How US Media Misrepresent the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s Laboratories and Safety Protocols

September 15th, 2021

By Joshua Cho

Source

Lab Leak Media Feature photo
Even if we were to accept all the accusations against the WIV regarding their alleged subpar safety standards, none of it has any relevance to the Covid-19 pandemic unless it can be shown the WIV possessed SARS-CoV-2 in its lab before the outbreak, and there is no evidence of that.

WUHAN, CHINA — While many people have already criticized the lack of evidence and scientific basis for the hypothesis that the Covid-19 pandemic originated from a laboratory, both critics and proponents of the lab-leak theory appear to have uncritically accepted false or unproven premises regarding work done at the laboratory most often implicated in these speculations, the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV).

Some of the most prominent accusations pointed at the WIV are that it was conducting research as part of China’s alleged biowarfare program, and was conducting its experiments in substandard biosafety conditions. The implication is that if the WIV lied about not having SARS-CoV-2 before the outbreak, the virus would also be more likely to have originated from there owing to their inadequate biosafety standards. However, after investigating these widely circulated claims and contacting several scientists, it turns out there is actually little evidence for any of these allegations.

State Department cable a ‘nothing burger’

The claim that the WIV was conducting its experiments in substandard or unsafe working conditions started gaining mainstream acceptance when Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin published an op-ed based on redacted State Department cables from 2018. Rogin claimed that the redacted cables were evidence of “safety issues” at the WIV:

Two years before the novel coronavirus pandemic upended the world, U.S. Embassy officials visited a Chinese research facility in the city of Wuhan several times and sent two official warnings back to Washington about inadequate safety at the lab, which was conducting risky studies on coronaviruses from bats.

What the U.S. officials learned during their visits concerned them so much that they dispatched two diplomatic cables categorized as Sensitive But Unclassified back to Washington. The cables warned about safety and management weaknesses at the WIV lab and proposed more attention and help. The first cable, which I obtained, also warns that the lab’s work on bat coronaviruses and their potential human transmission represented a risk of a new SARS-like pandemic.

Certainly, when reading Rogin’s contrived interpretations of the cables, it’s understandable why these characterizations of the WIV’s biosafety standards would create a sense of mass panic and hysteria among people unfamiliar with laboratory work. However, around the time of publication, Rogin’s opinion piece was already criticized by experts like virologist Angela Rasmussen at the University of Saskatchewan, who tweeted that Rogin’s claims were not only “extremely vague” — with the portions of the cables cited not demonstrating a “clear and specific risk” — but also highly inaccurate.

The sections Rogin cites from the January 19, 2018 cable are:

During interactions with scientists at the WIV laboratory, they noted the new lab has a serious shortage of appropriately trained technicians and investigators needed to safely operate this high-containment laboratory…

Most importantly, the researchers also showed that various SARS-like coronaviruses can interact with ACE2, the human receptor identified for SARS-coronavirus. This finding strongly suggests that SARS-like coronaviruses from bats can be transmitted to humans to cause SARS-like diseases. From a public health perspective, this makes the continued surveillance of SARS-like coronaviruses in bats and study of the animal-human interface critical to future emerging coronavirus outbreak prediction and prevention.

Rasmussen pointed out the main takeaway is that the cables conclude “it’s important to continue working on bat CoVs because of their potential as human pathogens,” and that it “doesn’t suggest that there were safety issues specifically relating to WIV’s work on bat CoVs capable of using human ACE2 as a receptor.” Other critics at the time argued that if Rogin truly believed the State Department cable was as damning for Beijing as he claimed it was, there was little reason for him to refuse to release its full contents in his op-ed upon publication, or when people voiced their skepticism of his presentation of it afterward.


Rasmussen later remarked that the full cable is a “big old nothing burger,” because it doesn’t actually raise any concerns with the WIV’s work. Rather, the cable showed how the WIV “wanted to ensure staff working with dangerous pathogens were trained so they could do so safely.” This would explain why the cable requested further aid and training for the lab’s projects and personnel, instead of trying to cancel them.

The Post also pointed out that the lack of trained personnel is not a problem unique to the WIV, as it cited Rob Grenfell, the director of health and biosecurity at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (an Australian government biomedical research agency), saying “All [such] facilities around the world face this challenge.”

No proof WIV’s BSL-4 lab involved with bioweapons research

As confirmed by the release of the full cable, the “new lab” mentioned is the WIV’s BSL-4 laboratory (the highest biosafety level), which first opened in 2018. Many irrelevant speculations have surrounded this BSL-4 facility, as it deals with the most dangerous pathogens, like smallpox and SARS-CoV-1, that cannot be handled at lower biosafety levels.

Journalist Sam Husseini, one of the biggest promoters of the laboratory origin hypothesis, has recounted his suspicions regarding the possibility of the SARS-CoV-2 virus originating from the WIV’s BSL-4 laboratory when he asked a CDC representative about the facility:

I asked if it was a “complete coincidence” that the pandemic had started in Wuhan, the only place in China with a declared biosafety level 4 (BSL4) laboratory. BSL4 laboratories have the most stringent safety mechanisms, but handle the most deadly pathogens.

Husseini goes as far as to insinuate that the mere existence of a BSL-4 laboratory is evidence of China’s biowarfare program, largely based on his assertion that the concepts of “biodefense” and “biowarfare” are “largely indistinguishable:”

“Biodefense” implies tacit biowarfare, breeding more dangerous pathogens for the alleged purpose of finding a way to fight them….

The U.S. and China each have dual-use biowarfare/biodefense programs. China has major facilities at Wuhan — a biosafety level 4 lab and a biosafety level 2 lab. There are leaks from labs.

The talking point that the distinction between concepts like “biowarfare” and “biodefense” is merely a “rhetorical sleight of hand” is a popular assertion among journalists promoting the lab-leak theory’s legitimacy, as journalist Glenn Greenwald also claimed something similar:

But ultimately, that distinction barely matters. For both offensive and defensive bioweapons research, scientists must create, cultivate, manipulate and store non-natural viruses or infectious bacteria in their labs, whether to study them for weaponization or for vaccines.

These claims by journalists with no formal science background struck me as far-fetched, so I contacted microbiologist Stanley Perlman at the University of Iowa, virologist Stephen Goldstein at the University of Utah, and virologist James Duehr at the University of Pittsburgh, to check these assertions. Both Perlman and Goldstein simply rejected the assertion that “biowarfare” and “biodefense” are “largely indistinguishable” concepts, with Perlman stating that the claim “doesn’t make sense.” Duehr responded:

Saying that there is no difference between “biodefense” and “biowarfare” is like saying there is no difference between developing bullet-proof vests and armor-piercing bullets. Sure, knowing how one works helps you develop better versions of the other, but conflating them is really missing the point.”

Australian virologist Danielle Anderson, the only foreign scientist to work in the WIV’s BSL-4 laboratory until November 2019, has attested that claiming “the Wuhan Institute of Virology as ‘one of only two bioweapons research labs in all of China’ is simply false,” undermining Husseini’s claim that the WIV’s BSL-4 lab is evidence of China’s alleged dual-use “biowarfare” program. Critics of Husseini’s allegation that the WIV is engaged in “biowarfare” research — one being Claudia Chaufan, director of the graduate program of health policy at York University — have punctured his logic on several grounds. Chaufan stated:

That linguistic sleight of hand in particular, the equivalence of biowarfare and biodefense, is factually not true, and is certainly not true in one very obvious way regarding the Wuhan lab: If there were a biowarfare arms race happening around the world, the countries putatively at war with each other — the U.S. and China — would not share or allow access to their labs to a competitor state, collaborate, or exchange their research and researchers.

But the fact is the U.S. was given wide access to the Wuhan Labs — not just scientists but also U.S. State Department functionaries — as were French scientists.  The Wuhan lab solicited U.S. aid and funding. (Husseini seems to believe that biowarfare labs openly solicit funding from other countries). Scientists in the U.S. and China collaborated and worked together collegially, trained each other, shared information, published papers and still maintain some relations.”

A view of the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s P4 lab after a visit by a WHO team on Feb. 3, 2021. Ng Han Guan | AP

It is true that the WIV has carried out unspecified classified research projects, and has heightened secrecy due to the inherent national security risks of handling dangerous pathogens. However, it’s also true that initial reports explained why WIV officials claimed that “transparency is the basis” for the BSL-4 lab, and why the WIV frequently collaborates with foreign scientists and openly publishes its research — further undermining the allegation that bioweapons research is being conducted there. According to the scientific journal Nature, when the BSL-4 lab was getting cleared to operate:

It will focus on the control of emerging diseases, store purified viruses and act as a World Health Organization ‘reference laboratory’ linked to similar labs around the world. “It will be a key node in the global biosafety-lab network,” says lab director Yuan Zhiming…

The opportunities for international collaboration, meanwhile, will aid the genetic analysis and epidemiology of emergent diseases.

The preventive (rather than militaristic) nature of the WIV’s research is also corroborated by the judgments of U.S. diplomats in the Post’s unredacted State Department cable when it described how the 2002-03 SARS outbreak “convinced China to prioritize international cooperation for infectious disease control:”

This state-of-the-art facility is designed for prevention and control research on diseases that require the highest level of biosafety and biosecurity containment.

WIV’s biosafety practices not substandard

For the sake of argument, even if one grants the unproven premise that the WIV’s BSL-4 lab was engaged in bioweapons research, it is still irrelevant to the question of whether SARS-CoV-2 originated there, since the WIV doesn’t conduct coronavirus research at a BSL-4 setting. Most coronavirus research around the world is conducted at BSL-2 and BSL-3 settings.

This demonstrates that those who suspect the pandemic originated from the WIV’s BSL-4 lab don’t seem to be aware of basic information about coronavirus research. Some notable examples are people like novelist Nicholson Baker citing Husseini’s suspicions of the WIV’s BSL-4 facility in a lengthy speculative piece for New York Magazine. Others include Josh Rogin citing similarly ignorant anonymous Trump administration officials to imply that the irrelevant State Department cable is “evidence” that supports “the possibility that the pandemic is the result of a lab accident in Wuhan.”

However, lab-leak proponents like disgraced science writer Nicholas Wade — who penned an influential Medium blog post that was later reprinted by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists — are also fond of moving the goalposts to argue their evidence-free conspiracy theory. Wade cites Rogin’s long-debunked and irrelevant op-ed to claim that the BSL-4 lab’s “state of readiness considerably alarmed the State Department inspectors who visited it from the Beijing embassy in 2018,” before going on to make an entirely separate argument that the WIV’s biosafety standards were substandard and amounted to professional malpractice:

The real problem, however, was not the unsafe state of the Wuhan BSL4 lab but the fact that virologists worldwide don’t like working in BSL4 conditions…. 

Before 2020, the rules followed by virologists in China and elsewhere required that experiments with the SARS1 and MERS viruses be conducted in BSL3 conditions. But all other bat coronaviruses could be studied in BSL2, the next level down. BSL2 requires taking fairly minimal safety precautions, such as wearing lab coats and gloves, not sucking up liquids in a pipette, and putting up biohazard warning signs. Yet a gain-of-function experiment [wherein a pathogen is reasonably anticipated to gain enhanced virulence and/or transmissibility] conducted in BSL2 might produce an agent more infectious than either SARS1 or MERS. And if it did, then lab workers would stand a high chance of infection, especially if unvaccinated.

Wade briefly explained biosafety levels to readers before taking a quote from Dr. Shi Zhengli — the renowned virologist at the WIV — out of context to maximize the impression that the WIV’s biosafety standards were unprofessional:

There are four degrees of safety, designated BSL1 to BSL4, with BSL4 being the most restrictive and designed for deadly pathogens like the Ebola virus….

Much of Shi’s work on gain-of-function in coronaviruses was performed at the BSL2 safety level, as is stated in her publications and other documents. She has said in an interview with Science magazine that “[t]he coronavirus research in our laboratory is conducted in BSL-2 or BSL-3 laboratories.”

Dr. Shi Zhengli
Researcher Dr. Shi Zhengli is pictured carrying out research at a lab in the Wuhan Institute of Virolog, Feb. 23, 2017. Photo | Chinatopix via AP

Wade also seemed comfortable parroting molecular biologist Richard Ebright’s heavily disputed claim that BSL-2 conditions are about as safe as a “dentist’s office,” which has been uncritically parroted in other reports as well:

“It is clear that some or all of this work was being performed using a biosafety standard  —  biosafety level 2, the biosafety level of a standard U.S. dentist’s office  — that would pose an unacceptably high risk of infection of laboratory staff upon contact with a virus having the transmission properties of SARS-CoV-2,” Ebright says.

Although Wade provides the link to the Science interview, he omits crucial context that dramatically changes the impression of Shi’s answer and the professionalism of the WIV’s work. When one actually reads the interview, one quickly discovers that the interviewer takes it for granted that most coronavirus research is actually conducted in BSL-2 and BSL-3 settings:

Q: Given that coronavirus research in most places is done in BSL-2 or BSL-3 Labs — and indeed, your WIV didn’t even have an operational BSL-4 until recently — why would you do any coronavirus experiments under BSL-4 conditions?

University of Utah virologist Goldstein also explained why likening a BSL-2 lab to a dentist’s office is a “ridiculous comparison:”

In BSL2, experiments are conducted inside a class II biosafety cabinet. These have negative pressure, so air circulates within the cabinet but doesn’t escape, and the air is HEPA filtered as it circulates inside the cabinet. A dentist’s office has none of these critical safety controls.”

This helps prevent aerosol droplets or splashes of samples (like viruses) from traveling around inside the air of the cabinet — though one can simply see for oneself how a biosafety cabinet works, and the proper precautions scientists follow while using it, to confirm how it differs from a mere “dentist’s office.”

Wade actually provides yet another damning instance of misrepresenting sources — consistent with his history of misrepresenting scientists — when he critiques an influential Nature letter ( he mischaracterizes it as a mere “opinion piece,” instead of being a short report on original research for “an outstanding finding”), which corroborates the opposite of what Wade claims in his blog post. The Nature letter in question is a study by a group of virologists led by Kristian Andersen, and it states that the “possibility of an inadvertent laboratory release of SARS-CoV-2” must be examined because SARS-like viruses (not SARS-CoV-1) found in bats are often studied at BSL-2 settings:

Basic research involving passage of bat SARS-CoV-like coronaviruses in cell culture and/or animal models has been ongoing for many years in biosafety level 2 laboratories across the world, and there are documented instances of laboratory escapes of SARS-CoV.

The authors later concluded that they “do not believe any type of laboratory-based scenario is plausible,” and the statements above undermine Wade’s depiction of the WIV’s professionalism.

When I asked Dr. Goldstein and Dr. Perlman (who both research coronaviruses) to confirm this information, they each agreed that most coronavirus research is done at BSL-2 and BSL-3 laboratories and that there’s nothing unusual about Chinese scientists also doing coronavirus research in those settings. Goldstein declined to specifically comment on the quality of the WIV because he has never visited, and Perlman suggested that some scientists were concerned about experiments with bat viruses being performed at BSL-2 settings, even if they were “all done following the precautions used at the time.”

However, Dr. Rasmussen clarified in a tweet that “many labs studied bat CoVs at BSL2 pre-Covid,” and that “there is no evidence that lab work was occurring with substandard containment,” further corroborating the claim in the Nature study, though she seemed to suggest that the practice “should be revisited.” Dr. Duehr also explained that “more biosafety controls are not always better,” and that “too many biosafety controls can also be dangerous,” because that can lead scientists to become fatigued and careless, as how scientists put on and take off gear are some of the most important moments in biosafety. This is why scientists use the appropriate amount of biosafety controls, rather than pointlessly using the most restrictive equipment for every experiment.

Experiments with bat viruses in BSL-2 labs

MIT’s Technology Review article “Inside the Risky Bat-Virus Engineering That Links America to Wuhan” cited a few scientists critical of the WIV conducting similar experiments to the heavily scrutinized 2015 Nature study, led by virologist Ralph Baric (which has frequently been misrepresented as “gain-of-function” research), at a lower biosafety setting than the ones conducted at the University of North Carolina:

The Chinese work was carried out at biosafety level 2 (BSL-2), a much lower tier than Baric’s BSL-3+….

Today a chorus of scientists, including Baric, are coming forward to say this was a misstep. Even if there is no link to Covid-19, allowing work on potentially dangerous bat viruses at BSL-2 is “an actual scandal,” says Michael Lin, a bioengineer at Stanford University.

In response to the news that the WIV conducted more experiments with bat virus WIV1 at the BSL-2 level in another study published in 2017, Technology Review cited criticisms from other virologists like Ian Lipkin:

“That’s screwed up,” the Columbia University virologist Ian Lipkin, who co-authored the seminal paper arguing that covid must have had a natural origin, told the journalist Donald McNeil Jr. “It shouldn’t have happened. People should not be looking at bat viruses in BSL-2 labs. My view has changed.”

However, Dr. Duehr explained to me that the U.S. CDC’s own Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories manual states that viruses related to “Risk Group 3” pathogens (the kinds typically handled at BSL-3), which lack the virulence in humans that the BSL-3 viruses have, can often be safely handled in BSL-2 or BSL-2+ settings (p. 307).

CDC’s Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories manual
Page 307 of the CDC’s Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories manual

This is precisely Dr. Shi’s explanation given to Technology Review for conducting experiments with the WIV1 virus in a BSL-2 lab:

In an email, Zhengli Shi said she followed Chinese rules that are similar to those in the U.S. Safety requirements are based on what virus you are studying. Since bat viruses like WIV1 haven’t been confirmed to cause disease in human beings, her biosafety committee recommended BSL-2 for engineering them and testing them and BSL-3 for any animal experiments.

Duehr also explained that the SARS-like bat viruses used in the Baric study appear to have previously infected humans, but that those persons didn’t recall any symptoms or worrisome illnesses. Given that data, it was reasonable to infer that any infection was likely either asymptomatic or extremely mild, so a similar rationale would explain why scientists inferred these viruses were less virulent and could be handled at a lower biosafety level. Duehr expressed agreement with Dr. Rasmussen’s statement that the scientific community should reconsider the practice of conducting experiments with bat coronaviruses that haven’t been shown to be virulent in humans in BSL-2 laboratories, but also stated that we “should not fault researchers at the WIV for doing what was common practice all around the world at the time.”

Intercept’s reporting is actually evidence against a lab leak

Two recent reports on a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to the EcoHealth Alliance — detailing research by the WIV, following FOIA litigation by The Intercept — were misleadingly presented as “new evidence” that U.S.-funded experiments in China “posed biosafety risks” and constituted “high-risk research.” However, it is unclear whether Intercept journalists Sharon Lerner and Mara Hvistendahl understood the significance of the documents they obtained.

Soon after the publication of the first report, Dr. Goldstein argued that The Intercept actually provided evidence against a lab leak because they further confirmed what we have already known since the beginning of the pandemic: that the WIV was only working on “SARS1-like viruses,” with “not a hint of experimental work” on viruses related to SARS-CoV-2.

Virologist Stuart Neil stated on Twitter that there’s “absolutely nothing new here” apart from “disabusing everyone of the notion that animal experiments were carried out at BSL2” because they were carried out in a BSL3 animal facility at the Wuhan University Center for Animal Experiment, and not at the WIV as was previously assumed, which is “entirely appropriate for this work and should provide more than adequate containment.” Dr. Duehr added that the grant also shows us that WIV scientists were doing animal work with SARS-like bat coronaviruses at BSL-3 (not SARS-CoV-1 or 2) (p. 126), which is also how American scientists would handle these bat viruses.

The Intercept also credulously cites biologist and prominent lab-leak booster Alina Chan’s fearmongering and irrelevant speculations that WIV researchers potentially getting bitten by a bat during fieldwork could have led to the pandemic, citing a risk assessment of some of the WIV’s fieldwork:

The grant proposal acknowledges some of those dangers: “Fieldwork involves the highest risk of exposure to SARS or other CoVs, while working in caves with high bat density overhead and the potential for fecal dust to be inhaled.”

Alina Chan, a molecular biologist at the Broad Institute, said the documents show that EcoHealth Alliance has reason to take the lab-leak theory seriously. “In this proposal, they actually point out that they know how risky this work is. They keep talking about people potentially getting bitten — and they kept records of everyone who got bitten,” Chan said. “Does EcoHealth have those records? And if not, how can they possibly rule out a research-related accident?

