The Coronavirus Pandemic Is Another Reminder of Western Barbarianism

The Coronavirus Pandemic Is Another Reminder of Western Barbarianism 

By Darko Lazar

During the NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999, the Western military alliance devastated the country’s civilian infrastructure. The long list of targets included 19 hospitals, 18 kindergartens, 176 cultural monuments and 44 bridges. 

Several weeks into the military campaign, which was fiercely opposed by Russia and China, a total of five satellite-guided bombs, delivered by American B-2 bombers, slammed into the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. 

The attack on the symbol of Chinese sovereignty in the heart of the Balkans killed three Chinese nationals and wounded twenty others. 

Washington and Brussels claimed the attack was a mistake. But NATO’s increasingly bloody push eastwards would have unintended consequences. 

The Belt and Road Initiative vs. Western dictates 

Just a few months after the bombing of Serbia, Russia’s President Boris Yeltsin was quietly pushed out of office and replaced by the relatively unknown Vladimir Putin.

When Putin won his first election in 2000, he is rumored to have had two inauguration ceremonies. One was held in full view of the global media and another unfolded in the Kremlin’s underground chambers. 

There he was joined by a small group of Russian military officers and operatives from the country’s security apparatus. These men understood that it was only a matter of time before NATO bombs started falling on downtown Moscow, and the decision had been made to confront Western expansionism. 

In the years that followed, China and Russia would join hands with Iran to suppress American influence though the creation of a Eurasian union made up of sovereign and independent nations. 

This ambitious scheme reached Serbia in the form of Russian military hardware and China’s Belt and Road Initiative. 

Beijing found a reliable partner in the government of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, and in less than a decade, the Chinese poured billions of dollars in investments into the Balkan state. 

The investments propped up critical industries in Serbia, including a copper mine, a steelmaker, and a thermal power plant. While safeguarding tens of thousands of jobs and driving much-needed growth, the Chinese were also building new bridges, roads, and ports. 

Meanwhile, Vucic adopted an intelligent foreign policy – one made possible by the reemergence of a multipolar world. He reached out to both east and west and then took the best deal on the table. But the West had little to offer. 

Most of the exchanges with Brussels consisted of dictates. No longer able to bomb embassies, the West demanded Belgrade introduce ‘political reforms’ and restrict Chinese investments. 

Western political elites remained convinced that China and Russia have nothing to offer countries like Serbia that could rival joining ‘democratic’ Western alliances. 

The coronavirus pandemic delivered yet another serious blow to this arrogant and abominable point of view.     

Solidarity and fairytales

As coronavirus infections spiked dramatically across Europe earlier this month, Vucic declared that “European solidarity does not exist.” 

“This was a fairytale on paper,” Vucic said as he announced a state of emergency in his country. “Today I sent a special letter to the only ones who can help, and that is China.” 

He explained that he asked Chinese President Xi Jinping “not only as a dear friend, but as a brother” to provide Serbia desperately needed assistance after the EU imposed a ban on exports of medical equipment.  

Once again, when time came for building bridges instead of destroying them, the great humanitarians of the West had nothing to offer. Meanwhile, Chinese gear and experts flooded Serbia virtually overnight.

Beijing’s assistance and strict measures imposed by the government early on helped Serbia stave off disaster.   

But Serbia isn’t the only country receiving planeloads of supplies from the east. Chinese medical equipment is being sent to Iran, Iraq, and a number of European states including Italy where over 10,000 people have thus far perished due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Italy – the first EU state to embrace the Belt and Road Initiative in 2019 – turned to China after its plea for help from its European neighbors was refused. 

Similar acts of solidarity came from the Russians and some Latin American states. The Cubans flew their doctors to Italy and were asked to return to Brazil where they were expelled in 2018 and labeled “Communist spies” by the right-wing government of Jair Bolsonaro. 

Meanwhile, Western powerhouses are looking inwards. As they cling onto stocks depleted by years of healthcare cuts, the Trump administration was reportedly caught offering piles of money for ‘exclusive rights’ to a Covid-19 vaccine.

