to all.

- Concerning « the implementation of more robust international guarantees », he announced the struggle against inequalities which should be addressed by the G7 summit in Biarritz. This was simply a way of affirming, once again, Western leadership over the rest of the world, Russia and China included. He claimed that « the time when a club of rich countries could alone define the balance of the world is long over », and promised to … present a report of the decisions taken by the major Western powers before the next General Assembly. Again, he proclaimed that the « G7 should be the motor » of the struggle against inequality undertaken by the UNO.

Speaking in his turn, Iranian President Cheikh Hassan Rohani described in detail the way in which the White House is destroying, one by one, the principles of international Law [3].

He reminded us that the 5+1 agreement (JCPoA) had been validated by the Security Council, which had called upon numerous institutions for their support (resolution 2231), and that Donald Trump’s USA had withdrawn from the agreement, negating the signature of his predecessor and the principle of the continuity of state. He emphasised that, as attested by twelve consecutive AIEA reports, Iran has conformed and is still conforming to its obligations. He expressed his indignation at President Trump’s call to disobey the UNO resolution and the threat he has addressed against those who respect it.

He finished by recalling a few facts – Iran fought Saddam Hussein, the Taliban and Daesh before the United States (which was at that time supporting them) – one way of emphasising the fact that for a long time, the about-faces by the USA do not correspond to the logic of Law, but to the logic of its own hidden interests.

Sergueï Lavrov presents the post-Western world

This debate, not for or against the United States, but for or against Donald Trump, was organised around two main arguments:
- The White House is destroying the system which has so well benefited the international financial elites (Macron).
- The White House is no longer even pretending to respect international Law (Rohani).

For the Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Sergueï Lavrov, this debate hides a problem which goes even deeper. « On one hand, we see the reinforcement of the polycentric principles of the world order , (…) the aspiration of the people to preserve their sovereignty and work with models of development which are compatible with their national, cultural and religious identities. On the other, we see the desire of several Western states to preserve their self-proclaimed status as “world leaders” and to hinder the objective and irreversible process of the establishment of multipolarity », he stated [4].

From that point, it is no longer pertinent for Moscow to argue with President Trump, nor even the United States, but with the Westerners in general. Sergueï Lavrov went as far as drawing a parallel with the Munich Agreements of 1938. At that time, France and the United Kingdom signed an alliance with Germany and Italy. It’s true that this event is remembered today in Western Europe as an act of cowardice on the part of France and Britain faced with the demands of the Nazis, but it remains engraved in Russian memory as the decisive step which triggered the Second World War. While Western historians seek to decide who took this decision and who followed the movement, Russian historians note only one thing – that none of the Western Europeans assumed their responsibilities.

Extending his study, Sergueï Lavrov no longer denounced the infringements to the Law, but to international structures. He observed that the Westerners attempt to force the people to enter into military alliances against their will, and threaten certain States who wish to chose their partners themselves. Alluding to the Jeffrey Feltman affair [5], he denounced the attempts to control the administration of the UNO, and force it to assume the role which should be played by the member-States, and finally, to use the General Secretariat to manipulate them.

He noted the desperate nature of these attempts, observing, for example, the inefficiency of fifty years of the US blockade of Cuba. He stigmatised the British desire to judge and condemn without trial by using their rhetoric of « highly probable ».

Sergueï Lavrov concluded by emphasising that all this Western disorder did not prevent the rest of the world from cooperating and developing. He recalled the « Greater Eurasian Partnership », mentioned at the Valdaï Forum in 2016 by President Putin to complete President Xi’s « Belt and Road Initiative ». This vast initiative, which was at first given a chilly reception by China, is now supported by the Collective Security Treaty, the Eurasian Economic Union, the Commonwealth of Independent States, BRICS, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. Counter-propositions by Australia, Japan and the European Union were still-born.

While Western representatives have the habit of announcing their projects in advance, and discussing them, Russian diplomats only speak of them when they are already under way and are sure to succeed.

To sum up, the strategy of the containment of Russia and China, dreamed up by British deputy Halford J. Mackinder [6] and clarified by US National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzeziński [7], has failed. The world’s centre of gravity is being displaced to the East, not against the Westerners, but by their fault [8].

Drawing the first practical conclusions from these analyses, Syrian Vice-Prime Minister, Walid al-Moallem, demanded on the following day at the tribune of the General Assembly the immediate withdrawal of the occupying troops of the United States, France and Turkey [9].

Translation
Pete Kimberley

[1] “Remarks by Donald Trump to the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly”, by Donald Trump, Voltaire Network, 25 September 2018.

[2] « Discours d’Emmanuel Macron devant la 73e séance de l’Assemblée générale des Nations unies », par Emmanuel Macron, Réseau Voltaire, 25 septembre 2018.