However, it would actually be more worrisome if there were no risk assessments for fieldwork to cite at all. Dr. Neil ridiculed Dr. Chan on Twitter for criticizing scientists for writing “a proper risk assessment” for fieldwork “after all the accusations of unsafe working.” Dr. Perlman stated that scientists “have to write risk assessments for their work” in order to get funded and that it was “the right thing to do.”

But perhaps more importantly, citing Dr. Chan’s speculations about the pandemic originating from a bat bite is proof that neither she nor The Intercept’s journalists are aware of basic information about SARS-CoV-2 being a respiratory virus.

In order for that scenario to have any basis, SARS-CoV-2 would also have to be a bloodborne pathogen because the virus from an infected animal bite would pierce the skin and enter the bloodstream, but there is no evidence of SARS-CoV-2 being a bloodborne pathogen. Dr. Rasmussen pointed out that there is no known case of anyone contracting a sarbecovirus like SARS-CoV-1 and SARS-CoV-2 from an animal bite, and that while it is “theoretically possible,” it does not actually happen in real life because, as the FDA’s own website confirms, respiratory viruses generally aren’t known to spread via blood-mediated transmission. Dr. Perlman agreed with Rasmussen’s statements and told me that if he were bitten by a bat during fieldwork, he’d “worry about rabies,” not SARS-CoV-2.

It’s also unclear why Dr. Chan is still repeating her baseless claims when Dr. Rasmussen had already criticized her “inexperience with virology” for speculating that it’s “plausible” for humans to be infected by a mouse-adapted strain of coronavirus if lab workers were bitten by mice back in January.

Perhaps The Intercept would not have presented their documents in a way that promotes the lab-leak theory despite it being evidence of the opposite, or published Dr. Chan’s embarrassing speculations, had they sought out other scientists who could have helped them understand their material. But the only scientists asked to opine on the significance of their documents in their bad-faith report were lab-leak boosters like Richard Ebright and Alina Chan.

second Intercept article cited virologist Jesse Bloom’s opinion that the WIV “creating chimeras of SARS-related bat coronaviruses that are thought to pose high risk to humans entails unacceptable risks.” However, the virus being discussed in the article is WIV1, which hasn’t been shown to cause disease in humans, which is why Dr. Perlman stated that he thinks it’s “not a risk” to study it and that some of the titles of Dr. Baric’s papers on the virus, like “SARS-like WIV1-CoV poised for human emergence,” may have given the “misleading impression” that it was. Dr. Duehr also agreed that it isn’t a risk to study a SARS-like virus like WIV1, and told me:

The chimeric experiments that Bloom says we should not be doing, are how we find out whether it would pose a risk to humans. He’s assuming that we know the virus is high risk before doing them.”

Dr. Rasmussen disagreed with Dr. Bloom’s personal assessment of the WIV1 experiments and questioned why he thinks he should be the sole arbiter of whether the experiments posed an “unacceptable risk,” when the WIV’s work is subject to external oversight (which is how it was FOIA-ed), and showed that WIV scientists aren’t reckless and don’t singlehandedly decide what is an acceptable risk or not.

Judgments of scientists directly familiar with the WIV

Arguably, the opinions of scientists and biosecurity experts directly familiar with the WIV’s safety protocols should count more than others. And they paint a very different picture from the one painted by the critics, and argue that reports insinuating that the laboratory was operating under subpar safety conditions are misrepresentations.

French biosecurity expert Gabriel Gras — who oversaw safety standards at the WIV from 2012 to 2017, since the WIV’s BSL-4 laboratory is a joint collaboration between China and France — dismissed the lab-leak theory and vouched for the WIV’s professionalism and safety standards. He also stated that a BSL-3 laboratory is usually used to study a coronavirus, as it made little sense to use BSL-4 facilities owing to the time and cost considerations. Dr. Danielle Anderson testified that the WIV was being misrepresented by critics and the media:

Half-truths and distorted information have obscured an accurate accounting of the lab’s functions and activities, which were more routine than how they’ve been portrayed in the media. …It’s not that it was boring, but it was a regular lab that worked in the same way as any other high-containment lab. What people are saying is just not how it is.”

American scientists who trained WIV staff attested that the safety protocols at the WIV are not only practiced by scientists all over the world, but that those safety protocols and practices were partly shaped by WIV scientists themselves, owing to their excellence. Some of the safety protocols include wearing safety equipment to prevent themselves from getting infected while doing field work, and making sure that the samples they handle in the lab are “inactivated,” and aren’t actually infectious, by using a chemical process that breaks apart the virus itself, while preserving its genetic material for study.

But even if we were to accept all the accusations against the WIV regarding their alleged subpar safety standards, none of it has any relevance to the Covid-19 pandemic unless it can be shown the WIV possessed SARS-CoV-2 in its lab before the outbreak, and there is no evidence of that either.

In hindsight, it seems there may be a legitimate debate to be had over whether certain experiments conducted at the WIV should have been handled at higher biosafety settings, even if they weren’t out of the ordinary. However, it’s clear that accusations of the WIV being a nefarious bioweapons lab conducting research in subpar safety conditions compared to the rest of the world at the time are misleading at best, and at worst unproven or false.

Anti-China US/UK/Australia Axis of Evil

The Stephen Lendman Blog

Both wings of the US war party target all nations free from their control for regime change — forever wars by hot and/or other means their favored tactics.

China is hegemon USA’s target No. One — for its growing political, economic and technological prominence on the world stage, not for any national security threat its leadership poses.

While preemptive US war on the country is extremely unlikely, it’s possible by accident or design — given how often its ruling class chooses this option.

Its risk increased by a newly formed anti-China axis of evil.

On Wednesday, the Biden regime and imperial UK/Australian partners announced what they called a “historic” security alliance (sic).

Unrelated to the security of their nations — facing no threats from others, just invented ones — newly formed “Aukus” is all about challenging China in a part of the world where hegemon USA and Britain don’t belong.

View original post 671 more words

Fake News on Invented US Enemies: Focus on Russia

The Stephen Lendman Blog

Virtually all nations free from US control prioritize world peace, stability, cooperative relations with other countries and compliance with international law.

At peace with their neighbors and other countries, their foreign policy is polar opposite how hegemon USA and its imperial co-conspirators operate.

Ahead of Russia’s lower house State Duma elections — to conclude on Sunday — the Washington Post recited its customary litany of bald-faced Big Lies about the country and Vladimir Putin.

It lied claiming “the deck (was) stack(ed) for Putin (sic).”

It lied accusing Russia of running “fake candidates and jailing opposition figures (sic).”

Last month, Putin expressed “hope that the United Russia (party) will maintain its position and have an opportunity at the legislative level to take relevant decisions in the interests of the country,” adding:

“The party’s program is an important, fundamental document.”

“It is a living document that must respond to what is happening…

View original post 523 more words

Iran – New Member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization

Iran – New Member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization

September 18, 2021

Peter Koenig and PressTV

On 17 September 2021 Iran has become a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). It is an extraordinary achievement and new beginning for US and wester sanction-badgered Iran. On the occasion PressTV interviewed me on what this great move might bring for Iran. See the transcript below.

PressTV Question:

1.       Iran is finally a member of the SCO. It is said this solidifies a block to stand up to the West and US hegemony: will it be able to do that, and is the era of unilateralism over?

PK Reply:

First, my deepest and heartfelt congratulations for this extraordinary event – Iran the latest member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization – SCO.
Bravo!

Yes, this will definitely open new doors, prosperous doors with new relations in the East. SCO with the current membership covers close to 50% of the world population and accounts for about one third of the world’s GDP.

Being a member of this organization, will take a lot of pressure away in terms of western sanctions, western impositions, monetary manipulations via the US dollar as a remedy for payment.
No more.

Iran is now free to deal in her own currency and in Yuan as well as in any currency of the SCO members, because western-type trade currency restrictions do not exist in SCO member countries.

This will drastically reduce the potential for US / western sanctions and will increase on the other hand, Iran’s potential to deal with the East, i.e., especially China and Russia; entering partnership agreements with these and other SCO countries, benefitting from comparative advantages. It may open-up a new socio-economic era for Iran.

Also, in terms of defense strategy – although SCO is not a military defense organization per se, but it offers strategic defense assistance and advice – and as such is a solidifying force for member countries.
SCO also respects countries’ autonomy and sovereignty – and facilitates trade arrangements between member countries.

Having said this, Iran must not lose sight of potentially disrupting internal factors, like the so-called Fifth Columnists – those who will keep pulling towards the west, and they are particularly dangerous as infiltrates in the financial sector, Treasury, Ministry of Finance, Central Bank, and so on. They are everywhere, also in Russia and China. But internal Iranian awareness and caution will help manage the risks and eventually overwhelm it. Russia has gone along way in doing so. And so has China. And so will Iran. I’m confident.

Again, excellent momentum to celebrate. – Congratulations!

——-

2.       Iran will also be part of the different regional bodies in neighborhood regions, including Eurasia, that could spontaneously break the “sanctions wall” and lead to diversified fruitful foreign relations. Does this mean the US sanctions will not be as effective?

PK Reply

Yes, absolutely. Regional bodies and trading arrangements within Eurasia – such as The Eurasian Economic Union – EAEU – has an integrated single market of 180 million people and a GDP of some 5 trillion dollars equivalent and growing. It covers eight countries of which 3 have observer status.

Other than trading with the members of the Eurasian Economic Union, the EAEU also has trading agreements as an entity with other countries, for example with Singapore.

Then there is maybe the most important trade deal in world history, the ten ASEAN countries, plus China, as well as Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand – but not the United States. Thus, no dealings in US dollars, no potential for US sanctions. This Trade Agreement is called The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). It was signed in November 2020 on the occasion of the annual summit of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

RCEP countries have a combined GDP of US$ 26.2 trillion or about 30% of global GDP, and they account for nearly 28% of global trade (based on 2019 figures). Total population of RCEP countries is 2.3 billion, roughly 30% of the world’s inhabitants.

Negotiation of this trade deal took 8 years. The longest ever. And it will of course, take time to reach the full potential of integrating the sovereign countries economies. In contrast to the European Union, RCEP will to the utmost possible preserve each country’s sovereignty. This is important in the long-run, especially for conservation of national cultures, ideologies and national development strategies.

There maybe a good chance for Iran to negotiate early entry into the RCEP Agreement. It will definitely be a blow to US sanctions – and on the other hand a tremendous opportunity for diversification of markets, production and consumption.

Again, congratulations. Being a member of the SCO is an extraordinary achievement. As, I always say – the future is in the East.

Best of luck to Iran, with new partners and new friends.

—–
Peter Koenig is a geopolitical analyst and a former Senior Economist at the World Bank and the World Health Organization (WHO), where he has worked for over 30 years on water and environment around the world. He lectures at universities in the US, Europe and South America. He writes regularly for online journals and is the author of Implosion – An Economic Thriller about War, Environmental Destruction and Corporate Greed; and  co-author of Cynthia McKinney’s book “When China Sneezes: From the Coronavirus Lockdown to the Global Politico-Economic Crisis” (Clarity Press – November 1, 2020)

Peter Koenig is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He is also is a non-resident Sr. Fellow of the Chongyang Institute of Renmin University, Beijing.

US KEEPS ACCUSING OTHER COUNTRIES OF BEING BEHIND ENIGMATIC MICROWAVE ATTACKS

15.09.2021 

South Front

US Keeps Accusing Other Countries Of Being Behind Enigmatic Microwave Attacks

In a recent report, researchers concluded that generic symptoms are being manipulated to create a narrative about the existence of a new disease.

Written by Lucas Leiroz, research fellow in international law at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.

Washington continues to insist on the existence of a “syndrome” that affects its diplomats in Cuba and China. In addition to the complete lack of scientific evidence in the alleged cases of reported health problems, there is a strong conspiratorial content in the accusations against the Cuban and Chinese governments – which, according to US officials, are using microwave weapons to attack American and Canadian diplomats. In this debate, which confronts not only different geopolitical interests, but also science and conspiracy theories, new international tensions have arisen every day.

What has come to be commonly called the “Havana syndrome” is an alleged clinical phenomenon in which patients report symptoms such as tinnitus, nausea, and severe headaches, often resulting in critical hearing and cognitive damage. It would be almost irrelevant to public opinion if these symptoms were reported by ordinary patients, but they are mostly American and Canadian diplomats and officials based in Havana. The mysterious “disease” became worldly known in 2017, some months after the first alleged cases were reported, in the previous year. In 2018, some cases also began to be reported on Chinese soil. Last month, Kamala Harris delayed her scheduled trip to Vietnam after reports of the syndrome in the Asian country.

In a report published by the US State Department in December 2020, American investigators concluded that the “real” cause of the assumed cases of the mysterious “syndrome” that has affected diplomats in Havana and Beijing since 2016 was the action of “microwave radiation weapons”, which are supposedly being used to direct attacks against American and Canadian citizens abroad. Since then, several criticisms have been made to the report, mainly regarding the uncertainties about the investigative method used. Now, Cuba is formally responding to the accusations.

Investigators from the Cuban Academy of Sciences have recently stated that there is no evidence to support the claims made in the Washington’s report. Unlike American research, whose methods remain dubious and obscure, Havana formed a team of scientists that included neurologists, physicists, psychologists and otorhinologists to carry out the investigation.

At the end of the research, a detailed and conclusive report was prepared, being published in the “Cubadebate” newspaper, where we can read: “Neither the Cuban police, nor the FBI, nor the Royal Canadian Mounted Police have discovered evidence of ‘attacks’ on diplomats in Havana despite intense investigations… We conclude that the narrative of the ‘mysterious syndrome’ is not scientifically acceptable in any of its components (…) No known form of energy can selectively cause brain damage (with laser-like precision) under the conditions described for the alleged incidents in Havana”.

One of the main conclusions of the Cuban report is that such “syndrome” pointed out by Washington, apparently, does not refer to a single phenomenon. Symptoms such as nosebleeds, nausea, headaches, and tinnitus can be associated with different diseases of completely distinct causes. What Washington is doing is simply pointing out common symptoms as a single disease and using this narrative to make accusations against some of its main geopolitical rivals. Furthermore, the Cubans pointed out that the alleged operations with microwave radiation suggested by the Americans violate some basic laws of physics, which is why such allegations could not be considered credible.

It is also necessary to say that Cuban researchers asked Washington for access to scientific data allegedly collected that led American scientist to reach the conclusions announced in December of last year. Acting undiplomatically, Washington denied. So, if there is in fact any data that points to something different from the conclusions reached by the Cubans, the investigators simply could not access it.

It is important to remember that recently CIA Director William Burns accused Russia of being behind the enigmatic microwave attacks. Moscow called the statements “totally absurd”. However, Washington seems to be interested in investing more and more in the narrative that there are indeed planned attacks against its agents abroad, resulting in a terrible and mysterious illness.

This seems quite in keeping with the recent rise in anti-scientific accusations made by Washington against its international rivals. The narrative that Beijing developed the new coronavirus in laboratory, for example, is another sign that scientific plausibility no longer puts an end to the war of narratives that the US has declared on its opponents. By pointing to the existence of a syndrome caused by microwave attacks, the US government has come to accuse its enemy countries of possessing advanced technology of which there is no evidence of existing. Officially, a conspiracy theory is guiding part of American foreign policy and causing changes in the country’s diplomacy – such as the reduction of diplomatic staff in countries where there are cases of the “disease”, for example.

Health cannot be politicized, and science cannot be diminished in favor of political interests. It is important that the international society intervenes in the case and that the alleged syndrome is investigated in an impartial way by experts from around the world, to conclude if it is in fact a new disease emerging or if isolated cases of symptoms common to pre-existing diseases are being manipulated to generate a new political narrative.

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The Vocabulary of Neoliberal Diplomacy in Today’s New Cold War

September 13, 2021

The Vocabulary of Neoliberal Diplomacy in Today’s New Cold War

by Michael Hudson posted by permission

Mr. Soros has thrown a public sissy fit over the fact that he can’t make the kind of easy money off China that he was able to make when the Soviet Union was carved up and privatized. On September 7, 2021, in his second mainstream editorial in a week, George Soros expressed his horror at the recommendation by BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, that financial managers should triple their investment in China. Claiming that such investment would imperil U.S. national security by helping China, Mr. Soros stepped up his advocacy of U.S. financial and trade sanctions.

China’s policy of shaping markets to promote overall prosperity, instead of letting the economic surplus be concentrated in the hands of corporate and foreign investors, is an existential threat to America’s neoliberal priorities, he spells out. President Xi’s “Common Prosperity” program “seeks to reduce inequality by distributing the wealth of the rich to the general population. That does not augur well for foreign investors.”[1] To neoliberals, that is heresy.

Criticizing China’s “abrupt cancellation of a new issue by Alibaba’s Ant group in November 2020,” and “banishment of U.S.-financed tutoring companies from China,” Mr. Soros singles out Blackstone’s co-founder Stephen Schwarzman (Note that Blackstone under Schwartzman is not to be confused with BlackRock under Larry Fink) and former Goldman Sachs President John L. Thornton for seeking to make financial returns for their investors instead of treating China as an enemy state and looming Cold War adversary:

The BlackRock initiative imperils the national security interests of the U.S. and other democracies because the money invested in China will help prop up President Xi’s regime … Congress should pass legislation empowering the Securities and Exchange Commission to limit the flow of funds to China. The effort ought to enjoy bipartisan support.

The New York Times published a prominent article defining the “Biden Doctrine” as seeing “China as America’s existential competitor; Russia as a disrupter; Iran and North Korea as nuclear proliferators, cyberthreats as ever-evolving and terrorism as spreading far beyond Afghanistan.” Against these threats, the article depicts U.S. strategy as representing “democracy,” the euphemism for countries with minimal governments leaving economic planning to Wall Street financial managers, and infrastructure in the hands of private investors, not provided at subsidized prices. Nations restrict monopolies and related rent-seeking are accused of being autocratic.

The problem, of course, is that just as the United States, Germany and other nations grew into industrial powers in the 19th and 20th century by government-sponsored infrastructure, progressive taxation, and anti-monopoly legislation, the post-1980 rejection of these policies has led them into economic stagnation for the 99 Percent burdened by debt deflation and rising rentier overhead paid to the Finance, Insurance and Real Estate (FIRE) sectors. China is thriving by following precisely the policies by which the former leading industrial nations grew rich before suffering from the neoliberal financialization disease. This contrast prompts the article’s thrust, summarized in its summary of what it hopes will become a Congressionally supported Biden Doctrine of escalating a New Cold War against non-neoliberalized economies, juxtaposing U.S.-sponsored liberal-democratic imperialism against foreign socialism:

Last month, Mr. Blinken warned that China and Russia were ‘making the argument in public and in private that the United States is in decline – so it’s better to cast your lot with their authoritarian visions for the world than with our democratic one.[2]

Mr. Soros had seen the ending of the Cold War open the path for him and other foreign investors to use “shock therapy” to provide easy pickings in Russia, followed by the much broader Asian Crisis of 1997 as a grab-bag opportunity to buy up the most lucrative rent-yielding assets. He is upset that President Xi is not emulating Boris Yeltsin and letting a client kleptocracy emerge in China to carve up Russia’s economy – which made Russia’s stock market the world’s darling for a few years, 1995-97.

Right after the Asia Crisis, Bill Clinton’s administration admitted China to the World Trade Organization, giving U.S. investors and importers access to low-priced labor able to undersell U.S. industrial labor. That helped stop U.S. wage gains, while China used foreign investment as a means of upgrading its technology and labor to become economically self-reliant. It has not let its monetary system or social organization become financially dependent on “markets” functioning as vehicles for the U.S. control that Mr. Soros hoped would occur when he began investing in China.

China recognized from the beginning that its insistence on maintaining control of its economy – steering it to promote overall prosperity, not to enrich a client oligarchy fronting for a foreign investor class – would create political opposition from U.S. Cold War ideologues. China therefore sought allies from Wall Street, offering profit-making opportunities for Goldman Sachs and other investors whose self-interest has indeed led them to oppose anti-China policies.

But China’s success has creating so many billionaires that it is now moving to curtail exorbitant wealth. That policy has sharply cut prices for the leading Chinese stocks, prompting Mr. Soros to warn U.S. investors to bail out. His hope is that this will bring China to heel and reverse its policy of raising living standards at the expense of sending its economic gains to U.S. and other foreign investors.