Imprisoned by their own twisted interpretations of human rights, many of these governments were slow to react. They hesitated in following the Chinese model and imposing drastic restrictions on freedom of movement. Instead they were worried about profits and how the stock markets would react. 

And even as the U.S. becomes the new epicenter of this pandemic, President Donald Trump expressed his readiness to potentially risk millions of American lives by reopening the country in just a few weeks.

This brutal face of capitalism is also on full display for Washington’s adversaries, namely Iran and Venezuela, where unilateral sanctions are preventing the delivery of desperately needed medical supplies.  

As such, Western governments and their policies are not only endangering individual nation states. At a time when a highly infectious disease is spreading at an unprecedented speed, these policies are threatening the entire global population. 

De omnibus dubitandum est

Despite extensive global coverage of this pandemic, very little is actually known about Covid-19. We don’t know how dangerous the virus is or its concrete consequences. And we certainly don’t have tangible details about what caused the outbreak. 

This leaves plenty of room for speculation, conspiracy theories, and even talk about aliens. Whatever the truth, biological warfare involving powerful political currents can never be ruled out. 

In an op-ed published more than two years ago, Al-Ahed pointed to the existence of hundreds of American military biological laboratories across the Eurasian continent. The labs were being used by the Pentagon to gather intelligence on microorganisms – vital for the creation of highly effective biological weapons. 

There is no doubt that the coronavirus transcends borders and religions and doesn’t discriminate between rich and poor. But that doesn’t mean that the virus isn’t helping further certain political agendas. 

The coronavirus has done what “Israel’s” politicians have failed to do for over a year. It’s brought an end to the political deadlock with indicted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu set to form the next government. 

By bringing the global economy to a screeching halt, Covid-19 has given birth to another Great Depression and paved the way for the collapse of certain governments. 

Equally important is the fact that the virus has the potential to determine the outcome of every single election process in the Western world for some time to come, including the U.S. presidential race. 

At times like these, it would be wise to remember the words of the late Danish philosopher Soren Aabye Kierkegaard who titled one of his books, De omnibus dubitandum est or “everything must be doubted”. 

في الذكرى الـ 62 لإقامة الجمهورية العربية المتحدة نحن والمشكّكون: لماذا دولة الوحدة قادمة؟

زياد حافظ

الذكرى الثانية والستون لإقامة الجمهورية العربية المتحدة ليست مناسبة لاستذكار حقبة كانت مليئة بالآمال فقط بل هي مناسبة للتأكيد أنّ تلك الآمال ما زالت موجودة. بل ربما هي أكثر من آمال إذ أصبحت أقرب للتحقيق الآن. وذلك خلافاً لما يظنّ المشكّكون واللذين يتلذّذون بجلد الذات تحت عباءة “الموضوعية” أو “الواقعية” أو أيّ مصطلح يمكن استحداثه لتبرير ثقافة الهزيمة المترسّخة ولتبرير عدم الإقدام على ما يلزم أو لتبرير الاستسلام لمشيئة تحالف الامبريالية والصهيونية والرجعية العربية. أولئك “الموضوعيين” يعتبرون أنّ حالة التجزئة والتمزّق قدر لا يمكن تجاهله خاصة في غياب ما يُسمّونه بـ “المشروع العربي”.