[3] “Remarks by Hassan Rohani to the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly”, by Hassan Rohani, Voltaire Network, 25 September 2018.

[4] “Remarks by Sergey Lavrov to the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly”, by Sergey Lavrov, Voltaire Network, 28 September 2018.

[5] “Germany and the UNO against Syria”, “How the administration of the UNO is organising the war”, by Thierry Meyssan, Translation Pete Kimberley, Voltaire Network, 28 January 2016 and 5 September 2018.

[6] “The geographical pivot of history”, Halford J. Mackinder, The Geographical Journal, 1904, 23, pp. 421–37.

[7The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives, Zbigniew Brzeziński, Basic Books. 1997.

[8] “The Geopolitics of American Global Decline”, by Alfred McCoy, Tom Dispatch (USA) , Voltaire Network, 22 June 2015.

[9] “Remarks by Walid Al-Moualem to the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly”, by Walid Al-Moualem, Voltaire Network, 29 September 2018.

Unipolar Moments Never Last More Than a Moment

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American leaders, politicians, policymakers and pundits are fond of talking about the “Unipolar Moment” and “Hyper Power” position that they imagine the United States enjoys in the world.

Totally lacking from this fantasy are any inconvenient historical facts.

The US Unipolar Moment (insofar as it existed at all) lasted less than a decade from the break-up of the Soviet Union at the end of December 1991 to June 15, 2001. The US “moment” barely made it into the 21st Century.

On that epochal day of June 15, 2001, two major events happened. First, US President George W. Bush gave a speech in Warsaw pledging to integrate the three tiny Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania into NATO as a prime strategic goal of the United States.

That very same day, Russia and China created with four Central Asian nations the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO): The most populous and powerful international security organization in history.

This year, the SCO doubled in population by adding India and Pakistan at the same time – two major nuclear powers with a combined population of 1.5 billion people. That means the SCO now includes more than 3 billion people, around 40 percent of the human race.

From the moment the SCO was created – dedicated from its inception to preserve and protect a multipolar world from the domination of any one power, the US unipolar moment was dead and gone.

This reality was confirmed less than three months later when al-Qaeda’s terror attacks of September 11, 2001 killed almost 3,000 people. More Americans died that day than in the 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

George W. Bush should have been impeached for his gross incompetence. Instead his popularity soared. Imagining the Unipolar Moment (or Era) to be still in full flood he invaded Afghanistan later that year and Iraq less than two years later. The United States is still endlessly stuck in those unending wars.

The patterns of history – totally ignored by the US media, pundit-ocracy and political world – in fact teach this lesson consistently. Over the past half a millennium, there have been several unipolar moments for great powers seeking to reign supreme over the world and they all collapsed after only a few years.

When Habsburg Spain and its allies decisively defeated the huge fleet of the mighty Ottoman Empire at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, Spain’s imperial domination over Europe seemed assured. But in fact Spain was already embroiled in a Dutch revolt that started in 1568. Over the following decades, it became even more exhausting than the current US deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq.

King Philip II of Spain’s dream of domination was totally buried only 17 years after Lepanto with the destruction of his giant Armada fleet to conquer England in 1588.

France rose next. Its domination over Europe appeared to be sealed with the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648. But by the mid-1660s, glory-crazed Louis XIV, the so-called “Sun King” had already repeated the Spanish mistake and bogged his country down in half a century of endless wars in what is now Belgium, the Netherlands and southern Germany. France’s unipolar moment lasted less than 20 years.

The British came next. Even after winning the Napoleonic Wars against France, they knew they could not rule the world alone and were forced to share it with the far more conservative major monarchies of Europe – Russia, Austria-Hungary and Prussia.

Finally in 1848, the kings of France, Austria-Hungary and Prussia were all rocked or topped by liberal popular revolutions. The British thought then, as the Americans did in 1989-91, that their Unipolar Moment had finally come and would last for eternity. The whole world would look to London for guidance and wisdom.

It didn’t: By 1871, Prussia under its Iron Chancellor Otto von Bismarck had united Germany, smashed France, by then Britain’s ally and humiliatingly swept the British out of any continental pretensions of power and influence.

When asked what he would do if the tiny British Army ever invaded North Germany, Bismarck replied that he would send the police to arrest it.

After the defeat of Imperial Germany in World War I, Britain seemed to enjoy another hyper-power moment. The isolationist United States and the Soviet Union both temporarily withdrew from the world stage.

However, that British fantasy did not even last until the rise of Hitler in 1933. Two years earlier in 1931, Imperial Japan had occupied Manchuria – a huge chunk of Northeastern China: British military leaders were forced to admit to Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald there was nothing they could do about it. Britain’s unipolar moment had lasted only 12 years – from 1919 to 1931.

Once these historical facts are understood, it is easy to see why the US Unipolar Moment only lasted even less time than Britain’s 20th century one had – less than a decade.