The reality is that China does not need U.S. or other foreign money to develop. The Peoples’ Bank of China can create all the money that the domestic economy needs, while its export trade already is flooding it with dollars and pushing up its exchange rate.

John McCain characterized Russia as a gas station with atom bombs (neglecting to acknowledge that it is now the world’s largest grain exporter, no longer dependent on the West for its food supply – thanks largely to U.S.-sponsored trade sanctions). The corollary image is the United States as a financialized and monopolized economy with atom bombs and cyber threats, in danger of becoming a failed state like the old Soviet Union but threatening to bring the entire world economy down with it if other countries do not subsidize its debt-ridden New Cold War economy.

Presenting itself as the world’s leading democracy despite its financial oligarchy at home and its support of client oligarchies abroad, the United States has consolidated financial power in the wake of the 2008 junk-mortgage and bank-fraud.

Policy making and resource allocation have passed out of the hands of meaningful electoral politics into those of the Finance, Insurance and Real Estate (FIRE) sector, and what Ray McGovern has called MICIMATT the Military-Industrial-Congressional-Intelligence-Media-Academic-Think Tank complex, including the major foundations and NGOs. These institutions seek to concentrate income and wealth in the hands of a FIRE-sector oligarchy just as the Roman Senate blocked reform with veto power over popular legislation, and Europe’s upper houses of parliament such as Britain’s House of Lords used similar chokehold power to resist government control in the public interest.

The rise of U.S.-sponsored neoliberalism means that the 19th-century’s fight to free markets from predatory finance sponsoring rentier parasitism and has failed. This failure is celebrated as a victory for the rule of law, democracy, property rights and even free markets over the authority of public power to regulate private wealth-seeking. Integrating the global economy along unipolar lines enabling U.S. financial interests and those of allied NATO economies to appropriate the most profitable and highest rent-yielding assets of foreign countries is idealized as the natural evolution of civilization, not as the road to neoliberal serfdom and debt peonage embodied in what U.S. officials call the Rule of Law.

What is the Rule of Law?

The United States refuses to join the World Court, or any international organization in which it does not have veto power. And it simply withdraws from international treaties and agreements that it has signed if its vested interests believe that these no longer serve their interests. This always has been U.S. policy, from the many treaties with Native American tribes broken by Andrew Jackson and his successors down through the U.S.-Soviet agreements ending the Cold War in 1991 broken by Bill Clinton to the treaty removing sanctions on Iran broken by Donald Trump. This policy has introduced a new term into the world’s diplomatic vocabulary to describe U.S. diplomacy: non-agreement-capable.

The evangelistic neocon administration of George W. Bush , effectively run by his Vice President Dick Cheney, followed the principle that “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.” [3] To impose this reality on other countries, U.S. “intelligence” is selected, invented or censored to give the appearance of whatever reality is deemed to serve U.S. interests at any given moment of time. Past and present reality is redefined at will to provide a guide for action. Whatever U.S. diplomacy dictates is claimed to reflect the rule of law, giving the United States the right to definite what is legal and what is not when it imposes economic and military sanctions against countries that do not follow pro-American policies. The resulting dictates laying down the law are always wrapped in the rhetoric of free markets and democracy.

What is a free market?

To the classical economists, the objective of 19th-century reform was to replace the rentier class’s political power with democratic power to create state policies to either tax away land rent and other economic rent, or to take (return) land, natural resources and natural monopolies such as transportation, communications and other basic infrastructure needs to the public domain. A free market was defined as one free from economic rent – the land rent imposed by heirs of the feudal warlord landlord class, whose economic role was purely extractive, not productive. Natural resource rent was said to belong to the public domain as national patrimony, and monopoly rent was to be prevented by keeping natural monopolies in the public domain, or firmly regulating them if privatized.

The 20th century’s anti-classical reaction has inverted the concept of a free market, Orwellian Doublethink style, to create one “free” for rent-seekers to carve out free-lunch rent income. The result is a rentier economy in which land, natural resources and natural monopolies are privatized and, in due course, financialized to turn rent into a flow of interest payments to the financial sector as the economy is driven into debt to afford the rentier overhead and debt-financed asset-price inflation for rent-yielding assets.

The “freedom” of such markets is freedom from governments to tax away economic rent and regulate prices to limit rent extraction. An exponential growth of unearned rentier income and wealth in the hands of a sector diverts income away from the “real” production-and-consumption economy.

As for free trade, the United States also retains the right to impose tariffs at will (euphemized as “fair trade”) and levy fines and sanctions to prevent companies from being free to sell technology to China. The aim is to concentrate technological monopolies in U.S. hands. Any “proliferation” of technology (which is treated much like nuclear weaponry as a national security issue) is deemed to be “unfair” and antithetical to U.S. freedom to control the world’s trade and investment patterns in its own interest.

This attempt to promote “free markets” and “fair trade” is defended by U.S. claims to protect democracy against autocracy, and to intervene throughout the world to promote Free World members defined ipso facto as being democratic simply by virtue of being U.S. allies. Today’s New Cold War is all about maintaining and extending such a captive U.S.-oriented “free market” by force, from Henry Kissinger’s coup in Chile to impose Chicago-style “free markets” to Hillary Clinton’s coups in Ukraine’s Maidan and Honduras and her NATO-backed destruction of Libya and assassination of Qadhafi.

What is democracy?

Aristotle wrote that many constitutions appear superficially to be democratic, but actually are oligarchic. Democracy always had been the deceptive euphemism for oligarchy making itself into a hereditary aristocracy. Democracies tend to evolve into oligarchies as creditors expropriate debtors (the “rule of law” guaranteeing a hierarchy of “property rights” with creditor claims at the top of the legal pyramid).

The move toward democratic political reform in the late 19th and early 20th century was supposed to create rent-free markets. But the dynamics of political democracy have been managed in a way that blocks economic democracy. The very meaning of “democracy” is degraded to mean opposition to the government’s power to act against the oligarchic rentier One Percent on behalf of the 99 Percent. The resulting travesty of a democratic free market serves to block political attempts to use public power to promote the interests of the wage-earning population at large, and indeed of the industrial economy itself to avid financial asset stripping and debt deflation of markets.

In the language of international diplomacy, “democratic” has become a label for any pro-U.S. regime, from the Baltic kleptocracies to Latin America’s military dictatorships. Countries using state power to regulate monopolies or to tax rentier income are denounced as “autocratic,” even if they have elected heads of state. In this new Orwellian rhetoric of international diplomacy, Boris Yeltsin’s kleptocratic Russian regime was democratic, and the natural move to stop the corruption and depopulation was called “autocracy.”

What is autocracy and “authoritarianism”?

Foreign moves to defend against U.S. financial takeovers and sponsorship of client oligarchies are denounced as authoritarian. In the U.S. diplomatic vocabulary, “autocracy” refers to a government protecting the interests of its own population by resisting U.S. financial takeover of its natural resources, basic infrastructure and most lucrative monopolies.

All successful economie throughout history have been mixed public/private economies. The proper role of government is to protect economies from a rentier oligarchy from emerging to polarize the economy at the expense of the population at large. This protection requires keeping control of money and credit, land and natural resources, basic infrastructure and natural monopolies in the hands of governments.

It is oligarchies that are autocratic in blocking reforms to overrule their rent-seeking by keeping basic needs and infrastructure in the public domain. To confuse understanding, Rome’s oligarchy accused social reformers of “seeking kingship,” much as Greek oligarchies accused reformers of seeking “tyranny” – as if their reforms were merely for personal gain, not to promote general prosperity. The resulting Orwellian Doublethink is woven into the rhetoric of neoliberalism.

What is neoliberalism?

Neoliberalism is an exponentially expanding financial dynamic seeking to concentrate the world’s most profitable and highest rent-yielding resources in the hands of financial managers, mainly in the United State and its client oligarchies that act as proconsuls over foreign economies.

The liberal mass media, academia, and “think tank” lobbying institutions, policy foundations and NGOs sponsor the above-described rhetoric of free markets to create vehicles for capital flight, money laundering, tax evasion, deregulation and privatization (and the corruption that goes with emerging kleptocracies). Neoliberal doctrine depicts all public moves to protect general prosperity from the burden of rentier overhead as being authoritarian autocracy “interfering” with property rights.

What are property rights?

In today’s financialized economies “property rights” means the priority of creditor rights to foreclose on the housing, land and other property of debtors. (In antiquity that included the personal freedom of debtors condemned to debt bondage to their creditors.)

The World Bank has promoted such creditor-oriented property rights from the former Soviet Union to Latin American indigenous communities in order to privatize hitherto communal or public property, including land occupied by squatters or local communities. The idea is that once communal or public property is privatized as individual rights, it can be pledged as collateral for loans, and duly forfeited or sold under economic duress.

The effect is to concentrate property in the hands of the financial sector. That in turn leads inevitably to a failed austerity-ridden economy.

What is a failed economy?

Economies fail because of the rising power of vested interests, primarily in the Finance, Insurance and Real Estate (FIRE) sector that control most of the economies assets and wealth. A failed economy is one that cannot expand, usually as a result of becoming burdened by rising rentier overhead in the form of land rent, natural-resource rent and monopoly rent as the financial sector replaces democratically elected governments as central planner and resource allocator.

The FIRE sector is a symbiosis between finance and real estate, along with insurance. Its business plan involved a highly political dimension seeking to centralize control of money and credit creation in hereditary private hands, and to turn this economic rent. “free” from taxation, public collection or regulation, into a flow of interest. The effect of lending primarily to buyers of assets, which are pledged as collateral for loans, is not to create new means of production but to inflate asset prices for property already in place.

The resulting finance-capital gains have become the easiest way to acquire fortunes, which take the form of rent-extracting claims on the economy, not new means of production to support “real” economic prosperity and rising living standards.

Financialized economies are doomed to become failed states because the exponentially growing expansion path of debt accumulating at compound interest plus new credit creation and “quantitative easing” far exceeds the economy’s underlying growth rate of producing goods and services to carry this burden. These financial dynamics threaten to doom the U.S. and its satellite economies to become failed states.

The underlying question is whether Western civilization itself has become a failed civilization, given the roots of its legal system and concepts of property rights in oligarchic Rome. Rome’s polarized economy led to a Dark Age, which recovered by looting Byzantium and subsequently the East and new conquest of the New World and East and South Asia. For the past twenty years it has been China’s socialist growth that has primarily sustained Western prosperity. But this dynamic is being rejected, denounced as an existential threat precisely because it is successful socialism, not neoliberal exploitation.

In times past there always was some part of the globe to survive and carry on. But Super Decadence occurs when the whole world is being dragged down together, with no region able to resist the polarizing and impoverishing rentier dynamics imposed by the militarized imperial core. Following the U.S. lead, the West is cutting itself off from survival. Rejection of neoliberalism by China and other members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is met by U.S. trade and financial sanctions whose self-defeating effect is to drive them together to create a state regulatory system (“autocracy”) to resist dollarization, financialization and privatization. That is why they are being isolated as an existential threat to the dynamics of neoliberal rentier decadence.

The Alternative

It does not have to be this way, of course. China is defending itself not only by the productive industrial and agricultural economy its socialist government has sponsored, but by a guiding concept of how economies work. China’s economic managers have the classical concepts of value, price and economic rent, that distinguish earned from unearned income, and productive labor and wealth from unproductive and predatory financial and rentier fortunes.

These are the concepts needed to uplift all society, the 99 Percent rather than just the One Percent. But the post-1980 neoliberal reaction has stripped away from the Western economic vocabulary and academic curriculum. The present economic stagnation, debt burden and locked-in zero interest rates are a policy choice by the West, not a product of inevitable technological determinism.

  1. George Soros, “BlackRock’s China Blunder,” Wall Street Journal, September 7, 2021. 
  2. Helene Cooper, Lara Jukes, Michael D. Shear and Michael Crowley, “In the Withdrawal from Afghanistan, a Biden Doctrine Surfaces,” The New York Times, September 5, 2021. 
  3. Ron Suskind, “Faith, Certainty and the Presidency of George W. Bush,” New York Times Magazine, October 17, 2004, quoting Bush-Cheney strategist Karl Rove. 

Taliban seeking vital Chinese investments to rebuild Afghan economy: Video Report

September 13, 2021

Taliban seeking vital Chinese investments to rebuild Afghan economy: Video Report

Original link: http://middleeastobserver.net/taliban-seeking-vital-chinese-investments-to-rebuild-afghan-economy-video-report/https://www.youtube.com/embed/V_wVtjTaiY0?feature=oembed

Description:

News report on the Taliban movement’s efforts to secure vital Chinese investments to rebuild Afghanistan’s economy and infrastructure.https://thesaker.is/taliban-seeking-vital-chinese-investments-to-rebuild-afghan-economy-video-report/

Source: Al Jazeera (YouTube)

(Please help MEO keep producing independent translations for you by contributing a sustainable monthly amount https://www.patreon.com/MiddleEastObserver?fan_landing=true)

Transcript: 

Reporter:

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s reception of leaders of the Taliban movement at the end of July is the first indicator of the nature of future cooperation between the two sides, even before the movement’s entry into the Afghan capital of Kabul in mid-August.

The Taliban has a cooperative relationship with China, which shares a border with Afghanistan that is only 76 kilometers long. The (Taliban) movement says it hopes to secure much-needed economic benefits and Chinese investment in Afghanistan.

The Taliban spokesman noted that China’s assistance will help the movement to revitalize the country’s economy, and added that China is a vital outlet for Afghanistan into the international market, especially because access to foreign markets is hampered by sanctions and the absence of international recognition. Thus, cooperation with China is a timely opportunity for the Taliban movement.

Access to these markets requires a modern transportation network, which prompted the Chinese Sany Group to express its willingness to invest in Afghanistan. The company contributes to establishing what is known as the Belt and Road Initiative, a project (through which) China plans to expand its international trade influence.

China has long sought to include Afghanistan in the China-Pakistan economic corridor, a part of the Belt and Road Initiative, and the Taliban confirmed that it supports this initiative since it serves the development and prosperity of the region.

Another vital challenge for the Taliban movement is the power crisis, an (area) which would form a major investment opportunity, as only 35% of Afghans have access to electricity, and 70% of Afghanistan’s electricity needs are imported from abroad.

As for the rich natural wealth and reserves that Afghanistan enjoys, they seem to be a priority in the joint plans for cooperation, considering that the Taliban confirmed that copper mines in Afghanistan will be back in operation with the help of China.

عالم متحوّل… «إسرائيل» مجرد حاجز طيار وكيانات البترودولار ستختفي قريباً

 محمد صادق الحسيني

الخبر الآن هو سحب واشنطن لبطاريات پاتريوت من السعودية على رغم تزايد هجومات أنصار الله عليها.

‏ وأنّ الأميركيين يغادرون المنطقة نهائياً وإن بالتدريج على رغم خطورة التحولات.

ويقولون للعرب كما لليهود:

‏دبّروا حالكم بأنفسكم وكل واحد يقلع شوكه بأظافره…

البداية من أفغانستان والأمر سارٍ على سائر البلدان، وكذلك لبنان.

‏هذا هو لسان حال الدوائر الأميركية لمن يقرأ جيداً، الموازين في الميدان والتقارير في الكواليس.

والتي تقول :لن يطول الزمان الذي ستصبح فيه حتى القاعدة الأميركية المتقدمة المقامة على اليابسة الفلسطينية والتي اسمها «إسرائيل»، إلا وتكون على جدول الإغلاق مثلها مثل مئات القواعد الأميركية المنتشرة في العالم، وذلك في إطار تطبيق برنامج أو خطة أميركا أولاً..!

‏الكيان إلى زوال إذن ولو بعد لأي.

 وإمارات النفط والغاز والبنزين تختفي قريباً من خريطة الوطن العربي، بخاصة بعد تقرير اقتصادي للأمم المتحدة يتوقع إفلاسها في عام 2024.

وما سيسرع في ذلك انتهاء وظيفتها الكيانية التي استحدثت من أجلها.

باختصار مكثف: أميركا إذن تقرر تغيير عقيدتها العسكرية للمرة الأولى منذ الحرب العالمية الثانية. وتأخذ قرارها النهائي بسحب عديدها وعتادها من مراكز الانتشار العالمي لإعادة الحياة إلى دورة الاقتصاد الأميركي الداخلية الكاسدة.

والصين في المقابل تتقدّم بخطى حثيثة بناء على رؤية استراتيجية ثاقبة لوصل شرق الصين بشرق المتوسط بطريق سريع يمرّ عبر أفغانستان وإيران من دون وجود عسكري غربي.

في هذه الأثناء نشرت وكالة «أسوشيتد برس»: صوراً فضائية قبل أيام تظهر سحب واشنطن منظومات «باتريوت» من السعودية على رغم تواصل الهجمات من اليمن كما أشرنا.

من جهة أخرى فقد علم من مصادر أوروبية استخبارية رفيعة، بأن واشنطن أبلغت الدوحة قبل أيام عبر وزير خارجيتها بلينكن، بأنّ ملف أفغانستان سيتمّ نقله بالكامل إلى ألمانيا، وأنّ دور الدوحة سيتحول إلى دور لوجيستي محض.

واشنطن هذه كانت قد أبلغت تل أبيب عبر وزير خارجيتها بينيت وغيره بأنها لم تعد مهتمة في أي خطط قد تفكر بها تل أبيب ضد طهران أو سورية أو حتى لبنان، فهي لديها ما يكفيها من مشاكل داخلية ودولية، وتتجه بقوة نحو مضيق «مالاقا» وبحر الصين.

إن أسباب ما ذكر أعلاه يمكن وضعه في تقدير الموقف الذي يستنتجه كل من يطالع بدقة التقارير التي يتم تداولها في الكواليس والأروقة الخلفية على المستوى الدولي والتي تؤكد ما يلي:

1 ـ كان قرار القوى الخفية، التي قررت أن ترشح ترامب إلى الرئاسه يتلخص في استخدامه لإنهاء الوجود العسكري الأميركي في أفغانستان و»الشرق الأوسط» أولاً ومن مناطق أخرى في العالم لاحقاً بعد هزيمتها في كل الحروب التي شنتها منذ ما بعد الحرب العالمية الثانية.

2 ـ فشل ترامب في ذلك بسبب ضغوط مجموعات الضغط اليهوديه في أميركا، ومنعه من ذلك بحجة الخوف على أمن «اسرائيل».

3 ـ لكنه بقي مصراً على تنفيذ الانسحابات وهو يسألهم عما تريده «إسرائيل» لضمان أمنها ؟ فجاء الجواب: تطبيع مع الدول العربية/ اعتراف أميركا بيهودية الدولة/ نقل السفارة الأميركية إلى القدس/ الاعتراف بضم الجولان.

4 ـ تمّ ذلك ولكن القوى الخفية لم تتراجع عن قرار تصفية الوجود العسكري الأميركي تدريجياً في «الشرق الأوسط»/ غرب آسيا.

من هنا جاء تنفيذ قرار الانسحاب من أفغانستان على يد بايدن، الذي وصل إلى الحكم بموافقة نفس القوى الخفية التي جاءت بترامب.

5 ـ لا تراجع عن هذا القرار لأسباب استراتيجية تتعلق بالأمن القومي الأميركي على صعيد الصراع الدولي بين القوى العظمى.

6 ـ إذ إنّ الصراع لم يعد يقتصر على النواحي العسكرية وإنما اتخذ شكلاً اقتصادياً أكثر أهمية من الفترات السابقة.

فالصراع أصلاً اقتصادياً ينتج منه الصراع السياسي الذي يتحول، عند استحالة حسمه سياسياً إلى صراع عسكري…

هذا ما عرفه الجنرال الألماني كارل فون كلاوسيڤيتس بالقول «إنّ الحرب هي استمرار للسياسة بأدوات أخرى».

7 ـ إذن الصراع الاقتصادي الدائر بين روسيا والصين هو صراع وجودي بالنسبة لواشنطن. إذ لا يمكن لأميركا منافسة الصين اقتصادياً، على الصعيد الدولي بسبب شحّ الأموال الأميركية (النقدية) وتوفرها مع الذهب لدى الصين وروسيا والجزائر وإيران.

أي أن القوة العسكرية الأميركية لم تعد قادرة على تأمين المصالح الأميركيه من دون استثمارات أميركية ضخمة، كتلك التي قامت بها واشنطن بعد الحرب العالمية الثانية، أي خطة مارشال لإعادة إعمار أوروبا، والتي أدّت إلى استحواذ رأس المال الأميركي على ما يقارب 40 في المئة من الاقتصاد الأوروبي. وهذا هو سر سيطرة واشنطن على قرار أوروبا/ بواجهة حلف شمال الأطلسي.