وإذا كنّا نعتقد أنّ معركتنا المفصلية هي مع العدو الصهيوني وحماته من الامبريالية والرجعية فإنّ خلافنا لا يقلّ حدّة مع “المشككين” الذين يعتبرون أنفسهم شهداء على زمن الانحطاط والتراجع وغياب أيّ آفاق للنهوض. فهؤلاء لا يرون التحوّلات في موازين القوّة على الصعيد العالمي والإقليمي. ولا يرون حتى التغييرات التي حصلت على الصعيد العربي وخاصة ظاهرة المقاومة التي ما زالوا يقلّلون من شأنها. ولا يستطيعون أن يروا الإنجازات التي تحقّقت في الميدان ضدّ العدو الصهيوني سواء في لبنان أو في فلسطين. فالعدو الصهيوني الذي كان يسرح ويمرح دون أيّ رادع لم يعد باستطاعته التقدّم شبراً واحداً في لبنان أو في قطاع غزّة بينما أصبح يعيش في “غيتو” المناطق المحتلّة خلف جدار يعتقد أنه سيحميه من انتفاضة شعب فلسطين أو ضربات مقاومته. ولا يستطيعون أن يروا أن سياسة المبنية على المعتقد الخاطئ أنّ الولايات المتحدة تملك 99 بالمائة من أوراق اللعبة وأنّ الحصول على الرضى الأميركي يمرّ عبر إرضاء الكيان الصهيوني، أيّ أنّ ذلك الرهان رهان خاطئ لم يعط أيّ نتيجة سواء في مصر أو في الأردن أو عند منظّري اتفاق أوسلو أو في دول الخليج. لا يرون في هذا الحال أنّ الكيان الذي أوجد من أجل حماية مصالح الاستعمار الأوروبي ومن بعد ذلك الامبريالية الأميركية أصبح بحاجة إلى حماية لا تستطيع الولايات المتحدة تأمينها رغم كلّ العنتريات والكلام عن الترسانات الفتّاكة التي تملكها. ومن سخرية القدر أن أصبح الكيان يفتخر بدعم بعض الأنظمة العربية كـ “إنجاز” يمكن الاعتماد عليه بينما تلك الأنظمة ما زالت تعتقد أنّ الكيان هو من يحمي عروشها وكراسي الحكم فيها.

يقولون لنا إنّ الوحدة غير ممكنة بسبب معاداة الغرب بشكل عام والولايات المتحدة بشكل خاص ومعها الصهيونية العالمية والرجعية العربية القابضة على منابع النفط والمال وبالتالي يدعون إلى “الواقعية” والابتعاد عن “المغامرات غير المحسوبة”. لا يستطيعون أن يتصّوروا أن سياسات “الواقعية” و”خيارات السلام” لم تؤدّ إلى الازدهار والاستقرار بل العكس إلى المزيد من البؤس والتوتّر. لا يستطيعون أن يفهموا أن لا تنمية ممكنة ضمن أطر الحدود التي رسمها المستعمر الأوروبي قبل أن يضطر إلى الخروج من الباب ليعود ويدخل من شبّاك التبعية الاقتصادية وأداته الفساد المتفشّي بين الزمر الحاكمة. لم يستطيعوا ان يفهموا أن معظم الدول التي رسم حدودها المستعمر الأوروبي رسمها لتكون دولاً فاشلة إذا ما عبّرت عن رغبة استقلالية. لكنّها نجحت ان تبقى مع منظومة فساد واستبداد إذا ارتضت بالتبعية السياسية والاقتصادية للغرب بشكل عام وللولايات المتحدة بشكل خاص ومعه الكيان الصهيوني والرجعية العربية. فالاختباء وراء بناء الدولة الوطنية وعدم مواجهة العدو الصهيوني والهيمنة الأميركية ساهم في تكريس التجزئة التي أرادها المستعمر القديم والجديد.

لم يفهموا أنّ الدعوة إلى الليبرالية السياسية والانفتاح كإحدى البدائل عن الوحدة دعوة زائفة مهمّتها تكريس هيمنة زمر الفساد والتبعية والاحتكار وذلك على حساب الوطن واستقلاله وتنميته وإبعاد أيّ عدالة اجتماعية وإلغاء الثقافة العربية وموروثها التاريخي والتنكّر للهوية وللغة وتشويه الدين. لم ينتبهوا أنّ التنمية المستدامة غير ممكنة في دولة التجزئة أو عبر “الشراكة” المزيّفة مع الغرب. لم ينظروا إلى أنّ النموذج الاقتصادي المتبع هدفه إدامة التوتر الاقتصادي والاجتماعي لمنع الشعوب عن مواجهة التحدّيات الكبرى كالاستقلال الوطني والحفاظ على الهوية والتجدّد الحضاري. فإلهاء الناس بالقضايا المعيشية وخلف قضايا وهمية افتراضية تملأ الفضاء الثقافي هو لتحويل الانتباه عمّا يٌحاك ضدّ الأمة بدءاً بما سمّوه “صفقة القرن” مروراً بدعوة “القطر أوّلا” على قاعدة أنّ “أوراق اللعبة بيد الولايات المتحدة” لتكريس التجزئة والتبعية.