Since 2001, the United States has bankrupted and exhausted itself, just as Habsburg Spain, Bourbon France and post-Victorian Britain did before it in futile, doomed and ludicrous attempts to deny and roll back the inevitable tides of history.

That should come as no surprise: As Friedrich Hegel warned us, “The only thing that we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history.”

By Martin Sieff
Source

Xinjiang : The New Great Game

The world crossed a geopolitical watershed at the end of 2017. That was when the American Empire officially declared China its No.1 national-security threat, alongside Russia.

Since then, Washington has spared no effort to confront and contain China on multiple fronts. These include an intensifying trade war, bans on Chinese acquisitions of US assets, a witch-hunt against Chinese companies and individuals in America, military and political provocations in the South China Sea and relating to Taiwan, and whipping up Sinophobic activity among US allies (translation: vassals). And playing a key role in fanning and marketing these efforts, as usual, are the Western corporate media.

The latest such assault centers on Xinjiang’s sensitive Uighur issue. With the Empire’s support, Uighur radicals have in recent years stirred tensions in the Western Chinese region, even as foreign-trained Uighur militants staged high-profile terror attacks in various parts of the country. Chinese authorities’ efforts to defuse such tensions and combat the violence are being mendaciously depicted as systematic, large-scale repression of one of China’s biggest ethnic minorities.

The recent spate of Western media reports alleging brutal repression of Uighurs in Xinjiang marks a new phase of a propaganda drive to demonize China and destabilize its periphery. Highlighted by screaming headlines in Western corporate media are accounts of a million Uighur Muslims (or 2 in 5 Uighur male adults!) being interned in concentration camps and subject to torture, such as waterboarding. The suggestion or assertion is that Xinjiang has become an open-air prison (which actually reminds one of the real one operated by Washington’s ally Israel in Palestine).

That bald and barefaced accusation was made with nary a shred of supporting evidence by the lone American on an external committee (with no representation from UN officials) of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Western media such as Reuters went to town with the allegation, misrepresenting it as a charge levelled by OHCHR against China. An OHCHR spokesperson denied that the UN agency had made that finding and criticism against Beijing.To cover up the lie, Reuters cited reports issued by an anti-China, extreme right wing group based in Washington and funded by the American government and NGOs such as National Endowment for Democracy.

That’s not the first time allegations of Beijing’s repression of Uighur Muslims were made by western media . Previous provocative and unsubstantiated claims of Chinese authorities banning fasting by Uighurs during Ramadan had surfaced periodically. Furthermore, malicious and ludicrous lies that Uighur Muslims were forced by the government to eat pork and drink alcohol were making the rounds in Western press and social media last year.  In recent times, China-hating lies fabricated and spread by western corporate media have become more vile and venomous. The intent is to demonize China, incite hatred and instigate violence and even Jihad by Uighur militants in Xinjiang and Islamic State terrorists outside China.

It’s the third time in as many decades that the CIA has sought to dominate Central Asia (the Great Game), with Afghanistan as the core and other parts of Central Asia including Xinjiang in the Empire’s cross hairs.

The first attempt was in the 1990s, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union but before the 9/11 cataclysm. The CIA worked hand in glove with the mujahideen in Afghanistan as well as Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda. Boot camps were set up in Afghanistan to train Uighur separatists, in much the same way as Islamic State extremists were trained and armed to overthrow the Syrian government a decade later. CIA-instigated destabilization culminated in the bombing of three public buses in Urumqi in February 1997. Nine people died and more than 70 were injured. Chinese authorities swiftly put down the insurrection and stabilized the situation.

In 2007-08, Uighur separatists saw and seized a historic opening — the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing — to internationalize their cause. An attempted suicide bombing on a China Southern Airlines flight was thwarted. The terrorist attack in Kashgar in southern Xinjiang resulted in the death of 16 police officers four days before the start of the Games. In July 2009, riots by Uighur extremists in the provincial capital Urumqi caused the death of nearly 200 people, mostly Han Chinese. True to the imperial double standard, Washington didn’t consider and characterize such calamitous riots and other deadly attacks by Uighur militants as acts of terrorism.

The orgy of violence continued through to 2014. There were two more failed hijackings of commercial planes as well as scores of bombings, killing tens of civilians each time. The knife attack at the southwestern China city of Kunming railway station in March 2014 was a watershed, resulting in 31 dead and 141 injured.

Faced with such armed insurrections, many sovereign states would have imposed martial law or declared a state of emergency nationwide or in the affected region, suspending the rule of law. That was the case in southern Thailand and Indonesia’s Aceh province. Even peninsular Malaya’s British colonial rulers imposed emergency rule from 1945 to 1957 when confronted with a communist insurgency. And post-9/11, US authorities enacted a draconian security law (the Patriot Act) and implemented other measures that stripped away civil liberties in the name of anti-terrorism.