8 ـ إذن لا بدّ لأميركا من إعادة بناء البنى التحتية الأميركية، بما في ذلك البنى التحتية العلمية والتكنولوجية، حتى تتمكن من الصمود، إلى حد ما، أمام التحدي الروسي الصيني الذي بات يفوقها بمراتب، والذي ستنضمّ إليه الهند، مضطرةً، في القريب من السنوات. وهذا يتطلب تقليص الوجود العسكري الأميركي في العالم.

 إنّ مجموع هذه التحولات الكبرى هي من سيسرّع في ضمور دور الحاجز الإسرائيلي الطيار، المقام على أرض فلسطين أولاً ومن ثم زواله في أقرب الآجال.

بعدنا طيبين قولوا الله…

الأسد الاستراتيجي.. هابوك.. فحاربوك..

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الاثنين 13 أيلول 2021

سماهر الخطيب

منذ أن تسلّم الرئيس السوري بشار الأسد مقاليد الحكم في تموز من عام 2000، بدأت معظم مراكز الدراسات العربية والغربية والأميركية عبر أبحاثها ودراساتها حول شخصية الرئيس الجديد لسورية وطريقة حكمه طرح العديد من السيناريوات التي حاول معدّوها في الغرف السوداء عرض أفكارهم وآرائهم حول شخصية الرئيس الأسد وكيفية السيطرة على سورية من خلال تفنيد سياساته وقراراته والبحث في تطلعاته.

شكل مجيء الرئيس بشار الأسد إلى سدة الحكم، مع ما يحمله من أفكار، استمرارية لمسار والده الرئيس الراحل حافظ الأسد وتطويراً لمدرسة الأب بما يحمله الإبن من أفكار استراتيجية عصرية، الأمر الذي شكل هاجساً لدى صناع السياسة وأصحاب القرار في المجتمع الدولي، خاصة أنه عبّر، مع أول خطاب له، عن رغبته في تحرير النظام السياسي والاقتصادي وتعزيز الديمقراطية في الداخل السوري، معلناً نيّته إطلاق عمليات لبرلة اجتماعية واقتصادية وقد أعطى الأولوية للإصلاحات الاقتصادية بهدف خلق الشروط الملائمة للدمقرطة السياسية اللاحقة، فعُرفت بداية عهده بـ(ربيع دمشق)، وباتت سياساته هدفاً للسياسة الأميركية التي لم تُرِد سورية قوية كعهدها.

لم يحدّد الرئيس الأسد فقط نهج سورية في المجالين الاقتصادي والتقني بل حدّد مسارها الديمقراطي؛  مسارٌ لم يكن مستنسخاً عن الغرب، بل هو خاص بسورية تستمده من تاريخها وتحترم عبره مجتمعها. وقال في موضوع الديمقراطية: «لايمكننا أن نطبّق ديمقراطية الآخرين على أنفسنا، فالديمقراطية الغربية على سبيل المثال، هي نتاج تاريخ طويل أثمر عادات وتقاليد تميّز الثقافة الحالية في المجتمعات الغربية. ولتطبيق ما لديهم علينا أن نعيش تاريخهم مع كل أهميته الاجتماعية، كما أنّ من الواضح أن هذا مستحيل، ينبغي أن نمتلك تجربتنا الديمقراطية التي هي خاصة لنا وهي استجابة لحاجات مجتمعنا ومتطلبات واقعنا».

كما انتقد الرئيس بشار الأسد منذ استلامه مقاليد الحكم «بيروقراطية الدولة» معتبراً أنها «عقدة رئيسية أمام التطور»، قائلاً: «لا تعتمدوا على الدولة ليس لديها عصا سحرية وعملية التغيير تتطلب عناصر لا يملكها شخص واحد.. السلطة بلا مسؤولية هي السبب في الفوضى» وتابع: «يجب أن نحرر أنفسنا من تلك الأفكار القديمة التي غدت عقبات، ولننجح نحتاج إلى تفكير حديث.. قد يعتقد بعضهم أنّ العقول المبدعة ترتبط بالعمر وأنها يمكن أن توجد مع العمر غير أنّ هذا ليس دقيقاً تماماً فلدى بعض الشباب عقول قوية حية وخلاقة».

خارجياً، بدأت القيادة السورية تعمل جدياً على وضع استراتيجية سياسية خارجية للبلاد، فأولت اهتماماً لروسيا والصين دولياً، ولإيران وتركيا إقليمياً، مع الحفاظ على مكانة سورية في التعاون العربي – العربي وتعزيزه، بهدف تشكيل ائتلاف لاحق يمنع الانتشار الأميركي وتمركزه في المنطقة ويحول دون إعادة توزيع القوى في الشرق الأوسط لصالح هذا التمركّز.

حينها، تخطّت سورية العديد من الصعوبات التي واجهتها منذ 2001، فعززت دعمها للمقاومة في لبنان وفلسطين واستقرّ وضعها الداخلي وحافظت على علاقاتها مع الداخل العراقي وتعاونت مع طهران وتركيا لبناء شبكة إقليميّة. وطيلة الفترة الممتدّة بين 2001-2006، واجهت سورية زلازل إقليمية عديدة كانت تنذر بالسوء والأخطار الكبيرة عند كل منعطف.

ثم بدأ الوضع بالتحسن منذ خريف 2006 وخرجت سورية من دوامة الأزمات والعقوبات التي فرضت عليها، وأخذت تتعافى تدريجياً وتستعيد حيويتها الإقليمية في الأعوام 2007 و2010 وتجدّدت علاقاتها العربية، خاصة مع لبنان والعراق، ومدّت جسوراً مع أوروبا والولايات المتحدة وتعمّقت تحالفاتها، وفي الوقت عينه، واصلت دعمها للمقاومة في العراق ولبنان وفلسطين. كما بدأت رؤية سورية الاستراتيجية لربط البحار الخمسة، المتوسط والأحمر والخليج والأسود وقزوين، بشبكة تعاون إقليمية، من خلال إقامة شبكات ربط للنقل البحري بين المرافئ السورية ونظيراتها في كل من رومانيا وأوكرانيا، أو من حيث ربط شبكات إمداد الطاقة الكهربائية أو الغاز العربية مع منظومة الطاقة الأوروبية عبر تركيا، كخطّ الغاز العربي الذي يتم العمل على ربطه بمنظومة الغاز التركية عبر سورية، وبالتالي بمنظومة الغاز الأوروبية، ليس هذا فحسب، بل إن هذه الرؤية تلقى دعماً من قادة الدول الإقليمية التي تشكل عناصر أساسية في هذا الفضاء الاقتصادي وينظر إلى توسيعه لربطه مع الدول المطلة على بحر البلطيق الأمر الذي يقع في صلب الرؤية الاستراتيجية لسوري، ومن ينظر إلى المشروع الصيني يدرك أنه استكمال لتلك الاستراتيجية.

تبيّن للرئيس بشار الأسد حال الفراغ الاستراتيجي الناجم عن الأزمات التي لحقت بالدور والوجود الأميركيين في المنطقة، قارئاً وجود تحوّل كبير في معادلات الجغرافيا السياسية وعلومها، مستنتجاً سقوط مفهوم الشرق الأوسط، مورداً البديل لمفهوم الأقاليم الجديدة، مقدّماً صياغته لمنطقة إقليمية تحلّ مكان مفهوم الشرق الأوسط هي منطقة البحار الخمسة، وفيها تصير روسيا وإيران وتركيا ودول أوروبا المتوسطية شركاء في إقليم جغرافي واحد، مخاطره واحدة ومصالحه متقاربة، داعياً إلى منظومة تعاون إقليمية بين القوى الكبرى لحفظ الأمن وقيام التعاون الاقتصادي.

في سبيل ذلك، أجرى الرئيس الأسد في 2 كانون الأول 2010 مباحثات في القصر الرئاسي في كييف مع الرئيس الأوكراني فيكتور يانوكوفيتش في سبيل تفعيل تلك الاستراتيجية عبر توقيع اتفاقية التجارة الحرة بين البلدين، ما أثار الغضب الغربي والأميركي الذي كانت له رؤيته الخاصة للشكل الذي ينبغي أن تتطور الأمور عليه. فكان هدف واشنطن فرض رقابة لصيقة على العمليات الجارية في الشرق الأوسط وكان أحد شروطها المركزية إضعاف إيران، إنما سارت الخطوات السورية الموجهة نحو توحيد قدرات الدول الإقليمية الكبرى بالتعارض مع المخططات الأميركية، فوقفت دمشق «عثرة» أمام تحقيق الاستراتيجية الأميركية في المنطقة.

تمّ التأكيد على التحالف الاستراتيجي بين إيران وسورية في نهاية شباط 2010، وقام الرئيس الإيراني حينها محمود أحمدي نجاد بزيارة هامة إلى دمشق التقى فيها الرئيس بشار الأسد والأمين العام لحزب الله السيد حسن نصر الله، كما التقى رئيس المكتب السياسي لحركة حماس خالد مشعل والأمين العام لحركة الجهاد الإسلامي رمضان شلح، وأعلن الرئيسان الإيراني والسوري عن «التوحد أمام التحديات والتهديدات، وأنّ أيّ حركة يمكن أن ترفع التوقعات في الدراما الدولية في ما يتعلق بأيّ من الدولتين».

كما أعلن الرئيس الإيراني أنّ «على العالم أن يعرف أنّ إيران ستقف خلف الشعب السوري إلى النهاية، وأن الروابط  الإقليمية قوية للغاية». وأشارت أحداث اللقاء إلى أنّ حلفاً استراتيجياً يتكون ويتأكد، ويشكل جبهة جديدة في مواجهة التحالف الأميركي – «الإسرائيلي» ومن يسانده من العرب والقوى الأخرى.

أدرك الأميركيون حينها، أنهم إن لم يوقفوا عمليات توزع القوى الجديد في المنطقة فإنهم مضطرون للتعامل مع إقليم جديد تماماً وعلى درجة عالية من التضامن ومن المستبعد أن يكون مستعداً للخضوع لإدارتها بلا قيد أو شرط.

ويمكن لمتتبع السياسة الأميركية تجاه سورية أن يعلم مسبقاً أنها لطالما دأبت على محاولات «إخضاع» الدولة السورية والتغيير «القسري» للنظام، واهتم المحافظون الجدد بإمكانية السعي إلى فرض تغيير قسري للنظام في سورية. ففي عام 1996 نشرت مجموعة من المحافظين الجدد الأميركيين، بينهم دوغلاس فيث وريتشارد بيرل، تقريراً قدّمت فيه توصيات لرئيس الوزراء الصهيوني المقبل آنذاك بنيامين نتنياهو في ما يتعلق بسياسة الأمن القومي «الإسرائيلي» وهي تتضمن «استخدام القوة لتحقيق أهداف إضعاف واحتواء بل وحتى صدّ سورية».

كان على سورية أن تجري حسابات إقليمية استراتيجية لا تتخلى عن مواصلة السعي إلى توازن عسكري تكنولوجي مع «إسرائيل» ومواجهة حروب وأزمات أخرى اشتعلت في الوقت ذاته تقريباً. حيث استندت في مواجهة تلك التحديات الأقليمية إلى استراتيجية واضحة كرّسها وعدّلها الرئيس حافظ الأسد منذ 1975. بدأ الرئيس بشار الأسد استلهام دروس استراتيجية والده وفي أساس تلك الاستراتيجية كان بناء الجبهة المشرقية (جبهة لبنان وسورية والأردن والفلسطينيين تمتد من رأس الناقورة في جنوب لبنان إلى مدينة العقبة جنوب الأردن)، فعمّق علاقات سورية بلبنان والأردن والمقاومة الفلسطينية خلال السبعينات، وبات الدعم الذي تحصل عليه سورية من روسيا وإيران يوازي الدعم الأميركي لـ»إسرائيل»، معتمداً على ما قاله الرئيس الراحل حافظ الأسد في كلمته بمناسبة عيد الثورة في آذار 1992: «التحالفات الجديدة القادمة لن تكون كالتي كانت. التحالفات الجديدة ستبحث في مجالات حيوية.. إن العرب كمجموعة لم يفعلوا شيئاً لمواجهة المستقبل ولم يقدموا جديداً للتعامل مع العالم الجديد، وإلى أن يتكوّن وعي عربي أفضل يفهم أبعاد ما يحدث فإنّ سورية في سياستها وفي أفعالها تأخذ بالاعتبار هذه الأبعاد كما تراها واثقة أنها ستظل القلعة الوطنية القومية. فسورية لن تجامل ولن تساوم أحداً على المبادئ، خاصة عندما يتعلق الأمر بالأبعاد القومية هكذا نحن وهكذا سنبقى وهذا هو دور سورية القومي النقي ماضياً وحاضراً ومستقبلاً، مهما ضخمت مصاعبنا فالتسليم ليس خيارنا.. السلام الذي نقبله هو الذي يعيد الأرض ويعيد الحقوق وينشر الأمن في المنطقة وأقل من ذلك هو استسلام.. إذا كان أحد يظن أن المتغيرات الدولية ترضخ الشعوب فبئس هذا الأحد لأنه لم يستعد السيرة البشرية ولم يستوعب مدلولاتها وعبرها ولم يدرك أن النسيج النفسي والاجتماعي للشعوب يجعلها تنتزع من كل ظرف جديد خلاصة العناصر والإمكانات التي تجعلها قادرة على التكيف ومواجهة التحديات الجديدة».

بالتالي، فإنّ استراتيجية الرئيس بشار الأسد لم تكن جامدة، بل تعامل مع استراتيجيته كخياط ماهر يتعاطى مع رقعة قماش على طاولة يجري فيها تعديلاً وتفصيلاً لتتلاءم مع متطلبات المرحلة. فعكف على تثبيت استراتيجية سورية جديدة تأخذ بالاعتبار كافة المتغيرات. ومن جملة الدروس المستوحاة أنّ سورية لم تغيّر خطابها القومي، ورغم تواضع ثروات سورية الاقتصادية أصبحت دولة مركزية في المشرق العربي شديدة الاستقلال في قراراتها وخياراتها وهو استقلال أصبح نادراً بين الدول في العقد الأول من القرن الحادي والعشرين وأشار إليه كبار الباحثين الأوروبيين.

اليوم تواجه سورية تحدياً اقتصادياً يعود تفاقمه إلى أسباب عديدة أبرزها القانون الأميركي (قيصر)، وعُقوباته التي تريد عرقلة عملية التطوير، لكنّ من صمد وتصدّى لمختلف أساليب الحرب ببشاعتها فإنه سيدير هذه الأزمة بضراوتها.

هو الأسد الذي قاد سورية نحو العز والنصر…

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Taliban danger

SEPTEMBER 12, 2021

Taliban danger

by Batko Milacic for the Saker Blog

During the 20 years of Afghan occupation, which was initially quick and successful, the Americans and their allies failed to give Afghanistan anything. The impression is that successive US administrations initially had no strategy to pacify the country. After the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan, the country’s secular regime, abandoned by the Russians, held out for three years and collapsed only after being completely deprived of all assistance from Moscow. The allied international forces were still in the country when the government of President Ghani, which they controlled, left the capital at the mercy of the Taliban. Why?!

When Russians were in Afganistan, they not only fought, but taught the Afghans, sending one of them into space and building hospitals, roads and factories. Therefore, the Afghans, who fought on the side of the country’s last truly secular government, knew what they were fighting for.

What did the soldiers of the current Afghan army, let alone ordinary Afghans, have to die for? For the president who stole so much money that it didn’t fit into his plane? For kickbacks from US arms manufacturers who supplied Afghanistan with the equipment, all of which was inherited by the Taliban? Maybe for freedom and universal human values, which had allegedly been promoted for 20 years by numerous NGOs that squandered the money of American and European taxpayers?!

Ordinary Afghan people lives by the same rules as their distant ancestors; they don`t understand the advantages of Western culture. Two decades of US rule have cost Afghans nearly a million lives. They faced killings of civilians “by mistake,” cleansing of villages, forced prostitution and humiliation. And a small sliver of “Europeanized Afghans,” supporters of women’s rights, religious tolerance and freedom, are just as alien to ordinary Afghans as are the arrogant US military. Therefore, some Afghans greet the Taliban as liberators, while others have learned to tolerate them and believe that life will not get any worse than it is now!

However, there are still others, who have no other choice than to fight! These are representatives of ethnic minorities. Nine percent of the country’s population are ethnic Uzbeks, and 27 percent – Tajiks. Pashtuns make up 42 percent of the Afghan population and they are the main source of the support for the Taliban`s. The Pashtuns are backed by neighboring Pakistan, and provide most of the volunteers for the militants. As for the Tajiks and Uzbeks, they were the main pillars of the secular state. Their leaders, Ahmad Shah Massoud, Sr. and Marshal Dostum, fought the Taliban throughout the initial period of their rule. They are less religious and not all of them are willing to spend the rest of their lives living according to strict Sharia law. Fully aware of this, the Taliban were all set not to repeat the mistakes they made in 1996-2001. The ethnic minorities must not only submit; they must be deprived of any chance to rebel. Given the fact that the country’s new rulers are divided into several groups, this goal was even easier to achieve. For example, the Haqqani Network, which is even more radical than the Taliban themselves (impossible as it may seem), and has in its ranks a large number of Arabic-speaking immigrants from ISIS and al-Qaeda, has sent out its militants to Panjshir and other northern provinces, while the Taliban still pretended to negotiate with them.

Panjshir is a small mountain valley in the north of the country, which has never really submitted to any conqueror. The passes leading to it are easy to block, and the terrain of the province itself is very conducive to guerrilla warfare. At the same time, routes go through the province to China and the former Soviet republics of Central Asia, making it an important logistics hub. In addition, the sparsely populated valley (around 100,000 inhabitants) is rich in minerals, including emeralds, which actually allowed Massoud Sr. to hold out there for five years. This is why the Taliban are so eager to nip the local resistance in the bud. The only reason they needed negotiations was to improve their image in the world. In Washington, they have already been recognized as a “different” Taliban, not those who are responsible for the attacks on and killings of civilians. Well, you demonstrate to the outside world your flexibility and readiness for dialogue, and, who knows, maybe one day they will also give you diplomatic recognition! Naturally enough, Ahmad Massoud Jr. and Amrullah Saleh (also an ethnic Tajik), who had declared himself the legitimate head of Afghanistan, had no desire to leave the autonomy, give up their ability to maintain self-defense units and exercise real control over part of the government. Meanwhile, the “Haqqani Network” has already put the defense capability of the “lion cub of Panjshir” to the test.

The rest we know from news reports. After the Taliban and their allies suffered their first setbacks, drones suddenly appeared in the air, flown by Pakistani operators. According to numerous reports, Pakistani special OPs helped the Taliban break into the valley, resulting in videos from its center and from the mausoleum of Ahmad Shah Massoud being posted online on the morning of September 6. The “Lion” announced the continuation of the resistance and went into the mountains. Fearing for their life (and with good reason too) most of the local civilian population left with him. Well, the pro-Soviet forces in Afghanistan once also controlled the valley, while Massoud Sr. fought and eventually defeated them in the surrounding mountains. There is a big difference though. The best anti-guerrilla tactic is to deprive the militants of any support – in other words, “scorched earth” or genocide. With Panjshir completely cut off from the outside world, the Taliban simultaneously solve two problems – they will get rid of the disloyal population by killing them or squeezing them out to Tajikistan, and reward their supporters by handing them the houses and property left behind by the escaped local residents, thereby ensuring their loyalty and creating a formidable base against Massoud’s supporters. All of this comes as very good news for Pakistan, which has given the Taliban full control over the country and received access to the resources of the potentially very rich Panjshir.

Massoud Jr., who represents Afghanistan’s eight million Tajiks, will apparently be forced to fight to the bitter end. However, it looks like he will not be getting any outside help now that the White House has apparently decided to leave the region completely and has clinched some kind of secret deals with the Taliban or their patrons from the neighboring countries. How else to explain the position of Dushanbe? The Tajik authorities obviously ignore the situation, refusing to support their fellow country folk. Have the Americans allegedly guaranteed the Central Asian republic security against the Taliban if Dushanbe does not interfere in the process of Afghan unification? But how can one believe an old fox telling the sheep that the wolf will not touch them? All the more so, if the wolves have just bitten the red-haired deceiver?