لم ينتبهوا أنّ المستعمر القديم الجديد في تراجع بنيوي واستراتيجي يقابله محور صاعد يرفض الهيمنة الأميركية. ومحور المقاومة في الوطن العربي جزء من ذلك المحور وإن كانت له، أيّ محور المقاومة، خصوصيات تميّزه عن المحور الصاعد المتمثّل في الكتلة الأوراسية بقيادة الصين وروسيا. لم يلاحظوا أنّ الولايات المتحدة لم تربح حرباً واحدة بعد الحرب العالمية الثانية وهي الآن متورطّة بشكل أو بآخر بسبعة حروب لا تدري كيف تنهيها أو تخرج منها مع الحفاظ على ماء الوجه. لم يستوعبوا أنّ الكيان الصهيوني في تراجع عسكري منذ 1967. فهزم في معركة العبور (1973) وخسر حرب لبنان (2000 و2006) وخرج منه دون أيّ قيد أو شرط أو مفاوضة. كما خرج من غزّة ولم يعد قادراً على إعادة احتلالها (2008، 2012، 2014)، فلم يعد قادراً على مواجهة المقاومة إلاّ بكلفة عالية لا يستطيع تحمّلها لا بشرياً ولا سياسياً.

كما أنهم لم يستوعبوا خسارة العدوان الكوني على سورية وفشل العدوان العبثي على اليمن وترهّل قوى التحالف العدواني عليه. لم يروا إلاّ احتلال العراق وتمزيق ليبيا وانفصال السودان وهرولة بضع الدول للصلح مع الكيان الصهيوني وانتشار جماعات التعصّب والغلوّ والتوحّش في مختلف الأقطار العربية علما أنها فشلت في مشروعها العبثي. فالعراق يستعيد عافيته تدريجياً بعد مقاومة أوقفت المشروع الأميركي في العراق وبعد دحر جماعات التعصّب والغلو والتوحّش التي تنتقل من هزيمة إلى هزيمة في العراق وسورية وتضيق الأرض العربية بها. فهي أصبحت وقود التفاوض بين القوى المنتصرة في المنطقة إما لإنهائها أو إما لإعادة تصديرها إلى من موّلها ودعمها عسكرياً وسياسياً. وهذه الجماعات مرتبطة بالمحور المتراجع استراتيجياً، وبالتالي لا أفق لها كما لا أفق للعدو الصهيوني الذي برهن فعلاً أنّ كيانه أوهن من بيت العنكبوت. أما الهرولة لبعض المطبّعين فهي بين مطرقة الضغط الأميركي وسندان رأي الشعوب عندها الرافضة للتطبيع رغم الضجيج الإعلامي حوله من قبل قيادة الكيان.

الوحدة قادمة لأنّ شعوب الأمة موحّدة في مواجهة القضايا المصيرية بدءاً بقضية فلسطين وصولاً إلى رفض التبعية للخارج. فالمبادرة بيدها اليوم وليس بيد الحكّام الذين بدأوا يخشونها أكثر مما يخشون الولايات المتحدة. وإذا كانت فلسطين توحّد جماهير الأمة وبما أنّ تلك الجماهير تدعم خيار المقاومة فهذا يعني أنّ البعد الوحدوي لهذه الجماهير هو بُعد مقاوم. لذلك نقول بأنّ متن المشروع العربي الذي هو وحدة الأمة هو مشروع مقاوم. هو مشروع يوحّد الجماهير ضد المحتلّ أولا، وضدّ الذي يريد فرض هيمنته على مقدّرات الوطن ثانياً، وضدّ الاستبداد الذي يدعمه المستعمر القديم والامبريالية الجديدة ثالثا، وهو ضدّ الفساد الذي يشكّل أداة الاستبداد رابعاً. فالوحدة العربية آتية والدليل على ذلك أنّ جماهير الأمة خرجت لترفض صفقة القرن، وخرجت في اليمن تحت القصف، وخرجت في الجزائر والمغرب وتونس لترفض التطبيع مع الكيان، كما خرجت لترفض التبعية والفساد والاستبداد. فوحدة الجماهير مقدمّة لوحدة الحكومات. وكلّ ذلك رغم الحملات المغرضة ضدّ العروبة التي ينعوها موسميا! فالتجزئة قدر عندهم بينما الوحدة قادمة عندنا.