China has done nothing of that sort. It has stepped up security, including armed patrols and checkpoints in hot spots. The objective is clear and transparent: to restore law and order, and go after terrorists and prevent them from inflicting more violence. Chinese authorities describe their action as high-intensity regulation. The strategy has succeeded in containing the spread of terrorism beyond Xinjiang and purging religious extremists and separatists from the civil society. Beijing’s counter-terrorism efforts have been helped by Shanghai Cooperation Organization members like Kyrgyzstan, as well as President Erdogan of Turkey, who has stopped acting as the Empire’s proxy in Xinjiang by funnelling money and providing a secret corridor for Uighur terrorists to flee China.

Almost a decade after the Urumqi riots, China has turned its anti-terrorism focus to undoing the toxic brainwashing of ordinary Uighurs by extremists. Neighborhood religious institutes have been set up to educate citizens on the perils of religious extremism (these community centres where classes are held to detoxify radical Wahhabism were labelled “re-education camps” or concentration camps by the western press, and those attending the classes claimed to be “incarcerated”!) Programs to eradicate poverty are implemented to train and prepare Uighurs for jobs in towns and cities. Some 600,000 Uighurs were lifted out of poverty in 2016, and another 312,000 in 2017. More than 400,000 have been relocated from remote villages to places where they are gainfully employed.

The Chinese government, through various programs, has been winning the hearts and minds of ordinary Uighurs. That is bad news for the US Empire and the Uighur separatists. They are making a desperate, all-out bid to unravel the good work done by Beijing to eradicate religious extremism and poverty in Xinjiang. The deluge of fake news from Western corporate media since the beginning of this year seeks to demonize the Chinese government, painting it as a gross violator of human rights, when the truth is the exact opposite.

It would be funny if it wasn’t serious that Washington has taken up the cudgels against unproven abuses and repression of Uighurs in Xinjiang when the American Empire and its allies, under the guise of War on Terror and humanitarian intervention, have droned, bombed and killed millions of Muslim children, women and civilians in a dozen of countries from Afghanistan to Yemen, and displaced millions more.

By THOMAS HON WING POLIN – GERRY BROWN
Source

Greater Eurasia coming together in the Russian Far East

September 12, 2018

Greater Eurasia coming together in the Russian Far East

by Pepe Escobar (cross-posted with the Asia Times by special agreement with the author)

The Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok has become a crucial part of strategic integration between China, Russia and other countries in northeast Asia, a graduation assimilation set to transform the current world system

Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin were involved in a joint cooking venture. Pancakes with caviar (blin, in Russian), chased down with a shot of vodka. It just happened at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok. Talk about a graphic (and edible) metaphor sealing the ever-evolving ‘Russia-China comprehensive strategic partnership’.

For a few years now the Vladivostok forum has been offering an unequaled roadmap tracking progress on Eurasia integration.

Last year, on the sidelines of the forum, Moscow and Seoul delivered a bombshell: a trilateral trade platform, crucially integrating Pyongyang, revolving around a connectivity corridor between the whole Korean peninsula and the Russian Far East.

Roundtable topics this year included integration of the Russian Far East into Eurasian logistic chains; once again the Russian link-up with the Koreas – aiming to build a Trans-Korean railway connected to the Trans-Siberian and a “Pipelineistan” branch-out into South Korea via China. Other topics were the Russia-Japan partnership in terms of Eurasian transit, centering on the link-up of the Trans-Siberian and Baikal-Amur Mainline (BAM) upgrades to a projected railway to the island of Sakhalin, and then all the way to the island of Hokkaido.

The future: Tokyo to London, seamlessly, by train.

Then there was integration between Russia and ASEAN – beyond current infrastructure, agricultural, and shipbuilding projects to energy, agro-industry sector and forestry, as outlined by Ivan Polyakov, chairman of the Russia-ASEAN Business Council.

Essentially this is all about the simultaneous build-up of a growing East-West and also North-South axis. Russia, China, Japan, the Koreas and Vietnam, slowly but surely, are on their way to solid geoeconomic integration.

Arguably the most fascinating discussion in Vladivostok was Crossroads on the Silk Road, featuring, among others, Sergey Gorkov, Russian deputy minister of economic development; Wang Yilin, chairman of China’s oil giant CNPC, and Zhou Xiaochun, vice-chairman of the board of directors of the essential Boao Forum.

Moscow’s drive is to link the New Silk Roads or Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). Yet the ultimate geoeconomic target is even more ambitious; a “Greater Eurasian partnership”, where BRI converges with the EAEU, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and ASEAN. At its core lies the Russia-China strategic partnership.

The roadmap ahead, of course, involves striking the right chords in a complex balance of political interests and management practices amid multiple East-West projects. Cultural symbiosis has to be part of the picture. The Russia-China partnership is increasingly inclined to reason in go (weiqi, the game) terms, a shared vision based on universal strategic principles.