A much similar situation has developed in Uzbekistan – the country that Marshal Dostum, an ethnic Uzbek and a graduate of Soviet military schools, who is considered a man of great courage, has fled to. However, this brave man with all his associates, including loyal fighters, has crossed the Uzbek border and disappeared. Unusual behavior for a combat-hardened general who fought for 35 years and never accepted Islamists. What was he promised? Security for the Uzbek minority? Or was he simply bought out? Or blackmailed? In any case, the last hero of all wars disappeared from the media radar without firing a single shot.

The information vacuum will allow the Taliban to quickly take control of the whole country. The world media will not write about the millions of victims of ethnic and religious cleansing simply because it will know nothing about that. If the “young lion of Panjshir” and Saleh do not receive real support in the coming days, they are doomed, along with their compatriots. Back in 1975, the world was blissfully unaware of the insane atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge, who killed a third of their own population, simply because there was no one to write about this in a country shuttered from the outside world. In 2021, they will also try to hide the death of several million people, if only this is what Washington wants. And the White House does want a dialogue with the Taliban, forgetting about the victims of September 11, forgetting about the terrorist attacks across Europe and the hundreds of young men and women who died for “democracy” in Afghanistan. But what will the Taliban do after they crack down on Afghan minorities? Will it be peaceful construction? No, because radical Islam presupposes an eternal struggle against infidels in the name of a global caliphate and constant expansion. Its supporters have no need for music, literature, cinema – all these wonderful things created by mankind. They go to God through blood and violence, and they will go beyond their immediate neighbors. With a solid base and money from the sale of resources to China and Pakistan, the new Afghan authorities will become a unifying center for all like-minded Islamists – the holdovers from al-Qaeda and ISIS. As for the Taliban’s promise to get rid of the sprawling drug industry, which, during the 20 years of US occupation spiked from 120 tons a year to a whopping 10,000 tons, it is hardly credible. Indeed, why destroy what can be sold to infidels with profit and then be spent on a “holy war” bombing peaceful American and European cities. This is exactly what the Western world will get if it fails to figure out (and fast!) how to check the triumphant advance of terrorism from Afghanistan. True, judging by its escape from Kabul, the world policeman now urgently needs to talk this over with Moscow and Beijing. Otherwise, a new 9/11 may not be too far off.

Interview with A.B. Abrams about his latest book and the war in Syria

September 12, 2021

Interview with A.B. Abrams about his latest book and the war in Syria

by Andrei for the Saker blog

A.B. Abrams has just released a new book entitled World War in Syria – Global Conflict on the Middle Eastern Battlefields.  Here are two locations were you can order this most interesting volume:

For those who don’t remember who Abrams is, here are two of his previous contributions to the Saker blog:

The book got A LOT of praise already, so I posted a few endorsements at the end of this interview (see at the bottom)

Rather than offer my own endorsement or write a full review, I decided to interview Abrams about both his book and his views on the international aggression against Syria.  I hope you enjoy it and, yes, get the book!

Andrei


1)–Please introduce us to your new book!  Tell us what was your main purpose in writing it and whom, what audience, did you want to reach?

I wrote this book to provide one of the first comprehensive histories of the Syrian War published to mark ten years after it began in 2011. The book places the war in the context of both the history of Syria’s decades long conflict with Western interests which began in the late 1940s, as well as broader Western geopolitical goals in the region and beyond. The title ‘World War in Syria’ reflects an assessment of the conflict primarily not through the paradigm of a civil war, as is more common in the West, but rather as a global conflict which has pitted the Western Bloc and its regional partners against Damascus and its allies – namely Russia, Iran, North Korea and Hezbollah. The war has seen special forces and other assets from all these parties deployed to Syrian soil, with the West, Turkey, the Gulf States and Israel undertaking considerable military, economic and information warfare efforts to bring about the Syrian government’s overthrow.

The book shows the Syrian War as part of a broader trend towards countries outside the Western sphere of influence, namely the minority of countries without Western military presences on their soil, being targeted for destabilisation and overthrow. For targeting countries with significant Muslim populations, Western cooperation with radical Islamist elements to support such objectives has been common, as seen in Indonesia (1950s and early 60s), Chechnya, Afghanistan (1979-92), and Yugoslavia among others. These precedents are explored at the beginning of the book to provide context to Western efforts to employ similar means against Syria.

The book is not aimed at any specific audience, but at anyone with a general interest in the Syrian War, Western, Russian, Iranian or Turkish foreign policy, Middle Eastern politics, contemporary military affairs, insurgency or terrorism. It follows a previous book published in 2020 on the history of North Korea’s 70 year war with the United States, which similarly sought to provide a comprehensive analysis of a major conflict between the U.S.-led Western Bloc and a targeted country including the Western way of war and the use of both economic and information warfare.

2)–Do you believe that Putin is “allowing” (or even helping!) Israel to bomb Syria? Or maybe the Russian and Syrian air defenses are totally ineffective?  How do you explain all the Israeli strikes?

Russia’s position on Israeli strikes has been interesting and caused a great deal of debate and in some cases controversy. I assess that Russian military intervention in Syria in 2015 had the limited goals of supporting counterinsurgency efforts and limiting Western and Turkish efforts to illegally occupy Syrian territory through the imposition of safe zones and no fly. The Russian presence has also served to deter Western and Turkish attacks, as evidenced by the vast discrepancy between the massive strikes planned under Obama to topple the government in 2013, and the very limited attacks carried out under Trump in 2017 and 2018. A longer term goal has more recently materialised with the entrenching of the Russian military presence in Latakia on Syria’s western coast, with Russia’s sole airbase in the region expanded and increasingly oriented away from counterinsurgency operations and towards providing a strategically located asset against NATO.

The expectation among many that Russia ought to prevent Israeli strikes on Syria may well be a result of the Soviet position in the 1980s, when the USSR threatened to intervene if Israel attacked Syria. This resulted in the confinement of Israeli-Syrian clashes that decade to within neighbouring Lebanon’s borders. A number of factors, however, mean that this is no longer feasible. Unlike in the 1980s, Israel is today far from the most pressing threat to Syrian security, while the discrepancy in military capabilities favours Israel much more strongly. Under the Netanyahu government, Russia also cultivated close ties with Israel as a valuable partner with a degree of policy independence from the Western world which could, for example, sell on sensitive Western technologies as it did with the Forpost drone to Russia or with American air defence technologies to China. Israel’s ability to act independently of Western hegemonic interests to some degree has been an asset to Moscow as well as Beijing to strengthen themselves against the West through cooperation. Thus the relationship between Moscow and Tel Aviv is very different from what it was in the 1980s, as is Moscow’s relationship with Damascus, meaning that Russia will be less inclined to take a hard line against Israeli strikes.

Perhaps most importantly, the fact that Russia has not taken a harder line in protecting Syria from Israeli attacks reflects Russia’s much diminished power to influence events beyond its borders compared to the Soviet era. The Russian military intervention in Syria was its first major military action outside the former USSR since the 1980s, and was a major feat considering the poor state of the military just seven years prior in its war with Georgia. The Russian military is nevertheless already stretched protecting its own forces in Syria and deterring Western or Turkish escalation, which is far from easy considering how far these operations are from Russian soil. Unlike in the late Soviet era, Russia no longer has the world’s second largest economy, a large sphere of influence of developed allied economies for support, a blue water navy, 55,000 tanks or 7000 fighters/interceptors. Its military is capable, but if it took on Israel directly as well as Turkey, the West, and the jihadist insurgency at the same time for all attacking Syria, the risk of escalation would be significant and would force it to divert considerable resources away from its own defence – resources which are far more scarce than those the USSR had 40 years ago.

Russia has nevertheless deployed its top fighters the Su-35s, and on at least one occasion Su-34s, to intercept Israeli F-16s before they could attack Syria, which alongside the strengthening of Syrian air defences has made it more difficult for Israel to strike. Russia does not condone Israeli strikes, but they have not been an immediate priority. Although they are damaging particularly to Iranian interests, such strikes do not seriously threaten Syria’s stability and have generally pursued limited goals. While Israel has called for greater Western intervention against Syria in the past, Tel Aviv’s own limitations mean it is not looking to overthrow the Syrian government singlehandedly. This contrasts to Turkey, whose president has stated multiple times and recently in 2020 that the intention is to maintain an occupation and hostile relations until the Damascus government is overthrown. This also remains a long term objective for the West currently through economic warfare, theft of Syrian oil and targeting of crops.

Israeli aircraft have since February 2018 relied in the large majority of attacks on launching standoff weapons from a safe distance outside Syrian airspace, meaning for Syrian ground based air defences to engage them and they must instead intercept the missiles as they approach and cannot target the aircraft themselves. Syria is itself aware of its limitations, and against both Israeli and Turkish strikes it has refrained from escalating by deploying its own fighters/interceptors to attack the enemy aircraft. Syrian aircraft optimised for air to air combat have instead been held in reserve to respond to more serious full scale attacks like the kind the U.S. and is allies were planning in September 2013. As Syrian defences improve with the delivery of the first new fighters as aid from Russia in 2020, the refocusing of resources away from counterinsurgency, and the possible placing of new S-300 systems under Syrian control, the country’s airspace may again begin to be respected as it largely was before the war began. If Syria does begin to deploy fighter units for air defence duties it will reflect a renewed sense of faith in the country’s security, although Turkey rather than Israel is likely to be the first target due to the heated nature of conflict over the Turkish occupation of Idlib and the much weaker state of Turkey’s air force.

3)–I have always suspected that the former Syrian regime (of Assad Sr.) was full of Israeli agents.  My evidence?  The impossible to organize without top complicity murder of Imad Mughniyeh (his widows also believes that, by the way, she is in Iran now) or the huge list of defectors/traitors and other officials/officers who quickly took their money and joined the international war in Syria.  Has that now changed, do you feel that the government is stable and in control?

Based on my knowledge of Syria and Arab nationalist republics more generally, while strong fifth columns have almost certainly been prevalent they are unlikely to be predominantly pro-Israeli and much more likely pro-Western. Although Syria’s Ba’athist government aligned itself very closely with the USSR particularly from 1982, much of the elite and the population maintained strongly pro-Western sentiments. This included the current president in his initial years who, according to Western sources cited in the book, was looking to pivot the country towards closer alignment with the West while sidelining Russia, Iran and the Ba’ath Party. Many in the Arab world even in states which are formally aligned against Western interests aspire to integration and a degree of Westernisation, which has long been a leading weakness in Arab nationalist states’ efforts to establish themselves as independent powers.

The West’s colonial legacy provided a strong basis since the middle of the last century to cultivate considerable soft power in the Arab World. This was perhaps most clearly alluded to by Mohamed Heikal, a leading intellectual of the non-aligned movement and Minister of Information for the United Arab Republic, who noted regarding the political and military elites of Arab republics in the 1950s, 60s and 70s: “All the formative influences in the new leaders’ lives- the books they had read, the history they had learned, the films they had seen- had come from the West. The languages they knew in addition to their own were English or French – Russian was, and remained, a mystery to them. It was impossible for them to remain unaffected by all that they had heard about the communist world- the closed society, the suppression of thought, the ‘Stalinist terror’… they wanted to keep their distance.” Heikal stressed that many of these leaders would turn to the West for assistance “almost automatically,” as the psychology of colonialism persisted. Many of those who turned to a partnership with the Soviets did so only because they were given no other choice, having been refused by the West.

This remains largely true until today at many levels of Syrian society. Perhaps one of the most striking examples was documented by a journalist accompanying the Syrian Arab Army to the frontlines engaging Western-backed insurgents. While the West made war on Syria, it was clear that strongly Western supremacist sentiments persisted throughout the population as a result of Western soft power, with Syrian soldiers on the frontlines reported to exclaim regarding their country: “Look how beautiful this land is! It is almost as beautiful as Europe!” Such sentiments were common even in wartime. The idea of Western primacy and supremacy, long engrained across much of the world through colonial rule, remained a key weakness which made it far from difficult for the Western world to cultivate westphilian fifth columns. According to multiple sources, including British journalist Patrick Seale, this included the President Hafez Al Assad’s brother who had a love for all things American and for parties with Western belly dancers. In this way Syria and Arab nationalist states bear a strong contrast to Western adversaries such as North Korea, which placed a strong emphasis on political education and on ensuring new generations did not grow up seeing the world through paradigms that promote Western supremacy (see Chapters 18 and 19 of my prior book that cover that topic.)

Regarding Israel, while there are strongly pro-Western sentiments within Syria and the Arab world, there are also strong anti-Israeli sentiments which, combined with Israel’s lack of any comparable soft power, makes pro-Israeli fifth columns much more difficult to cultivate. It is highly possible, however, that pro-Western elements in Syria could be led to pursue actions which, while furthering Western interests, also benefit Israel as you mentioned.

4)— How did the war in Syria really start?  Can you give us a summary of the true story (the full story is in your book) of how what began with some local protests (almost) ended with the Takfiris in control of Damascus?

It is difficult to do this question justice with a summary answer as there are so many factors at play. One could trace the origin back to 2007, when following Hezbollah’s unexpected military successes against Israel the previous year the Bush administration began to perceive Iran, Syria and Hezbollah, rather than Al Qaeda, as its primary adversaries. This also led to the first mentions of the possibility of manipulating Al Qaeda-type jihadist groups with the help of regional allies (Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia in particular) to focus on attacking Syria and other Iranian partners. By 2009 militants were receiving Western training for operations in Syria. Pro-Western activists in Syria and other Arab countries were also receiving training in the U.S. supported by the State Department, Google, Facebook and others on how to stir unrest using tools such as social media. Media networks and most notably Al Jazeera, which had a long history of being heavily influenced by Western intelligence, began in 2011 to be put to use to vilify the Syrian government, and the Qatari monarchy soon after would lead calls for a Libya-style Western assault.

On the ground in the war’s initial weeks the Syrian government faced large scale incursions by well armed and trained militants from across the Turkish and Jordanian borders, and simultaneously a number of largely peaceful protests against living conditions in some cities. Confusion was sown and the situation quickly escalated out of control. Mass privatisation of public property, years of crop failures, and disparity between the conservative Muslim rural population and the much more liberal lifestyle in major cities, were among a multitude of factors detailed which fuelled unrest and provided foreign powers with an opening to destabilise the country. These details are all fully referenced in the book itself as well as a much more elaborate explanation of the multitude of preparations and incidents which paved the way to war.

5)–Could you please compare and contrast, HOW the Russian and Iranian interventions happened, WHAT these forces did to turn the tide and then tell us WHAT the Russian and Iranian PLANS were and are for Syria – do these two actors more or less agree, or do they have different visions for the future of Syria?

The Russian and Iranian stances towards Syria have contrasted from the war’s outset, with Russia’s Dmitry Medvedev administration in particular being openly resigned to seeing the Syrian state toppled and offering Damascus little in the way of support in the conflict’s critical early stages. Although Russian support increased from 2012 almost as soon as a new administration came to power, namely with arms sales and a blocking of Western efforts to target Syria through the United Nations, it would be three more years before Russia felt the need to deploy its forces. Iranian efforts to make a case for Russian intervention to Moscow, namely through Quds Force Commander Qasem Soleimani who met with President Putin in 2015, was an important factor.

Iran by contrast, alongside Hezbollah and North Korea, had boots on the ground from 2012-13 and were all committed to supporting counterinsurgency efforts and preserving the Syrian state. For Iran the fall of Syria to Western-backed jihadists as Afghanistan had fallen in 1992 was seen as unacceptable. As senior Iranian cleric Mehdi Taeb famously said: “If the enemy attacks us and wants to take either Syria or [the outlying Iranian province of] Khuzestan, the priority is to keep Syria… If we keep Syria, we can get Khuzestan back too, but if we lose Syria, we cannot keep Tehran.” Iran has thus been much more heavily invested in supporting Damascus throughout the war than Russia has.

There have been similarities between Russian and Iranian support for Syria. Both have sought to support the Syrian economy with Iran emerging as the country’s largest trading partner shortly after the war began, although it has since been displaced by China, while Russia has shown a strong interest in post war investment. Both sought to avoid relying too heavily on deployment of their own manpower on the frontlines as the Soviets had in Afghanistan, and instead focused on arming and training auxiliary forces. Russia, for example, oversaw the creation and arming of the Syrian 5th Corps and provided T-62M and T-72B3 tanks from its own reserves, while Iran facilitated the deployment of allied paramilitaries such as the Afghan Hazara Fatemiyoun. Russia’s military intervention was aimed largely at demonstrating new capabilities to NATO, with many of its strikes meant more than anything as shows of force. An example was in November 2015 when its air force flew Tu-160 supersonic bombers from the Arctic around Ireland and through the Straits of Gibraltar to fire cruise missiles over the Mediterranean at insurgents in Syria before returning to Russia – which was initially widely dismissed by Western officials as phantastic before being confirmed several hours later. Iran’s intervention was significantly quieter and received less fanfare in local media, but was more persistent and tenacious due to the much higher stakes the conflict represented for Tehran. The Iranian and Hezbollah campaigns have also involved much more significant clashes with Israel, as well as with Turkey in Hezbollah’s case, while Russian units have seldom fired on or been fired on by forces from state actors. A significant number of other major contrasts between Iranian and Russian interventions exist, but for the sake of brevity I will restrict the examples to those above.

Although both share the goal of restoring Syrian territorial integrity and bolstering Damascus, Russia and Iran certainly have different visions in accordance with their very different ideological positions, which themselves contrast with Syria’s Ba’athist socialist party-state that is much closer to the USSR, China or North Korea than to either of them. Iran’s influence has led to the growth of Shiite paramilitary groups in Syria which have been major supporters of the Syrian Arab Army on the ground, but their presence contrasts with Syria’s long history of secularism and separation of religion from the state and the security apparatus. This influence may well have an impact on Syrian political culture and policies as it did in neighbouring Iraq. Russia under the current liberal democratic capitalist system, or ‘Western liberalism with Russian characteristics’ as some have referred to it, also has a much greater ideological gap with Damascus than it did in the Soviet era. Russia has been known to try to influence states to move in this direction with reform, most notably Belarus, and could well seek to have a similar influence in Syria. Syria’s ruling party, for its part, is likely to resist both influences but accommodate Russian and Iranian interests on its soil in exchange for their continued economic and military support.

6)–How do you see the future of Syria, Israel and the future of the Middle East?  What has that war changed?

The Syrian War, and the NATO assault on Libya which began almost simultaneously in March 2011, have reshaped the Arab world and Middle East profoundly by in one case removing, and in the other seriously weakening the two Arab states which had longest and most persistently opposed Western hegemony. From the late 1970s and early 1980s, as Iraq and Egypt pivoted to align themselves with the West, Syria and Libya alongside South Yemen and Algeria remained the only countries which had not been absorbed into the Western sphere of influence.

The Syrian conflict marked a turning point in several trends in regional affairs. The U.S.’ refusal to invest heavily in the conflict, particularly in 2013 when a full scale assault had been expected, marked an important step in the Obama administration’s Pivot to Asia initiative. This has since been carried forward by Trump and Biden to focus resources on countering China and North Korea specifically and reduce commitments in the Middle East. The Syrian War set an important precedent for how the Western Bloc could seriously erode an adversary at a very low cost. The campaign avoided the need for tens of thousands of Western boots on the ground as in Iraq and instead relied on jihadist militant groups, with much of the funding to support them coming from the Gulf States and Turkey. While the CIA was responsible for organisation and logistics and for coordinating between the insurgency’s Western-aligned sponsors, the Pentagon budget was not seriously affected by the war. A similar mode of attack was seen in Libya, although jihadists there were less effective and had a much smaller support base and Western air power was applied much more to compensate. Attempts to replicate this low cost means of neutralising Western adversaries are likely.

Other major turning points were seen in Turkey, where its attempt to play a leading role in forcing the overthrow of the Syrian government marked the beginning of a more assertive and interventionist foreign policy stance which recently materialised in its intervention against Armenia in 2020. In Egypt Western support for jihadists in Libya and Syria, and ties between these jihadists and the Muslim Brotherhood domestically, contributed to alienating the Egyptian Military from the West after it took power in 2013. The region also saw Russia remerge as a major player with its first significant combat operations since the early 1970s. Moscow sought to use the strong impression its intervention had made to capitalise on discontent among traditional Western clients such as the Gulf States and Egypt and form new partnerships of its own.