حاول أعداء الأمة نزع الهوية العربية عن الشعوب عبر استبدال خطاب الهويات الفرعية والدينية بالخطاب العروبي الذي يجمع بين مكوّنات الأمة. برهنت الوقائع خلال العقود الخمسة الماضية أنّ الخطاب العروبي الجامع هو الذي يستطيع الصمود أمام كلّ التحدّيات بينما الخطاب الديني، وخطاب الهويات الفرعية، وخطاب الليبرالية والانفتاح الزائفين، اصطدم بواقع الإقصاء والتجزئة. الخطاب العروبي في جوهره خطاب وحدوي بينما الخطابات الأخرى خطابات فرز وتجزئة. في المقابل الخطاب العروبي الوحدوي يجمع بين كلّ مكونات الأمة مهما تنوّعت العرقيات والأديان، ومهما اختلفت المذاهب السياسية. وتجسيداً لتلك الحقيقة فإنّ صوغ المشروع النهضوي العربي الذي أطلقه مركز دراسات الوحدة العربية في هذه المناسبة بالذات في شباط / فبراير 2010 من قبل مثقفين وناشطين من مختلف المذاهب السياسية والفكرية دليل على أنّ العروبة جامعة لمكوّنات الأمة. ما يبقى هو تجسيدها السياسي عبر إقامة دولة الوحدة.

لذلك توجد مؤسسات تحمل ذلك الفكر وتلك الرؤية. فدور مركز دراسات الوحدة العربية كخزّان فكري وبحثي وعلمي لقضايا الأمة ساهم في بلورة الخطاب العروبي المعاصر. والمؤتمر القومي العربي وشقيقه المؤتمر القومي الإسلامي يحملان ذلك الخطاب ومفهوم الكتلة التاريخية لمواجهة تحدّيات الأمة الداخلية والخارجية. والمؤسسات الشبابية كمخيّم الشباب القومي العربي المنبثق عن المؤتمر القومي العربي وندوة التواصل الفكري الشبابي العربي على سبيل المثال وليس الحصر تعيد إنتاج الكوادر الحاملة للخطاب العروبي. وإذا أضفنا المنتديات القومية العربية الناشطة في العديد من المدن العربية نرى أنّ الخطاب الوحدوي ما زال حيّاً وناشطاً رغم الاتهامات بأنه لغة خشبية. فإذا كان ذلك صحيحاً، أيّ انّ الخطاب الوحدوي خطاب خشبي، فلماذا يستمرّ المشكّكون والأعداء في مهاجمته؟ من جهة أخرى، فإذا كان متن الخطاب العروبي خشبياً، فهو من خشب النخلة، وخشب الزيتون، وخشب الأرز، خشب أصيل يمتد إلى قرون عديدة وربما لما قبل التاريخ! كما هو أيضاً خطاب المستقبل الذي يرى في الوحدة قوّة وفي القوّة نهضة، وفي النهضة تجدّداً حضارياً، ورسالة إلى العالم.