Another key discussion in Vladivostok featured Fyodor Lukyanov, research director at the always essential Valdai Discussion Club, and Lanxin Xiang, director of the Centre of One Belt and One Road Studies at the China National Institute for SCO International Exchange. That centered on the geopolitics of Asian interaction, involving key BRICS members Russia, China and India, and how Russia might be able to capitalize on it while navigating the harrowing sanctions and trade war swamp.

All power from Siberia

It all comes back to the basics and the evolving Russia-China strategic partnership. Xi and Putin are implicated to the core. Xi defines the partnership as the best mechanism to “jointly neutralize the external risks and challenges”. For Putin, “our relations are crucial, not only for our countries, but for the world as well.” It’s the first time ever that a Chinese leader has joined the Vladivostok discussions.

China is progressively interconnecting with the Russian Far East. International transport corridors – Primorye 1 and Primorye 2 – will boost cargo transit between Vladivostok and northeast China. Gazprom is about to complete the Russian stretch of the massive Power of Siberia gas pipeline to China, in agreement with CNPC. Over 2,000 kilometers of pipes have been welded and laid from Yakutia to the Russian-Chinese border. Power of Siberia starts operating in December 2019.

According to the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), the partnership is evaluating 73 investment projects worth more than $100 billion. The overseer is the Russian-Chinese Business Advisory Committee, including more than 150 executives from leading Russian and Chinese companies. The CEO of RDIF, Kirill Dmitriev, is convinced “particularly promising transactions will be found in bilateral deals that capitalize on the Russia-China relationship.”

In Vladivostok, Putin and Xi once again agreed to keep increasing bilateral trade on yuan and rubles, bypassing the US dollar – building upon a mutual decision in June to increase the number of yuan-ruble contracts. In parallel, Economic Development Minister Maksim Oreshkin advised Russians to sell US dollars and buy rubles.

Moscow expects the ruble to appreciate to around 64 per US dollar next year. It’s currently trading at around 70 rubles against the dollar, dragged down by US sanctions and the dollar weaponization wreaking havoc in BRICS members Brazil, India and South Africa, as well as potential BRICS Plus states such as Turkey and Indonesia.

Putin and Xi once again reaffirmed they will continue to work in tandem on their inter-Korean roadmap based on “dual freeze” – North Korea suspends nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches while the US suspends military drills with Seoul.

But what really seems to be capturing the imagination of the Koreas is the Trans-Korean railway. Kim Chang-sik, head of railway development in Pyongyang said: “We will further develop this project on the basis of negotiations between Russia, North Korea and South Korea, so that the owners of this project will be the countries of the Korean peninsula.”

That connects to what South Korean President Moon Jae-in said only three months ago: “Once the Trans-Korean main line is built, it may be connected to the Trans-Siberian Railway. In this case, it would be possible to deliver goods from South Korea to Europe, which would be economically beneficial not only to South and North Korea, but to Russia as well.”

Understanding the matryoshka

Contrary to misinformed or manipulated Western hysteria, the current Vostok war games in the Russian Far East’s Trans-Baikal, including 3,000 Chinese troops, are just a section of the much deeper, complex Russia-China strategic partnership. This is all about a matryoshka: the war game is a doll inside the geoeconomic game.

In ‘China and Russia: The New Rapprochement’, Alexander Lukin, from the National Research University Higher School of Economics in Moscow, lays down the roadmap in detail; the evolving, Eurasia-wide economic partnership is part of a much larger, comprehensive concept of “Greater Eurasia”. This is the core of the Russia-China entente, leading to what political scientist Sergey Karaganov has dubbed, “a common space for economic, logistic and information cooperation, peace and security from Shanghai to Lisbon and from New Delhi to Murmansk.”

Without understanding the Big Picture enveloping debates such as the annual gathering in Vladivostok, it’s impossible to understand how the progressive integration of BRI, EAEU, SCO, ASEAN, BRICS and BRICS Plus is bound to irreversibly change the current world-system.

Visit of bullies to Pakistan

By  Brig Asif H. Raja

by Asif Haroon Raja

Bullying is the hallmark of the US foreign policy. The bullying tools employed to achieve foreign policy goals are threats, coercion, use of proxies, propaganda war, economic sanctions, financial strangulation, human rights abuses and fake allegations.

Suspension of $300 million Close Support Fund (CSF) by the US just three days before the arrival of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and CJCSC Gen Joseph Dunford to Islamabad has given a clear signal to the new regime led by Imran Khan (IK) that there will be no change in the US bullying attitude.

This is the second cut in CSF. $500 million were suspended early this year. $ 800 million were due to be reimbursed to Pak Army for the services rendered and expenditures incurred in the war on terror in 2016/17 and was not aid or a grant.