For Syria itself, as the war largely comes to an end, the world in the 2020s is one very different from when the war begun with China having since emerged as the world’s leading economy and Russia having seemingly abandoned its hopes for integration into the West to pursue a more independent foreign policy. This shift has seriously dampened the impacts of Western sanctions on Damascus, with Huawei rebuilding its telecoms networks and China providing everything from busses to power generators as aid which make it far easier Syria and other Western targets in similar positions to survive. Nevertheless, the continued occupation in the north by Western powers led by the U.S., and in Idlib by Turkey, will continue to pose a serious threat until restored to Syrian government control. Occupied areas reportedly hold 90% of Syria’s oil output, which will continue to be illegally expropriated to undermine Damascus’ reconstruction efforts. Idlib meanwhile, as the largest Al Qaeda safe haven the world has seen since September 2001, continues to be a launching pad for jihadist attacks into Syria. Both Idlib and the northern regions could form the bases for Kosovo-style partitioning of Syria enforced by NATO, and for Damascus it will thus be a leading priority to prevent this and impose continued costs on Western and Turkish forces. An example of how this could be done was the Syrian government ballistic missile strike on an oil facility run by militants under Turkish protection in March 2021.

7)– Last, but not least, what is, in your opinion, the US end goal for Syria (and Lebanon)?

The primary goal is the removal of the Ba’ath Party and Syrian military establishment as organisations which can arrange their domestic and foreign policies and their security with a great deal of independence from the West, and are thus able to oppose Western hegemony in the region. Their continued existence has for decades been a thorn in the side of Western efforts to shape the Middle East in line with its interests. In Lebanon the same applies for Hezbollah. This is hardly a U.S. goal exclusively, but is shared by the major NATO members such as Britain, Germany, France and Turkey and is in the common interests of furthering Western global hegemony.

Should the West achieve its objective, what follows could be a civil war as seen in Libya after Gaddafi’s death, in which NATO powers support both sides to ensure any outcome is favourable to Western interests, or the establishment of a client government as the West recently achieved in Sudan with a coup April 2019. While five major motivations for making war on Syria are explored in detail in the book, at the heart of all of them is that the Syrian government was not part of the Western-led order, did not align itself with Western policy objectives against Iran, China and others, and did not house Western soldiers on its soil. This made the state’s existence unacceptable to the West, as did its close security cooperation with Iran, North Korea and Hezbollah. Whether the outcome of Western intervention is a partitioning, a unified Syria remade as a client state, or an indefinite civil war, the primary goal of neutralising Syria as an independent actor would be achieved. Once the goal of destroying the party, state and military was thwarted, and it became clear from 2016 that the Syrian government would retain power, the Western and Turkish goal changed to prolonging the conflict, creating Kosovo-type enclaves under NATO control, and placing downward pressure on Syrian living standards and the economy. They could thereby impede post-war recovery and a return to normality and ensure that Syria would remain weakened and a burden to its allies.

–Thank you!!

PRAISE FOR WORLD WAR IN SYRIA

“Impressive in its scholarship, pondered in its judgements, above all
searing in its dissection of Western powers’ war on Syria waged over

many decades, the book is a must-have on the bookshelves of any seri-
ous fair-minded student of Syria.”

– Peter Ford, British Ambassador to Syria from 2003–2006.
“The most detailed history of the war in Syria so far, providing a richness

of highly interesting details, as well as a critical analysis of its com-
plex international and domestic dimensions, rarely encountered in other

Western publications.”
– Nikolaos van Dam, former Special Envoy for Syria, 2015–16.
Ambassador of the Netherlands to Iraq, Egypt, Turkey, Germany and
Indonesia, 1988–2010. Author of Destroying a Nation: The Civil War
in Syria.
“A. B. Abrams explores the widening scope of the Syrian conflict in his
important book. Solving Syria’s civil war will require a regional approach
engaging stakeholders whose interests are fundamentally opposed.”
– David L. Phillips, Senior Adviser in the Clinton, Bush, and Obama State
Departments. Former Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council. Director of
the Program on Peace-Building and Human Rights, Columbia University
ISHR.

“Abrams is a meticulous guide to the labyrinth of Syria’s modern polit-
ical history.”

– Richard W. Murphy. U.S. Ambassador to Syria, 1974 to 1978. Consul in
Aleppo, Syria, 1960–63.
“A. B. Abrams has written an extremely informative and illuminating

account on the international dimension of the origins, outbreak and evo-
lution of the Syrian conflict. His empirically rich analysis in this nuanced

and comprehensive study make it one of the best books, if not the best
book, written about the Syrian crisis. This book is a MUST read for
anyone who wants to understand the Syrian conflict, the Middle East,
and the role of the great powers in the region.”
– Jubin Goodarzi, Professor and Deputy Head of International Relations,
Webster University, Geneva. Former consultant and political adviser
on Middle Eastern affairs for the UNHCR. He formerly held posts at
Chatham House, CSIS and the Ford Foundation.
PRAISE FOR WORLD WAR IN SYRIA

“An insightful and dispassionate record of the Syrian Maelstrom and the
West’s role as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice.”
– John Holmes, Major General and Director Special Forces (ret.), British
Army.
“This is a sad tale of betrayal and conspiracy. Not just theory but facts
meticulously uncovered by Abrams. The conspiracy was part of broader
trends in the United States and Europe towards the non-Western World.

Since its fight for independence from French rule in 1946, Syria’s strug-
gles to remain free of Western hegemonic ambitions have continued to

play out for decades culminating in the crisis which emerged in 2011 and
became a proxy war of international proportions.”
– Dawn Chatty, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology and Forced Migration
at the University of Oxford. Fellow at the British Academy. Author of
Syria: The Making and Unmaking of a Refuge State.
“Abrams’ book provides essential historical and geopolitical context to
Syria’s ten-year war, reflecting a particularly deep and comprehensive
understanding of the conflict and of the country’s strategic importance.”
– Military Watch Magazine.
“Supported by a weight of evidence, this book sets out the context and
details of the Syrian conflict and effectively helps the reader to chart a
course between the overwhelming complexity of the crisis and Western
efforts to tell a simplified story of events on the ground. It will be of
interest to researchers, students and those interested in the messy reality
of one of the past decade’s foremost crises.”
– Jack Holland, Associate Professor in International Security at the
University of Leeds. Author of Selling War and Peace: Syria and the
Anglosphere.

“A well-researched and well-written book. Abrams provides the his-
torical context of post-independence Syria within which one can find

the reasons why the war became such a nodal point for regional and
international intrigue. While doing so, he also hones in as no one else
previously has – on some critical turning points during the civil war that
determined the direction of the conflict.”
– David Lesch, Leader of the Harvard-NUPI-Trinity Syria Research
Project. Ewing Halsell Distinguished Professor of Middle East History
at Trinity University. Author of Syria: A Modern History and Syria: The
Fall of the House of Assad.

“The countries intervening in Syria without approval of the Security
Council under Chapter VII were consciously violating international
law. Abrams’ intensive, highly-documented work provides an excellent
resource for understanding the historical and present dimensions of the
conflict.”
– Alfred De Zayas, Professor, Geneva School of Diplomacy. Former UN
Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable
International Order.
“A. B. Abrams has written a timely, balanced and insightful account
of the Syrian war. The book is well-researched and provides both the

necessary historic context but reveals also present-day drivers that re-
sulted in Syria becoming a theater for regional and global competition

for influence.”
– Alex Vatanka, senior fellow in Middle East Studies at the U.S. Air Force

Special Operations School. Senior fellow and director of the Iran pro-
gram at the Middle East Institute, Washington D.C. Adjunct professor at

Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
“An impressive and comprehensive feat of in-depth research, most
notably concerning developments in political and military strategy of
international actors in the Syrian war. The author provides a unique and
sophisticated chronological overview of pre-war socio-political and
economic realities in Syria, a detailed description of the conflict over its

entire duration, and an outline of possible post-war scenarios. An excep-
tional feature of the book lies in the author’s profound understanding of

how supplies of specific armaments on both sides influenced the course
of the war. World War in Syria is an excellent work, highly beneficial for

war and security studies professionals and students, as well as for histo-
rians, international relations scholars and the general public wishing to

better understand the effects of external involvement on the development
and outcome of the Syrian conflict.”
– Daria Vorobyeva, Centre for Syrian Studies, University of St. Andrews.
Co-Author of The War for Syria: Regional and International Dimensions
of the Syrian Uprising.

“A superb narrative dealing with tactical, operational and strategic mat-
ters of that war, in as fine military history writing as any by the first rate

military historian, and also shows a horrendous toll this war exerted on
the people of Syria. It is a superb book which makes a great contribution
to the field of study of the Middle East and of global politics and balance
of forces.”
– Andrei Martyanov, former naval officer. Frequent contributor to the U.S.
Naval Institute Blog. Author of The (Real) Revolution in Military Affairs.

Pakistan will face consequences of its actions in Afghanistan, warns ex-Iran president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

September 11, 2021

Pakistan will face consequences of its actions in Afghanistan, warns ex-Iran president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

https://www.wionews.com/world/exclusive-pakistan-will-face-consequences-of-its-actions-in-afghanistan-warns-ex-iran-president-mahmoud-ahmadinejad-411375

Story highlights

Speaking to WION’s Executive Editor Palki Sharma, Ahmadinejad stressed that the handing over of power to Taliban is part of a ‘satanic plot’ by the western powers led by the US. India, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, China and regional countries will face the consequences of the re-emergence of Taliban, he said on WION’s Afghanistan Dialogues programme. He urged Pakistan to join efforts by Iran and India to resolve the crisis.

Amid reports that Pakistan had helped the Taliban quell the resistance in Panjshir, Iran’s former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warned Islamabad that it will be haunted by its actions in near future in which he foresaw the militant group threatening Pakistani government and sovereignty.

Speaking to WION’s Executive Editor Palki Sharma, Ahmadinejad also stressed that the handing over of power to Taliban is part of a ‘satanic plot’ by the western powers led by the US.

US Pulls Missile System in Saudi Arabia amid Yemeni Resistance Ops

September 11, 2021

US Pulls Missile System in Saudi Arabia amid Yemeni Resistance Ops

By Staff, Agencies

The United States removed its most advanced missile defense system and Patriot batteries from Saudi Arabia in recent weeks, even as the kingdom faced continued aerial operations from Yemen’s Ansarullah resistance movement.

The redeployment of the defenses from Prince Sultan Air Base outside Riyadh came as Gulf Arab countries nervously watched the chaotic withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, including their last-minute evacuations from Kabul’s besieged international airport.

While tens of thousands of American forces remain across the Arabian Peninsula as a counterweight to Iran, Gulf Arab nations worry about the US’s future plans as its military perceives a growing threat in Asia that requires those missile defenses.

“Perceptions matter whether or not they’re rooted in a cold, cold reality. And the perception is very clear that the US is not as committed to the Gulf as it used to be in the views of many people in decision-making authority in the region,” said Kristian Ulrichsen, a research fellow at the James A Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University.

“From the Saudi point of view, they now see Obama, Trump and Biden – three successive presidents – taking decisions that signify to some extent an abandonment.”

Prince Sultan Air Base, some 115km southeast of Riyadh, has hosted several thousand US troops since a 2019 missile-and-drone operation on the heart of the kingdom’s oil production. That operation was claimed by Yemen’s Ansarullah resistance.

Just southwest of the airbase’s runway, a one-square-kilometer area set off by an earthen berm saw American forces station Patriot missile batteries, as well as one advanced Terminal High Altitude Air Defense unit, according to satellite images from Planet Labs Inc. A THAAD can destroy ballistic missiles at a higher altitude than Patriots.

A satellite image seen by The Associated Press news agency in late August showed some of the batteries removed from the area, though activity and vehicles could still be seen there. A high-resolution Planet Lab satellite picture taken on Friday showed the batteries’ pads at the site empty, with no visible activity.

The redeployment of missiles had been rumored for months, in part because of a desire to face what American officials see as the looming “great powers conflict” with China and Russia. However, the withdrawal came just as an Ansarullah drone operation against Saudi Arabia wounded eight and damaged a commercial jetliner at the kingdom’s airport in Abha. The kingdom has been locked in a stalemate war with the Ansarullah since March 2015.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby acknowledged “the redeployment of certain air defense assets”. He said the US maintained a “broad and deep” commitment to its Middle East allies.

العودة إلى الاتفاق النووي… بلا شروط

 ناصر قنديل

  رغم الكلام الفارغ الصادر عن المسؤولين الأميركيين، تحت عنوان أنّ واشنطن لن تواصل التفاوض حول الملف النووي الإيراني إلى ما لا نهاية، وعن خيار التخلي عن الاتفاق النووي، أو عن وجود بدائل للعودة إلى الاتفاق، يعرف كل مسؤول في واشنطن وتل أبيب والرياض وباريس ولندن وبرلين أن ليس في جعبتهم شيء غير العودة إلى الاتفاق، وأنّ كلّ الطلبات الإضافية كأثمان للعودة، سواء في الملفات الإقليمية أو ملف الصواريخ أو إبقاء بعض العقوبات، سيعني عدم العودة، كما يعرفون أنه عندما تقول إيران إنها لن تواصل التفاوض إلى ما لا نهاية وإن لديها بدائل للاتفاق، فيجب أن يأخذوا كلامها على محمل الجد، ذلك أن الزمن يفعل لصالح إيران، وفقاً لما يقوله الأميركيون والإسرائيليون وما قاله بالأمس مدير عام الوكالة الدولية للطاقة الذرية، عن أنّ إيران تستثمر الوقت لمراكمة المزيد من اليورانيوم المخصّب بنسب عالية يجعلها أقرب لما يسمّونه بالحظة النووية الحرجة، وهي لحظة امتلاك ما يكفي لإنتاج قنبلة نووية.

بالتوازي لا يملك الأميركيون والأوروبيون سوى إغواء رفع العقوبات لتحفيز إيران لقبول العودة، والالتزام بموجباتها المنصوص عليها في الاتفاق، خصوصاً أن إيران التزمت منفردة لسنتين بالاتفاق في ظل الانسحاب الأميركي بلا سبب أو مبرّر كما يقول جميع الشركاء الآخرين بمن فيهم الأوروبيون ووكالة الطاقة الذرية والأمم المتحدة عدا عن الصين وروسيا، والعودة عن العقوبات اليوم هي إعلان العودة إلى الاتفاق من الجانب الأميركي لامتلاك مشروعية مطالبة إيران بالعودة المماثلة، ووفقاً لما يقوله الأميركيون و»الإسرائيليون» أيضاً فإنّ رفع العقوبات عن إيران لم يعد يملك ذات السحر الذي كان يملكه قبل ست سنوات يوم توقيع الاتفاق في مثل هذه الأيام، حيث كانت العقوبات صادرة عن الأمم المتحدة، وهذا قد سقط إلى غير رجعة، وفتح أمام إيران الطريق لحلول اقتصادية ومالية عديدة، لم تنجح العقوبات الأميركية بتعطيلها، فالمتاجرة بين إيران وروسيا والصين وتركيا وباكستان واليابان وكوريا الجنوبية والعراق  وسواها من الدول، بقيت تجد بدائل لها تتفادى العقوبات الأميركية، فيما نجحت إيران بتطوير صناعات نفطية أضعفت حاجتها لتصدير النفط الخام، كما نجحت بتطوير اقتصادها لتفادي حجم الاقتصاد الاستهلاكي والريعي لحساب الإنتاج.

عندما تقول واشنطن إنها تستعجل العودة إلى الاتفاق النووي تسهيلاً للتفرغ لمواجهة الصين، فهل تنتظر من الصين أن تقف مكتوفة الأيدي، وهي تعلم وتقول إنها تعلم، أن الاتفاق الاستراتيجي الاقتصادي بين الصين وإيران أفقد العقوبات الأميركية فعاليتها، وأسقط قيمة العودة للاتفاق النووي بالنسبة لإيران، وجعل عائداته مجرد مكاسب إضافية لا يجوز إضاعتها، لكنها لا تستحق القتال من أجلها، فيما تعرف واشنطن أن الضفة الدولية الموازية للاهتمام الأميركي بالمواجهة التي تمثلها موسكو باتت شريكاً استراتيجياً لطهران في العديد من السياسات الإقليمية، التي تجعل الحفاظ على إيران قوية موضع اهتمام صيني- روسي، لا يمكن للأميركي تبديله لا بالإغراءات ولا بالتهديدات لكل من الصين وروسيا.

الكلام الأميركي عن بدائل يعني شيئاً واحداً هو العودة إلى خطة الرئيس السابق دونالد ترامب التي صعد الرئيس جو بايدن على قاعدة القول بأنها خطأ جسيم، وأنه في ظلها طوّرت إيران نظام الصواريخ وطوّرت قوى المقاومة مزيداً من الحضور، وتمّ اختصار المسافة عن اللحظة النووية الحرجة من سنة إلى بضعة أسابيع كما قال كل من وزير الخارجية الأميركية أنتوني بلينكن ومستشار الأمن القومي الأميركي جايك سوليفان والمبعوث الأميركي الخاص روبرت مالي مراراً، أما الرهان على الخيار العسكري، فهل من عاقل يتخيّل أنّ أحداً يأخذه على محمل الجد في ضوء المشهد الأفغاني، والتلويح بالاعتماد على ضربات «إسرائيلية» يبدو مجرد مزحة سمجة في ضوء الكلام «الإسرائيلي» والمؤيد أميركياً بأن إيران وقوى المقاومة في وضع تفوّق استراتيجي، وفائض قوة يتيح تحويل أي تحرش «إسرائيلي» جدي إلى مبرر لمواجهة شاملة لن تكون نهايتها في صالح «إسرائيل».

مرة أخرى كما كانت الحال عليه قبل ست سنوات، لا بديل للاتفاق مع إيران إلا الاتفاق مع إيران، ومضمون الاتفاق عودة غير مشروطة عن العقوبات، على قاعدة الالتزام المتبادل بالاتفاق الأصلي من دون الرهان على متغيرات وتحوّلات، هي في غير صالح الثنائي الأميركي «الإسرائيلي».

مقالات متعلقة

Nuances of a silent expansive explosion

Nuances of a silent expansive explosion

September 09, 2021

By Fabio Reis Vianna for TheSaker blog

When the world system was still in its infancy in that appendix of the Eurasian continent we know today as Europe, Babur, the King of Kabul, entered India from the northwest to establish the Mughal Empire in 1526, outlining an empire that would later be consolidated by his grandson Akbar (1556 – 1605).

The splendor of the great Eastern civilizations took place in a historical period when the world’s economy, cultural activities, and military power were concentrated in places such as China, India, and the ancient Persian Empire, now known as Iran.

The strategic withdrawal of China of the Ming – the most advanced civilization among the great pre-modern empires – from the great expansionist game, may have been the delimiting point between the before and the after of the geopolitical rise of those, as historian Paul Kennedy would say, “dispersed and relatively unsophisticated peoples who occupied the western part of the Eurasian landmass”, namely, the Europeans.

The Chinese vacuum still remains a great mystery to many historians: Why would Admiral Cheng Ho have withdrawn his fleet and that great rising civilization have given up its expansion toward an undisputed hegemonism in the Eurasian world system?

More than five hundred years after these events, we see the current hegemon of the modern world system, heir to the violent and predatory expansionism invented by the Europeans, withdrawing in an impromptu manner from that territory that in the past was part of the great Mughal Empire of King Babur and his grandson Akbar, Afghanistan.

According to most Western media analysts, the US withdrawal from Afghan territory should have been done in a coordinated manner with the puppet government, allies, and after all the Afghans who collaborated with the invasion and occupation had already left the scene.

It so happens that both the abrupt exit from Afghanistan, and Biden’s first speech justifying the exit, would confirm something that analyses centered on an American leadership of the past no longer follow.

The current expansive explosion of the world system, which began in the 1970s and shaped itself into imperial contours after the collapse of the Soviet Union, seems to be at a unique moment and certainly generated by pandemic chaos.

It is true that even before the Covid-19 crisis the increase in competitive pressure was already visible, reflecting the entry into the game of the new emerging powers, especially Russia and China.

The intensification of interstate competition, therefore, would have led the United States to give up its global leadership based on the diffuse values of the so-called “Liberal Order” instituted after World War II.

The 2017 national security strategy published during the Trump administration, which in practice had already been outlining and deepening since the first incursion into Iraq in 1991, would now reveal itself without masks.