We expect IK to eat “Fatass Dunford” alive

In the last 14 years, Pakistan has received $ 14 billion from USA. Over $ 9 billion are still pending on account of CSF. Rupees 15.9 billion are due for the current fiscal year 2018/19.

These cuts and other punitive actions are being taken to express unhappiness of the US and to remind Pakistan that the US would release the said amount and renew CSF if it forgoes its defiance and revert to its traditional pliant behavior and agree to abide by the US dictates and not otherwise.

Brief stopover of the visitors followed by their two-day visit to India where Secretary Defence Mattis will join them and sign more agreements is another indication that the trend of keeping India as a favored ally and Pakistan as a distrusted ally will continue.

After the announcement of the new US policy on Af-Pak region by Donald Trump on August 22, 2017, Pakistan has been constantly pressed by Washington to destroy the safe havens of Haqqani network (HN) and Afghan Taliban and to effectively deal with them.

The tone and tenor of the US civil and military leaders became more menacing after the callous tweet of Trump on the occasion of New Year eve, dubbing Pakistan as dishonest, double dealer and betrayer having gobbled up $30 billion US aid without doing enough to control terrorism.

Despite Pakistan’s denials, and explanations and reminders of the human losses of over 70,000 and the financial loss of $123 billion incurred in the US imposed war, which were snootily ignored, the US has stuck to its allegations that the HN and Afghan Taliban leaders are based in Pakistan and are the main cause of instability in Afghanistan.

No proof has is far been given to substantiate their accusations. The narrative of safe havens of the militants is being drummed up by the Indo-US-Afghan nexus with a view to browbeat Pakistan into submission and to blacklist Pakistan.

The US has for the first time hurled threats of physical intervention if Pakistan refuses to do as told to do and has cut off military training programs. The IMF has been cautioned by Washington not to give bailout package to Pakistan if it uses the loan for repayment of loans to China or for the CPEC. Indian Army chief has on more than one occasion threatened to launch surgical strikes and wage a limited war against Pakistan in the zone of its choice. Likewise, Afghanistan has also maintained a belligerent posture and on several occasions carried out attacks on military posts along the western border.

In spite of the fact that Pakistan had earned the title of ‘most allied ally of USA’, the Pak-US relations spread over 64 years have never been at ease and has seen many ups and downs. The US used Pakistan as a client state to serve its geo-strategic interests and disregarded Pakistan’s security concerns.

In its bid to win the affections of India, the US remained tilted towards India during the Cold War, well knowing that India was the Soviet camp follower and felt no compunction in tilting the regional balance in favor of India. The US never came to the help of Pakistan when its assistance was needed the most in the two wars with India. Seeing its self-serving attitude, Ayub Khan was constrained to lean towards China and to say, “We need friends not masters”.

After 1990 when India fell into the lap of USA, India became the darling of USA and the West, while Pakistan which had played a key role in pushing out the Soviet forces from Afghanistan and in making USA the sole super power and in unifying Germany, fell from grace and became the most sanctioned country.

After 9/11, the US once again befriended Pakistan and made it a coalition partner and Non-NATO ally to fight war on terror as a frontline state. In reality, Pakistan was never an ally but a target of Indo-US-Israel nexus, all three wanting to destroy Pakistan’s nuclear program.

While India had been accusing Pakistan of supporting the freedom fighters in occupied Kashmir since 1990, and constantly urged USA to declare Pakistan a terrorist state, it stepped up this accusation after a terrorist attack on Indian Parliament on December 13, 2001, which it propagated was the doing of Pakistan and Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM).

From 2004 onwards, the US and Afghanistan started blaming Pak military and the ISI of their collusion with Al-Qaeda, Taliban, JeM and Lashkar-e-Taeba. The latter two groups were added expressly at the behest of India.

For all practical purposes, the Indo-US-Afghan strategic partners are anti-Pakistan, and have been conspiring to fragment Pakistan. Greater Baluchistan, Greater Pashtunistan and Jinnahpur movements were foreign inspired to cut Pakistan to size.

Covert war coupled with propaganda war and ‘Do More’ mantra were designed to weaken Pakistan from within, and create conducive conditions for India to launch its Cold Start Doctrine (CSD), which it had made fully operational in 2008. From 2001 to 2008, all the terrorist attacks that took place in India were put in the basket of Pakistan.

The US installed regime in Kabul also followed suit by blaming Pakistan for the attacks in Afghanistan. It came to light at a later date that all the attacks in India including the Parliament and Mumbai attacks were engineered by RAW and executed by Hindu extremist groups to get Pakistan declared a terrorist state. The trio built up this narrative systematically with a view to achieve following objectives:

  1. Keep Pakistan under pressure and on the back foot.
  2. Keep whipping Pakistan for its uncommitted sins and force it to do more.
  3. Paint Pakistan as a terror abetting state and the trio as victims of terrorism.
  4. To hide cross border terrorism of CIA, RAW, NDS from Afghan soil.
  5. Pave the way for blacklisting Pakistan.
  6. As a consequent to massive covert war supplanted by hybrid war, bleed Pakistan economically and militarily, create insecurity and political instability and eventually trigger civil war.

Net result. Compel Pakistan to surrender nukes in return for survival. Water war launched by India war was part of the overall plan to make the arid lands of Pakistan dry and force it to beg for mercy.

Development of tactical nukes and short, medium, long range missiles by Pakistan and upgradation of minimum nuclear deterrence to optimum levels by Pakistan have effectively stalled the CSD, which envisages capturing several tactical objectives with strategic effects situated close to the border/LoC. Concept of limited war also fall within the purview of CSD.

Besides upgrading nuclear capability, Pakistan military has configured its force goals in a manner which can not only tackle the twin threat posed by India in the east and Afghanistan in the northwest as well as externally supported internal threat, but also retains offensive options.

CPEC has posed a bigger challenge to the Indo-US global ambitions. Suffering from nervousness and anxiety, both have stepped up the covert and hybrid wars as well as water war to internationally isolate Pakistan, destroy its economy, cow it down and make it a compliant state.

While Pakistan today finds itself in a precarious situation due to massive debt burden, penurious economy, and disturbed geo-political environments, the situation of US is equally upsetting. In 2001, the Americans had fully backed George W. Bush’s Afghan adventure.

Today the Americans are wary of the war and want an end to the futile 17-year war. Trump’s Afghan policy and other erratic decisions are being severely criticized and he faces impeachment, while his wife has separated.

The US is badly stuck in the quagmires of Afghanistan and Syria, it is faced with Ukraine crisis, it has locked horns with Russia, China, Mexico, North Korea, Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan and there are vibrations in US-EU/NATO relations. Trump’s bullying tactics are not working and anti-Americanism is scaling new heights and so is defiance by the targeted countries.

Of all its problems, Afghanistan is the worst. The US military stationed in Afghanistan together with ANSF made a last ditch effort to emasculate the power of Taliban by using excessive force and then force them to negotiate a political settlement on its terms. Except for causing high civilian casualties, it failed to even slow down the Taliban offensive what to talk of defeating them.

The Taliban enjoy a distinct edge over their opponents and their recent assault of Ghazni has rattled Resolute Support Group (RSG) and the unity government whose writ has got confined to Kabul. It has started cracking as was seen by the resignation and reshuffle of top appointment holders in Kabul.

The attack in Ghazni has brought to light the vulnerability of Afghan security forces (ANSF) whose casualty rate as well as the desertion rate is very high. According to the third quarterly report by SIGAR released on July 30, 2018, the ANSF lost 8,500 personnel from April 2017 to April 2018. They are no match to the Taliban in combat and lack fighting spirit and remain wholly dependent upon American close air support. In Ghazni, the American Air Force conducted 32 airstrikes killing 220 Taliban fighters. The day RSG exits, ANSF will crumble.

Taliban are in no mood to call off their offensive since they want to have second round of direct talks with the US officials from a position of strength. Diplomatically, they are winning friends. Russia invited them for an international peace conference in Moscow. Besides Russia, Iran is also supporting them because of the Daesh factor.

According to research conducted by the BBC, Taliban presently threaten 70 percent of Afghanistan. Another independent website ‘The Long War Journal’ says that Taliban out rightly control 47 districts, while the control of 198 districts is contested between the Afghan government and the Taliban fighters.

The morale of US/NATO troops stationed in eight military bases in Afghanistan is low and they have no heart to take part in ground operations. There have been largescale suicides and post stress disorders cases.

What has depressed the US leadership is that Afghanistan is slipping out of their hands where an amount of $1.3 trillion has been sunk. In 2012-13, when the troop level of USA was 100,000, the expenditure incurred was $100 billion annually. Expenditure incurred on 16000 strong RSG is $13 billion, while $5 billion is spent on ANSF and $78 crores on development.

Despite spending so much and losing 2372 soldiers, the US could neither defeat the Taliban nor achieve any of its objectives. The US had to eat a humble pie by finally agreeing to the demand of the Taliban to hold direct talks with them and not through the unity government.

Pakistan military with meagre resources and against all odds has successfully fought the foreign paid terrorist groups numbering over 60, smashed their network and flushed them out and restored the writ of the government in all parts of the country. The integrity and sovereignty of the state and strategic assets are in safe hands. Pakistan is the only country which has achieved laudable results against terrorism.

The US wants to ditch Pakistan but cannot since the air and land routes through Pakistan are vital for the US military to stay in Afghanistan or to exit. What it wants from Pakistan is to either fight the HN and Afghan Taliban, or else bring them to the negotiating table.