The tearing of the fantasy of the old benevolent hegemon had come true.

The big news of what happened in Afghanistan would be revealed at the last G7 meeting, when the European leaders demanded from the United States a more responsible posture in its global leadership.

However, what is still hard for the European allies to understand, or accept, is that the United States has given up any global leadership, and in this new strategic configuration – which was not a point out of the curve created by the erratic Trump administration – the national interest, and only the national interest of the United States, will be the priority.

This being so, and taking into consideration that the United States’ military presence in Afghanistan, paradoxically, would not be negatively affecting the Chinese economic projects, and, on the contrary, favored them by guaranteeing stability in the region, it is absolutely plausible the line of reasoning that would justify the way out: to establish chaos in a region where the Eurasian enemies would be interested in stability.

The fourth expansive explosion of the world system reveals itself in frightening appearances by indicating, besides the increase in competitive pressure and the escalation of conflicts in itself, a displacement of what the professor of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, José Luís Fiori, would call a “black hole” of destructive force.

The black hole, therefore, would be at this very moment moving to a new war epicenter, which would probably be the Indo-Pacific, as well as previously unthinkable regions such as South America itself.

In a recent poll, USA Today indicated a rise in Joe Biden’s unpopularity rating after what happened in Afghanistan, which could have erroneously indicated a possible step backwards in the American exit. However, what is likely to happen is just the opposite: the bid for more systemic chaos and global destabilization.

The world system feeds on the permanent expansion of power, and this becomes even clearer when those at the top of the system find themselves challenged and losing ground to their adversaries.

More than ever perhaps the time has come for the Eurasians to fill that void left by Admiral Cheng Ho’s squadron in 1433.

Fabio Reis Vianna, lives in Rio de Janeiro, is a bachelor of laws (LL.B), MA student in International Relations at the University of Évora (Portugal), writer and geopolitical analyst. He currently maintains a column on international politics at the centennial Brazilian newspaper Monitor Mercantil.

جلسة مع أجيال “حزب الله” الأربعة

See the source image


الخميس 9 أيلول 2021

المصدر: الميادين نت

إذا كان ابن خلدون يخشى من مخالفة الجيل الرابع لنهج أسلافه فإنَّ جيل الحزب الجديد يستفيد من وجود الأجيال الثلاثة السابقة، ويعمل معهم جنباً إلى جنب.

تجاوز “حزب الله” معضلة الأجيال الأربعة التي تحدَّث عنها ابن خلدون في الفصل الخامس عشر من الباب الثاني في مقدّمته الشهيرة؛ فإذا كان الجيل المؤسّس الأول يفاخر بانطلاقه في العمل بإمكانيات محدودة، مقارناً بين قدرات الحزب اليوم، إذ يتوفر كلّ ما يمكن أن تطلبه، وقدراته في تلك الأيام، حين كانت تنقل عدة العمل المتواضعة نفسها من عملية إلى أخرى، فإن الجيل الرابع يُذهل اليوم من سبقه بما يظهره من اندفاع وإبداع في التخطيط. 

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هذه الأجيال الأربعة تظهر تفاؤلاً كبيراً في الانتقال الواضح في المواجهة المباشرة من الوكيل إلى الأصيل.

وإذا كان ابن خلدون يخشى من مخالفة الجيل الرابع لنهج أسلافه وقلبه رأساً على عقب، فإنَّ جيل الحزب الجديد يستفيد من وجود الأجيال الثلاثة السابقة، ويعمل معهم جنباً إلى جنب. وإذا كانت المعاناة هي محرّك الجيل الأول، فإنّ الانتصارات تحرّك جيل اليوم. وللمقاتل في “حزب الله” سنوات خدمة محددة (تتراوح غالباً بين 8 و12)، تسبقها وتتبعها من دون شك مهام حزبية أخرى، وهو ما يبقي التداخل كبيراً بين الأجيال الأربعة.

وقد بنى الحزب مؤسَّسة ضخمة جداً: دينية أولاً، ثم عسكرية وأمنية، ثم اجتماعية، ثم سياسية وإعلامية، وأخيراً اقتصادية، مع إدارة مالية منضبطة جداً. وخلال 15 عاماً، تطوّر الشّكل من حزب لبناني مع ذراع عسكريّة إلى حزب إقليمي يتقدم بأشواط جميع المتساوين في لبنان، وله تأثيره الكبير، سواء لدى مجموعات المقاومة داخل فلسطين المحتلة أو في دوائر صناعة القرار في كل من غزة وسوريا والعراق واليمن. 

في لحظة الهجوم الأميركي والأوروبي والخليجي المكثّف والمتكرر لتغيير الأنظمة في المنطقة، فوجِئ هؤلاء بحزب لم يحسبوا له الحساب الجديّ، يضع العصي في دواليب الآلة الأميركية المدنية والعسكرية والتكفيرية والسياسية والإعلامية. ومن لبنان، إلى العراق، إلى سوريا، إلى اليمن، فـ”صفقة القرن”، وما تستوجبه من تكريس لمشاعر التطبيع، كان الحزب حجر الزاوية في بعثرة الطّموحات وتثبيت المعادلات السياسيّة في 5 دول على الأقل.

ولا بدَّ في هذا السياق من تخيّل 5 رسوم بيانية تظهر تطور الحزب منذ استنفار واشنطن في العام 2005 عسكرياً وأمنياً وإعلامياً ومالياً لتحجيمه، وصولاً إلى اليوم، وذلك على 5 مستويات: (1) جغرافيا انتشاره، (2) تأثيره، (3) قدراته البشرية، (4) معنوياته القتالية، (5) تجهيزاته اللوجستية. 

على المستوى الجغرافي، كان الحزب يتحرك في رقعة محدودة جداً (نحو 2500 كلم مربع). أما اليوم، فهو يتحرك في مساحة هائلة (أكثر من 500 ألف كلم مربع). بوضوح أكثر، كانت مشكلة “إسرائيل” محصورة في 2500 كلم مربع، فيما هي اليوم موزعة على مساحة 500 ألف كلم مربع. كانت طائرات الاستطلاع تعجز عن ضبط مخيمات التدريب ومخازن الصواريخ والمصانع وغيره في مساحة 2500 كلم مربع، فيما يتوزع هذا كله في محيط من اليابسة تبلغ مساحته أكثر من 500 ألف كلم مربع، بعضه صحارى، وبعضه الآخر غابات وسهول ووديان ومدن مأهولة.

على المستوى البشري، كان عديد مقاتلي الحزب قبل الحرب السورية محدوداً. أما اليوم، فتضخ المدارس التدريبية الموزعة على الحدود السورية- العراقية آلاف المقاتلين الشباب سنوياً، والذين يمكن أن يكونوا بكبسة زر في بغداد أو الشام أو الجولان أو صنعاء أو مارون الراس أو الجليل. كان الحزب يتكل في تطويع المقاتلين على نحو نصف أبناء الطائفة الشيعية في لبنان أو كلها في أفضل الأحوال. أما اليوم، فيفتح الباب لمن يشاء من شباب العراق وسوريا واليمن… 

على المستوى اللوجستي، كان التحدّي في العام 2008 يتعلَّق بشبكة اتصالات خاصة بـ”حزب الله”، فيما نتحدث اليوم عن شبكة رؤوس ذكية وشبكة مسيرات وشبكة تشويش واختراق وشبكة صواريخ مخصصة لإسقاط الطائرات وشبكة دبابات وسلاح ثقيل يمكن لمح بعضه في وثائقي “أسرار التحرير الثاني” الذي أعدته قناة “المنار”، مع الأخذ بالاعتبار أن مشروع الدخول إلى الجليل في العام 2006 كان مجرد احتمال يطمح إلى خطف بعض المستوطنين لإنضاج تسوية في حال كان “حزب الله” مأزوماً في الحرب. أما اليوم، فدخول الجليل هو مشروع كامل متكامل يفترض أن يلاقيه الفلسطينيون في مناطقهم المختلفة في ثلثي الطريق. 

أما على المستوى العسكريّ، فقد تحول ما كان يوصف بالذراع العسكرية لـ”حزب الله” إلى جيش نظامي يضم قيادة، ووحدات خاصة (أكثر من خمسة)، وقوات جوية (مسيرات وغيره)، ومديرية شؤون جغرافية، ومديرية إعلام حربي، ومديرية تدريس عسكري وتدريب وتوجيه، وقوات بحرية، وأكثر من 4 ألوية، وفوج هندسة، وفوجاً لوجستياً، وفوج تدخل، وفوج مدرعات، وفوج إشارة، إضافةً إلى جهاز استخباراتي ضخم، وجهاز دفاع مدني، وجهاز طوارئ صحية، وجهاز طوارئ غذائية، وجهاز دفاع مدنيّ. 

وإذا كان هذا الجهاز العسكريّ ضخماً، فإنَّ الأضخم هو الجهاز التربوي الذي يعرف بـ”التعبئة التربوية”، وهي من حيث الحجم أكبر عددياً من كل الأحزاب اللبنانية مجتمعة، من دون الحديث عن القطاعات المناطقية والكشافة والمؤسسة الدينية والماكينة الانتخابية وغيره، مع العلم أنّ كلّ من يملك المال بوسعه بناء كلّ ما سبق، لكنَّ الفارق الرئيسي يكمن أولاً في الروحية القتالية التي أثبت الحزب أن ليس بين جيوش العالم من يضاهيه فيها، والانضباط الذي كان له الفضل الأكبر في الإنجاز السوريّ.

حزب كهذا الحزب يفترض البعض أنّه قادر على هزمه بهاشتاغ من ذبابه الإلكترونيّ (بحسابات وهمية بغالبيتها)، أو بمجموعة “أن جي أوز” تعزف على الطناجر وتعانق بعضها البعض لترفع معنوياتها، أو بمجموعة شتامين في وسائلهم الإعلامية ومواقع التواصل، أو بشعلة سمير جعجع وتغريدات فارس سعيد ونظريات نجل نهاد المشنوق.

ولا شكَّ في هذا السياق في أنَّ من يجالس نفسه فقط أو يستمع إلى جهابذة السفارات فقط يمكن أن يُغش. أما من يستمع إلى الفريقين ويلتقيهما ويرافق أجيال “حزب الله” بكل ما خبروه في العقدين الماضيين، فلا يمكن أن يُغش أبداً. هناك من خسر كل معاركه من دون استثناء، وهناك من ربح كل المعارك من دون استثناء. هناك من يتحدث عن وقائع ويستعرض الحقائق، وهناك من يراكم الأوهام فوق الشعارات فوق الأحلام.

مع بدء الأحداث في سوريا، كانت هناك وجهة نظر تقول إنها تشهد نمواً اقتصادياً متواصلاً منذ بضع سنوات. ولأول مرة منذ نشأة الدولة، تتأمن غالبية الأساسيات على صعيد الدواء والغذاء والكهرباء والمواصلات، ويصعب بالتالي تأمين وقود اجتماعي- اقتصادي للثورة، فيما لا يوجد بديل سياسيّ. 

ومع ذلك، فإنّ المنظّرين للثورة كانوا يُستفزون جداً من هذا المنطق، معتبرين أنَّ الأساس عند الإنسان هو كرامته والحرية، لا رغيف الخبز، لكن هؤلاء أنفسهم يقولون اليوم للبنانيين إن الرغيف والكهرباء والمازوت والمواصلات أهم من الحرية والسلاح الذي يحميها، فيدعون هم أنفسهم – باستهزاء طبعاً – من يتحدّث عن الكرامة إلى أن يطعم أولاده عزّة، وهو ما يقود بيئة “حزب الله” إلى التأكيد أنَّ “معركة الخبز” مفتعلة جملةً وتفصيلاً، وما المشاكل المعيشية اليومية سوى أدوات ضغط في معارك جانبية كان يفترض أن تستنزفه، لكنها لم تفعل، تماماً كما كان يفترض بجموع التكفيريين الذين شحنوا إلى سوريا من كلّ أصقاع العالم أن يفعلوا، لكنهم لم ينجحوا، مع التأكيد أن من يربح هذه الحروب الاستنزافية الصغيرة لا يربح الحرب. أما الأساس الذي يسمح بربح الحرب، فهو السلاح والتمدد الجغرافي وتطوير القدرات. 

وهنا، يبدو الحزب مرتاحاً جداً، فهو لم يعرف منذ نشأته سنوات أفضل من هذه السنوات الأربعة على صعيد تطوير قدراته وتأمين التجهيزات البشرية واللوجستية لقضيته الأساسية المرتبطة بالصراع مع “إسرائيل”، من دون أية متاعب تُذكر. وتكفي في هذا السياق الملاحظة أنَّ الجميع اليوم يتحدث عن البنزين والمازوت والمياه والكهرباء والغلاء المعيشي، لكن لا يأتي أحد على ذكر سلاح “حزب الله”، بعدما كان هذا السلاح قبل 4 أعوام الشغل الشاغل للجميع في الداخل والخارج، مع العلم أنَّ طرق الإمداد الخاصة بهذا السلاح (الذي يمثل الهدف الرئيسي لكلِّ ما تفعله الولايات المتحدة في المنطقة) لا تتأثر بانقطاع الكهرباء أو شحّ المحروقات أو تدمير العملة الوطنية. 

عودٌ على بدء، حين يتعلّق الأمر بـ”حزب الله”، فإنَّ اللقاء مع البيئة الحزبيّة غالباً ما يشمل 4 أجيال. مجرّد رؤية هذه الأجيال الأربعة تتآزر في التفكير لمواصلة التقدّم هو أمر استثنائي لا يمكن رؤيته في أيِّ مكان آخر، إذ تطغى غالباً تناقضات الأجيال على كلِّ شيء آخر. 

هذه الأجيال الأربعة تظهر تفاؤلاً كبيراً في الانتقال الواضح في المواجهة المباشرة من الوكيل إلى الأصيل. الحرب ليست مع “إسرائيل” أو مع رياض سلامة أو مع منظمات المجتمع المدني أو سائر الأدوات، إنما مع من يمول كلّ هؤلاء ويحرّضهم و”ينفخ الخسّ في رؤوسهم”. 

وإذا كان الحزب حريصاً جداً على عدم تبني أي عملية من العمليات الموجهة ضد القوات الأميركية في العراق وسوريا أخيراً، فإن الولايات المتحدة تعرف جيداً أن حجر الزاوية في صمود كل هذه المنطقة وإسقاط كل ما كان مرسوماً لها هو “حزب الله”، تماماً كما تعرف أن ما حققه الحزب تعجز عن تحقيقه ألف قنبلة نووية إيرانية. تعرف الولايات المتحدة جيداً كل ما سبق، وتعرف أنَّ “حزب الله” يعرفه أيضاً، وكذلك إيران وروسيا والصين.

What to expect from Taliban 2.0

September 08, 2021

What to expect from Taliban 2.0

A wiser, better-traveled and social media-savvy Taliban will strive to avoid the many dire mistakes of its 1996-2001 rule

By Pepe Escobar posted with permission and first posted at Asia Times

The announcement by Taliban spokesman Zahibullah Mujahid in Kabul of the acting cabinet ministers in the new caretaker government of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan already produced a big bang: it managed to enrage both woke NATOstan and the US Deep State.

This is an all-male, overwhelmingly Pashtun (there’s one Uzbek and one Tajik) cabinet essentially rewarding the Taliban old guard. All 33 appointees are Taliban members.

Mohammad Hasan Akhund – the head of the Taliban Rehbari Shura, or leadership council, for 20 years – will be the Acting Prime Minister. For all practical purposes, Akhund is branded a terrorist by the UN and the EU, and under sanctions by the UN Security Council. It’s no secret Washington brands some Taliban factions as Foreign Terrorist Organizations, and sanctions the whole of the Taliban as a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” organization.

It’s crucial to stress Himatullah Akhundzada, the Taliban Supreme Leader since 2016, is Amir al-Momineen (“Commander of the Faithful”). He can’t be a Prime Minister; his role is that of a supreme spiritual leader, setting the guidelines for the Islamic Emirate and mediating disputes – politics included.

Akhunzada has released a statement, noting that the new government “will work hard towards upholding Islamic rules and sharia law in the country” and will ensure “lasting peace, prosperity and development”. He added, “people should not try to leave the country”.

Spokesman Mujahid took pains to stress this new cabinet is just an “acting” government. This implies one of the next big steps will be to set up a new constitution. The Taliban will “try to take people from other parts of the country” – implying positions for women and Shi’ites may still be open, but not at top level.

Taliban co-founder Abdul Ghani Baradar, who so far had been very busy diplomatically as the head of the political office in Doha, will be deputy Prime Minister. He was a Taliban co-founder in 1994 and close friend of Mullah Omar, who called him “Baradar” (“brother”) in the first place.

A predictable torrent of hysteria greeted the appointment of Sirajuddin Haqqani as Acting Minister of Interior. After all the son of Haqqani founder Jalaluddin, one of three deputy emirs and the Taliban military commander, with a fierce reputation, has a $5 million FBI bounty on his head. His FBI “wanted” page is not exactly a prodigy of intel: they don’t know when he was born, and where, and that he speaks Pashto and Arabic.

This may be the new government’s top challenge: to prevent Sirajuddin and his wild boys from acting medieval in non-Pashtun areas of Afghanistan, and most of all to make sure the Haqqanis cut off any connections with jihadi outfits. That’s a sine qua non condition established by the China-Russia strategic partnership for political, diplomatic and economic development support.

Foreign policy will be much more accommodating. Amir Khan Muttaqi, also a member of the political office in Doha, will be the Acting Foreign Minister, and his deputy will be Abas Stanikzai, who’s in favor of cordial relations with Washington and the rights of Afghan religious minorities.

Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob, the son of Mullah Omar, will be the Acting Defense Minister.

So far, the only non-Pashtuns are Abdul Salam Hanafi, an Uzbek, appointed as second deputy to the Prime Minister, and Qari Muhammad Hanif, a Tajik, the acting Minister of Economic Affairs, a very important post.

The Tao of staying patient

The Taliban Revolution has already hit the Walls of Kabul – who are fast being painted white with Kufic letter inscriptions. One of these reads, “For an Islamic system and independence, you have to go through tests and stay patient.”

That’s quite a Taoist statement: striving for balance towards a real “Islamic system”. It offers a crucial glimpse of what the Taliban leadership may be after: as Islamic theory allows for evolution, the new Afghanistan system will be necessarily unique, quite different from Qatar’s or Iran’s, for instance.

In the Islamic legal tradition, followed directly or indirectly by rulers of Turko-Persian states for centuries, to rebel against a Muslim ruler is illegitimate because it creates fitna (sedition, conflict). That was already the rationale behind the crushing of the fake “resistance” in the Panjshir – led by former Vice-President and CIA asset Amrullah Saleh. The Taliban even tried serious negotiations, sending a delegation of 40 Islamic scholars to the Panjshir.

But then Taliban intel established that Ahmad Masoud – son of the legendary Lion of the Panjshir, assassinated two days before 9/11 – was operating under orders of French and Israeli intel. And that sealed his fate: not only he was creating fitna, he was a foreign agent. His partner Saleh, the “resistance” de facto leader, fled by helicopter to Tajikistan.

It’s fascinating to note a parallel between Islamic legal tradition and Hobbes’s Leviathan, which justifies absolute rulers. The Hobbesian Taliban: here’s a hefty research topic for US Think Tankland.

The Taliban also follow the rule that a war victory – and nothing more spectacular than defeating combined NATO power – allows for undisputed political power, although that does not discard strategic alliances. We’ve already seen it in terms of how the moderate, Doha-based political Taliban are accommodating the Haqqanis – an extremely sensitive business.

Abdul Haqqani will be the Acting Minister for Higher Education; Najibullah Haqqani will be Minister of Communications; and Khalil Haqqani, so far ultra-active as interim head of security in Kabul, will be Minister for Refugees.

The next step will be much harder: to convince the urban, educated populations in the big cities – Kabul, Herat, Mazar-i-Sharif – not only of their legitimacy, acquired in the frontlines, but that they will crush the corrupt urban elite that plundered the nation for the past 20 years. All that while engaging in a credible, national interest process of improving the lives of average Afghans under a new Islamic system. It will be crucial to watch what kind of practical and financial help the emir of Qatar will offer.

The new cabinet has elements of a Pashtun jirga (tribal assembly). I’ve been to a few, and it’s fascinating to see how it works. Everyone sits on a circle to avoid a hierarchy – even if symbolic. Everyone is entitled to express their opinion. This leads to alliances necessarily being forged.

The negotiations to form a government were being conducted in Kabul by former President Hamid Karzai – crucially, a Pashtun from a minor Durrani clan, the Popalzai – and Abdullah Abdullah, a Tajik, and former head of the Council for National Reconciliation. The Taliban did listen to them, but in the end they de facto chose what their own jirga had decided.

Pashtuns are extremely fierce when it comes to defending their Islamic credentials. They believe their legendary founding ancestor, Qais Abdul Rasheed, converted to Islam in the lifetime of Prophet Muhammad, and then Pashtuns became the strongest defender of the faith anywhere.

Yet that’s not exactly how it played out in history. From the 7th century onwards, Islam was predominant only from Herat in the west to legendary Balkh in the north all the way to Central Asia, and south between Sistan and Kandahar. The mountains of the Hindu Kush and the corridor from Kabul to Peshawar resisted Islam for centuries. Kabul in fact was a Hindu kingdom as late as the 11th century. It took as many as five centuries for the core Pashtun lands to convert to Islam.

Islam with Afghan characteristics

To cut an immensely complex story short, the Taliban was born in 1994 across the – artificial – border of Afghanistan and Pakistani Balochistan as a movement by Pashtuns who studied in Deobandi madrassas in Pakistan.

All the Afghan Taliban leaders had very close connections with Pakistani religious parties. During the 1980s anti-USSR jihad, many of these Taliban (“students”) in several madrassas worked side by side with the mujahideen to defend Islam in Afghanistan against the infidel. The whole process was channeled through the Peshawar political establishment: -overseen by the Pakistani ISI, with enormous CIA input, and a tsunami of cash and would-be jihadis flowing from Saudi Arabia and the wider Arab world.

When they finally seized power in 1994 in Kandahar and 1996 in Kabul, the Taliban emerged as a motley crew of minor clerics and refugees invested in a sort of wacky Afghan reformation – religious and cultural – as they set up what they saw as a pure Salafist Islamic Emirate.

I saw how it worked on the spot, and as demented as it was, it amounted to a new political force in Afghanistan. The Taliban were very popular in the south because they promised security after the bloody 1992-1995 civil war. The totally radical Islamist ideology came later – with disastrous results, especially in the big cities. But not in the subsistence agriculture countryside, because the Taliban social outlook merely reflected rural Afghan practice.

The Taliban installed a 7th century-style Salafi Islam crisscrossed with the Pashtunwali code. A huge mistake was their aversion to Sufism and the veneration of shrines – something extremely popular in Islamic Afghanistan for centuries.

It’s too early to tell how Taliban 2.0 will play out in the dizzyingly complex, emerging Eurasian integration chessboard. But internally, a wiser, more traveled, social media-savvy Taliban seem aware they cannot allow themselves to repeat the dire 1996-2001 mistakes.

Deng Xiaoping set the framework for socialism with Chinese characteristics . One of the greatest geopolitical challenges ahead will be whether Taliban 2.0 are able to shape a sustainable development Islam with Afghan characteristics.

The Politically Incorrect Truth About What Really Happened In Afghanistan

By Andrew Korybko

Source

The Politically Incorrect Truth About What Really Happened In Afghanistan

Many Americans might regard their government’s grand strategic objectives in this respect as lacking any morals, ethics, or principles considering that they now largely align with China’s, Pakistan’s, Russia’s, and even the Taliban’s despite the public having been made to think over the years that all four of them are their enemies.

Afghan Ambiguity

Average Americans are struggling to make sense of what just happened in Afghanistan last month since it all unfolded so suddenly. Most realized that the war was lost long ago and had turned into a so-called “endless” one, but few expected it to end the way that it ultimately did. Almost nothing that the Biden Administration did made sense to them, and few have any idea what’s in store for the future there. The purpose of this piece is to explain everything in “politically incorrect” terms in order to help everyone better understand it all.

A Hint Of What’s To Come

Let’s start with the jaw-dropping outcome first and then explain how it came to be. The US is now partially partnered with the same Taliban that it still officially designates as terrorists in their joint struggle against the comparatively greater evil of ISIS-K. America’s post-war plans for the region will also see it relying on China’s Belt & Road Initiative’s (BRI) flagship project of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in order to expand its economic influence in Afghanistan and Central Asia despite officially being in a New Cold War with Beijing.

The “unholy” US-Taliban anti-terrorist partnership isn’t perfect nor what either of those two initially wanted but was forged by shared interests during the last two weeks of the American withdrawal from Kabul. The Taliban protected Americans from those terrorists despite being officially designated by the American government as terrorists themselves because they hoped that Washington would continue providing some level of support for Afghanistan after the war ends, even if only indirectly through international organizations.

PAKAFUZ

That’s precisely what the US also plans to do, even if not right away, as evidenced by the “New Quad” that it established between itself, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Uzbekistan in late July that’s explicitly premised on promoting regional connectivity. This structure strategically comprises the three countries that agreed in February to build a railway (which can tentatively be called PAKAFUZ after the first letters of each participating country’s name) that’ll eventually connect Central Asia to the Arabian Sea via Afghanistan.

This infrastructure project aligns with the former Trump Administration’s “Strategy For Central Asia 2019-2025” that was unveiled in February 2020 just weeks before the US-Taliban peace deal later that month. It basically calls for using economic means to expand American influence in this broader region with an aim towards lessening those countries’ potentially disproportionate strategic dependence on the US’ Chinese and Russian rivals.

America’s Chinese-Friendly Taliban Guardians

The irony though is that it’ll inevitably result in the US relying on BRI’s CPEC in Pakistan in spite of the ongoing Chinese-American New Cold War, which is too “politically incorrect” of an observation for any American official to say out loud despite it being the strategic truth. Even more shocking for the US public is the fact that the Taliban was always expected from the get-go to guard this project through the US’ plans to incorporate it into the planned transitional government that was supposed to have been assembled before the withdrawal ended.

That plan went awry after former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani‘s ego got the best of him and he refused to resign as the Taliban’s primary political precondition for their participation. Furthermore, the Biden Administration refused to implement any military tripwires during the final months of its withdrawal such as making it clear that it would kinetically respond to any Taliban attacks against Afghan cities while US forces were still in the country. These factors emboldened the group to go on their fateful nationwide offensive.

Biden’s Dilemma

In Biden’s defense, attacking the Taliban under any pretext would have been a violation of the Trump Administration’s deal with the group and would have provoked them to attack the withdrawing American forces, thereby sabotaging the process and probably leading to the perpetuation of the war. While some have since claimed that he should have withdrawn the US’ military equipment that it gave to its Afghan National Army (ANA) allies, that would have caused a panic and precipitated their collapse due a lack of confidence.

Either way, the Biden Administration was in a dilemma, one which was largely attributable to the US’ human intelligence failures there over the past two decades as well as the self-sustaining ecosystem of lies built by members of its permanent military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies (“deep state”). The Pentagon truly (though wrongly) believed that the larger and better-equipped ANA would fight the Taliban and that the Afghan government wouldn’t collapse until the end of the year at the earliest.

The Truth About The Taliban

What it failed to realize this entire time is that the Taliban had successfully rebranded itself as a national liberation movement in the eyes of Afghanistan’s 75% rural majority despite still being designated as terrorists by Russia and others. This resulted in it generating enormous sympathy among many of those very same members of the ANA that were supposed to fight them as well as many of the country’s minorities, the latter of which reconciled themselves with living under their rule after they let minorities join their leadership ranks.

The “politically incorrect” conclusion is that the Taliban already won incomparably more hearts and minds than the US and its proxy government, which also means that the Pentagon unwittingly ended up training many Taliban sympathizers in the ANA who then largely surrendered en masse once the group approached the gates of their cities. That’s why the Taliban was able to seize so much US military equipment. Had the US known what was really happening on the ground this whole time, it would have likely withdrawn it all ahead of time.

The Partial US-Taliban Partnership

Instead, American decision makers (both military and political alike) were oblivious to how genuinely popular the Taliban’s national liberation cause had become among the Afghan people, especially those in the ANA and in the minority-majority northern parts of the country. Even though the Taliban are still officially designated as terrorists by the US, their enemy came to rely on them out of necessity to protect many of those Americans who were caught off guard by their offensive and hadn’t evacuated earlier.

The Taliban ensured that most of them reached the airport safely and thus proved to the American government that its designation of them as terrorists is outdated, especially in light of their shared struggle against ISIS-K. All of these dynamics should have been obvious to any objective observer but the vast majority of those across the world were so surprised at the speed by which everything that they thought about the conflict was flipped upside-down that they weren’t able to accurately assess what was happening.

Too Little, Too Late

Furthermore, the Biden Administration – just like its three predecessors – was never fully truthful with the American people and failed to explain all of this to them ahead of time like it should have done. To the President’s credit, he eventually did broach some of these themes in his recent speeches, but it too little too late to reshape perceptions and reassure everyone that everything was under as much control as it possibly could be given the very difficult circumstances.

He also came off as defensive and therefore potentially untruthful since his explanations occurred only after his administration came under unprecedented pressure. Even if he was upfront about everything right at the start of the Taliban’s lightning-fast nationwide offensive when it became increasingly clear that the “deep state” totally miscalculated the on-the-ground dynamics there, it would have still been too abrupt of an explanation for the American people to accept since they’d been lied to for so long about the war.

The Raw Truth

It’s understandable that folks would find it difficult to understand how the same Taliban that’s still officially designated by their government as terrorists was supposed to become part of an inclusive government prior to the withdrawal’s completion, help the US fight against the comparatively greater evil of ISIS-K, and then defend the PAKAFUZ project for expanding their country’s influence into Central Asia which is ironically partially dependent on their Chinese rival’s BRI investments in CPEC that America is supposed to be opposed to.

This is all too much for the average American to comprehend which is why the “politically incorrect” explanation is being withheld from them even though part of it has gradually been introduced to the public by Biden out of political necessity ever since last month’s fast-moving events. The US is partnering with a group that it still officially regards as terrorists in order to fight against other terrorists and also hopes that the first group guards a planned regional connectivity project through Afghanistan that’s partially reliant on China’s BRI.

Debunking Lies About The Taliban & China

These strategic truths debunk several major American lies. The first is that the Taliban aren’t truly terrorists in the traditional sense that the US public regards this word as meaning otherwise their government wouldn’t ally with it against anyone else, let alone depend on it to protect evacuating Americans and then a regional infrastructure project through post-withdrawal Afghanistan. The second is that BRI isn’t as bad as they’ve been made to believe since its CPEC investments will lay the basis for the US’ future Central Asian strategy.

In fact, PAKAFUZ can be considered as a synthesis of American, Chinese, Pakistani, and even Russian strategic connectivity visions since it serves all of their interests. The US and Pakistan want to expand their economic influence north, China wants to facilitate Islamabad’s plans in this respect since PAKAFUZ is de facto the northern expansion of CPEC, and Russia regards this corridor as its route to the Indian Ocean that it’s struggled for centuries to reach.

Debunking Lies About Russia & Pakistan

Two more lies are therefore debunked through this supplementary observation. The first pertains to Pakistan, which many Americans are resentful of since they consider its reported support of the Taliban as having been the primary factor that ensured their country’s military defeat in Afghanistan. Be that as it may, their government is now economically allying with Pakistan through the “New Quad” and PAKAFUZ in order to expand its influence in Central Asia via post-withdrawal Taliban-led Afghanistan.

The second lie relates to Russia, and it’s that the US will always supposedly seek to “contain” it, yet PAKAFUZ will actually enable Moscow to finally succeed for the first time ever in its centuries-long quest to reach the Indian Ocean. Many American decision makers regarded their 1980s support of the Taliban’s mujahideen forefathers as being partially premised on preventing the USSR from using Afghanistan as a spring board to eventually invade Pakistan for that purpose, yet now their government is facilitating this connectivity goal.

Concluding Thoughts

All of this just goes to show how complicated the realities of International Relations really are. Many Americans might regard their government’s grand strategic objectives in this respect as lacking any morals, ethics, or principles considering that they now largely align with China’s, Pakistan’s, Russia’s, and even the Taliban’s despite the public having been made to think over the years that all four of them are their enemies. It’s little wonder then that these “politically incorrect” truths are still being withheld from them by the “deep state”.

ارتباك اللاقرار في واشنطن بعد الصدمة… وزمام المبادرة

أيلول 4 2021

 ناصر قنديل

لا أحد يستطيع تفسير كلّ حالات الفشل الأميركي والغربي بمعايير الخصوصية التي تحيط بكلّ حالة منها، لمجرد الرغبة بنفي صفة المشترك بينها، وهو التراجع التاريخي للمشروع الغربي وفي طليعته المشروع الأميركي. فالمعادلة التاريخية سياق وليست حدثاً منفصلاً يليه حدث منفصل تفسرهما الخصوصية، وثمة مسار بين نهاية الحرب العالمية الثانية والانسحاب من أفغانستان وبينهما سقوط جدار برلين يحكي حكاية تراجع مسار السيطرة، حيث الأميركي الذي كان يمثل 6% من سكان العالم ويستحوذ على 50% من ثرواته، وصار عام 1990 يمثل 4% من سكان العالم ويستحوذ على 40% من الثورات، هو اليوم أقل من 3% من سكان العالم ويستحوذ على أقل من 30% ثروات العالم. والأميركي الذي أنهى التحالف النازي الذي قادته ألمانيا بالشراكة مع الاتحاد السوفياتي، ثم أنهى الاتحاد السوفياتي وتفرد في حكم العالم، أمضى عقدين من الفشل والتراجع في كل الحروب التي خاضها في محاولة فرض نموذجه كمثال عالمي أحادي يمثل نهاية التاريخ، وهو لا يملك اليوم سبيلاً سياسياً أو عسكرياً للخروج من هذا الفشل، والفشل في أفغانستان يختصر هذا العجز، حيث السبيل السياسي انتهى بالفشل، والسبيل العسكري لن يحل شيئاً ولو بقي لعشرين عاماً أخرى كما قال جو بايدن، والبديل الثالث هو الذهاب لتفاهمات دولية كبرى تمنح الخصوم الكبار انتصارات كبرى، أو الدخول في مسلسل عنوانه العناد على البقاء منعاً لذل الهزيمة، وانتقاماً لصورة الهروب الكبير من أفغانستان، أو الانسحابات المتلاحقة وصولاً لمزيد من الفراغ يملأه الخصوم المحليون أو الإقليميون أو الدوليون، منفردين أو مجتمعين، كما يقول مثال أفغانستان أيضاً.

يتداخل في الوضعية الأميركية والغربية، على رغم الكلام الانفعالي الأوروبي وأوهام الانفراد العسكري والسياسي، كل شيء، فالغرب كله أمام خطر الهزيمة الإستراتيجية، لأن ساحة المعركة هي آسيا، وفي آسيا أكثر من نصف سكان العالم وأكثر من نصف مساحته وأكثر من نصف ثرواته وأكثر من نصف قوته العسكرية، وجوهر عنوان المعركة هو استقلال آسيا، التي تنتمي اليها كل دول وقوى المواجهة مع أميركا والمشروع الغربي على تنوعها، ولا ينتمي إليها أي من دول الغرب، ولذلك فالغرب بقيادة الأميركي يخوض مواجهة يائسة من الخارج مع نضوج ونمو قوى الداخل الآسيوي سياسياً واقتصادياً وعسكرياً وشعبياً لمعركة الاستقلال، واختلال التوازن لصالحها، وأفغانستان ليست إلا العينة الصغرى لهذه المعركة، ولم يعد ممكناً للأميركي بعد أفغانستان إلا الاختيار بين مواجهة قد تتصاعد نحو حرب، تحت شعار استعادة الهيبة المجروحة في أفغانستان، ووقف مسلسل الانهيارات، أو مواصلة الانكفاء والتراجع تفادياً للمواجهة، والاختبار هو في العراق وسورية، وفي هذه الحال سيكون أمام مواجهة مع قوى ودول ليس عندها مجال للتهاون مع بقاء القوات الأميركية وليس لديها الاستعداد لمنح الأميركي جوائز ترضية كثمن للانسحاب، ما يعني أن الشهور المقبلة ستحمل تصاعداً تدريجياً في المواجهة، وصولاً إلى انفجارها بصورة دراماتيكية بمجرد انكشاف صورة القرار الأميركي برفض الانسحاب، بعد نهاية المهلة المعقولة لاحتواء نتائج الانسحاب من أفغانستان، وفي هذه المواجهة التي ستتحول إلى حرب، أمام الأميركي ومن خلفه حلفائه في الغرب فرضية كان قد ناقشها مراراً، وهي أن أي خيار مواجهة يعني فرضية حرب كبرى، قد تشترك فيها دول كثيرة في المنطقة وخارج المنطقة، لكن الأخطر فيها هو أن «إسرائيل» ستصبح ميدان الرمي الحر في هذه الحرب، وهو ما سبق وقاله الرئيس الأميركي السابق باراك أوباما في حوار مع صحيفة «هآرتز» عام 2012 في تفسيره لسبب عدم تكرار نموذج ليبيا، مع سورية، وكل شيء يقول إن «إسرائيل» لن تستطيع الصمود وجودياً إذا واجهت هذه الفرضية في أي حرب مقبلة.

البديل المتاح هو مواصلة الانكفاء، والانكفاء الذي بدأ في أفغانستان قدم مثالاً، فهو بدأ بتفاوض لعام كامل مع حركة طالبان بشراكة حليف موثوق لواشنطن هو دولة قطر، وانتهى إلى تفاهم على حكومة شراكة بين طالبان والنظام الذي أقامه الأميركيون في كابول، يحميها توازن عسكري يمثله الجيش الذي قاموا ببنائه مقابل مقدرات طالبان العسكرية، لكن كل شيء تهاوى عندما بدأوا الانسحاب، فتقدمت طالبان وتفكك نظام أشرف غني وجيشه وهرب الرئيس وأركان حربه، ثم ذهب الأميركي إلى الخطة (ب) والتي تقوم على الانخراط مع طالبان بتفاهمات تقطع الطريق على خصوم واشنطن الكبار، روسيا والصين وإيران، وتحرمهم من الوقوف على خط الرابحين، لكن الأمور سارت سريعاً باتجاه مخالف، فروسيا ضامن ضروري لحسم طالبان مع أحمد مسعود الذي يدعمه بعض الغرب وينغص على طالبان نصرها بحكم محورية دورها في طاجكستان، وإيران مصدر الضرورات الحياتية اليومية لأفغانستان من محروقات ولحوم وخضار وطحين، والصين هي دولة التمويل المتاح بسخاء لإنعاش الاقتصاد وشق الطرق وسكك الحديد وخطوط نقل الطاقة واستكشاف واستخراج الثورات المعدنية وتطوير صناعاتها، كما قال قادة طالبان علناً، وإذا كرر الأميركي تجربة الانكفاء في حالتي سورية والعراق كما فعل في أفغانستان، ستنهار التشكيلات التي بناها في البلدين بأسرع من انهيار حكومة غني وجيشه، وسيتقدم الروسي والصيني والإيراني أسرع مما يتقدمون في أفغانستان، والأخطر هو أن محور المقاومة الذي يمثل القوى المحلية الصاعدة سيمسك بزمام المبادرة في الإقليم وسيضع أمن كيان الاحتلال في دائرة الخطر عاجلاً أم آجلاً.

لبنان في قلب هذا الارتباك الأميركي في الخيارات، وفي قلب محاولة محور المقاومة الإمساك بزمام المبادرة، كما يقول اختبار سفن المحروقات الإيرانية، الذي أطلقته المقاومة، غداة الانسحاب من أفغانستان، يسرع حسم الخيارات الأميركية، ويجعل معادلة خاسر خاسر أسرع بالنسبة للأميركيين بعد رهانات لسنوات على إسقاط لبنان على رأس المقاومة، وإظهار المقاومة سبباً لكل ما لحق ويلحق بلبنان، وإذا بواشنطن تظهر وهي تعلن أنها ستفك بعضاً من حصارها لتنافس المقاومة على صورة من يخفف المعاناة، وكانها تعترف بأن هذا الحصار هو السبب الرئيسي للأزمات، ولكنها تصيب حلفاءها بالذهول لتجنبها خيار المواجهة، واعتمادها طريق المنافسة على حلول لأزمات كانت هي المسبب الرئيسي لها.

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