The first demand has been rejected by Pakistan saying it cannot fight others war. The second request merits consideration provided the US gives a guarantee that like in the past, it will not scuttle peace-talks midway and give peace a chance.

Unlike Pakistan, China and Russia desiring peace, the US, India, and the Afghan puppet regime are anti-peace since continuation of war fetches them strategic gains. The security contractors, drug barons, smugglers and businessmen are interested in material profits. Peace in Afghanistan would mean the fall of unity government and exit of US and India.

Open war against Pakistan is no more an option for the US and its allies due to nuclear factor, robust armed forces that are second to none, and unmatched resilience of the people. Even the option of covert operations in which the adversaries had kept Pakistan fully embroiled for the last 17 years is getting untenable.

All the known terrorist groups are now based in Afghanistan and their infiltration will get impeded after the completion of fencing of the western border. Operation Raddul Fasaad is netting the handlers, facilitators and financiers of the terrorists. Decision to expedite sending 2.7 million Afghan refugees back to Afghanistan will cause a big setback to RAW and NDS since the duo had been exploiting a segment among them for fomenting terrorism in Pakistan.

The other worrying development for the US is the Bajwa doctrine, which disregards the US dictates that are against national interests, and asks the US and its allies engaged in counter terrorism to do more to put their own house in order. It is this defiance which has flustered and angered Trump regime filled with hawks.

Series of economic related punitive steps undertaken by fuming USA are intended to create grave economic crisis in Pakistan. IK has added to the woes of Trump administration by stating that 

Pakistan will be an ally of USA for peace and not for war since both Pakistan and Afghanistan have suffered grievously in this insane war.

A message given to the American visitors that Pakistan would like to maintain friendly relations with USA based on mutual trust, respect and benefit must not be to their liking. Foreign Minister Qureshi has made it clear that while the concerns of the visitors will be listened to, the security concerns of Pakistan will also be put forward.

Landmark visit of PM IK to GHQ and his meeting with Gen Bajwa on Sept 3 has removed all the irritants in civil-military relations and brought the two on one page. This kind of a rapport between the two top power centres was never seen before.

It has strengthened the hands of Qureshi to deal with the visitors boldly and to inform them forthrightly that the policy pursued by the US in the aftermath of 9/11 is highly discriminatory, unjust and flawed, which needs correction to make it even based.

They must be politely but firmly asked as to why Pakistan is being singled out for ridicule and whips, and why all the plaudits and rewards for India and Afghanistan, while hypocritically calling Pakistan an ally? Highly discriminatory policy of the US has compelled Pakistan to look for other venues and gravitate towards China-Russia-SCO axis. Turkey and Iran too are shifting towards the East and so is the global pivot of geo-economics.

Frankly speaking, we ourselves are to be blamed for making Pakistan a whipping boy by adopting a self-defeating policy of appeasement and encouraging the US to take Pakistan for granted. Instead of strongly rebutting the false allegations, our leaders remained in a defensive, apologetic and reactive mode. In our bid to keep USA and India in good humor, we failed to build a counter narrative to defeat the fake narrative of our adversaries.

Neither the civil nor the military leaders picked up courage to adopt a proactive foreign policy and pursue aggressive diplomacy and effective media war to impress upon the world community that Pakistan is the only country which has achieved spectacular results in the war on terror and has rendered much more sacrifices than any other country but is being censured and pressured by the losers and real perpetrators of terrorism.

Our timidity and spinelessness has emboldened the US to make Pakistan a convenient scapegoat to hide its failures in Afghanistan. This faulty policy must be reversed and dignity of the nation restored by the builders of Naya Pakistan.

The writer is a retired Brig, war veteran, defence analyst, columnist, author of five books, Vice Chairman Thinkers Forum Pakistan, Director Measac Research Centre, Member Council PESS and TJP. asifharoonraja@gmail.com

Brig Asif H. Raja

Brig Asif Haroon Raja an Member Board of Advisors Opinion Maker is Staff College and Armed Forces WarCoursequalified, holds MSc war studies degree; a second generation officer, he fought epic battle of Hilli in northwest East Bengal during 1971 war, in which Maj M. Akram received Nishan-e-Haider posthumously.

He served as Directing Staff Command & Staff College, Defence Attaché Egypt and Sudan and Dean of Corps of Military Attaches in Cairo. He commanded the heaviest brigade in Kashmir. He is lingual and speaks English, Pashto and Punjabi fluently.

He is author of books titled ‘Battle of Hilli’, ‘1948, 1965 & 1971 Kashmir Battles and Freedom Struggle’, ‘Muhammad bin Qasim to Gen Musharraf’, Roots of 1971 Tragedy’; has written number of motivational pamphlets. Draft of his next book ‘Tangled Knot of Kashmir’ is ready.

He is a defence analyst and columnist and writes articles on security, defence and political matters for numerous international/national publications.

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