في ما يتعلّق بالوحدة نعي أنّ هناك مصالح محلّية تعارض الوحدة وفي مقدّمتها الرجعية العربية وأعوانها في كل قطر. فهي لا تنسجم مع الطرح الوحدوي لأنه يهدّدها ويذوّب رموزها في الوعاء الأكبر، وعاء الوطن العربي بأكمله. أولئك، مع المشكّكين، هم من يعملون على منع الوحدة في الحدّ الأقصى، أو تأخيرها في الحدّ الأدنى. لكن الحقائق المادية ستفرض حكمها. فالدولة القطرية، والأمثلة عديدة، لم تعد قادرة لا على حماية كيانها، ولا على حماية مواطنيها ولا حتى حكّامها، ولا على حماية حدودها. كما أنها لم تعد تستطيع القيام بالتنمية المستدامة والمستقلّة بسبب تدخّل الامبريالية وقوى العولمة التي تلغي الخصوصيات والموروث الثقافي بل تلغي المصالح الاقتصادية المحلّية التي هي من حقّ الشعوب.

لذلك، نستغلّ هذه المناسبة للتأكيد أنّ الوحدة ليست شتيمة ولا حلماً طوباوياً بل ضرورة وجودية لبقاء الأمة. كما أنها قدر على جماهير الأمة التي استطاعت رغم الغزوات الخارجية الحفاظ على الموروث التاريخي الذي يجمع. ومهمتنا اليوم هي أن نحوّل ذلك الموروث التاريخي الجامع إلى حقيقة مادية حيّة ومتطوّرة في الحاضر لنبني عليها المستقبل.

*كاتب اقتصادي سياسي والأمين العام السابق للمؤتمر القومي العربي

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Iran is in the face of confrontation: Al-Assad and Putin are reaping the positive outcome إيران في المواجهة: الأسد وبوتين على ضفاف الحصاد الإيجابي

Written by Nasser Kandil,

Since the Russian-Syrian-Iranian alliance was translated in the positioning of the Russian forces in Syria in 2015 and the start of the path of supporting the Syrian army to liberate the lands controlled by the terrorist groups starting from Aleppo, Badia, Deir Al Zour, Ghouta, Daraa, and ending in Idlib, it seems for everyone that the Russian-Syrian-Iranian coordination is present in every step. The Iranian escalation against the American presence in the region as a response to the assassination of the two leaders Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi Al Muhandis along with considering Iraq as the most important political and military arena have been accompanied by a clear Russian movement on the Syrian and Libyan paths to resolve the inclusion of Turkey to a complete coalition with Russia. This movement is based on the projects of transferring gas to Europe and what it meant economically to Turkey in the light of the open conflict where Washington is sponsoring the Israeli oil pipeline and the inclusion of Greece and Cyprus to it, and the conflict on the position of Egypt between these two projects in the light of a Lebanese-Israeli conflict on demarcating the borders of gas fields and a prominent Syrian-Israeli conflict in addition to an Italian alliance with Turkey and Russia. Therefore, the cease-fire has been announced in Libya where each of the Russians and the Turks have relationships with the two parties of the conflict, Ankara is paying the bill of its role in Libya by preparing to leave Syria.

The American withdrawal from Iraq has become an inevitable fact according to the Russian-Turkish reading, this means the withdrawal from Syria too whether this requires an escalation or not by the resistance forces. Therefore, the understanding on the recognition of the central role of the Syrian state and its control on all the Syrian land is no longer a subject that bears maneuvering or postponing. On the basis of this Turkish recognition a high-level official meeting has been hold publically for the first time between Syria and Turkey represented by the head of the Syrian National Security Council, Major General Ali Mamlouk and the head of Turkish intelligence the General Haqan Fidan and under Russian sponsorship, the center of the meeting was the future of Idlib, and the Syrian demand of a Turkish withdrawal from all the Syrian territories within temporal timetable under coordination between Damascus, Ankara, and Moscow in a way that dispels all the fear of establishing cantons that have ethnic and national factions and represent a Syrian-Turkish threat as the Kurdish separatist project.

On the Israeli bank which represents the most important part of the American concerns. The approval of demand of the Syrian President of the unconditional release of the detainee Sidqi Al-Maqt and his return to his hometown in the occupied Golan under clear Russian pressures was only a sense by the occupation entity and its leaders that the issue of Golan will be opened soon after the departure of the Turkish and American troops and after the decisions of annexations affected by Al-Maqt’s return to Golan have become nothing but ink on paper, because the time of the Israeli choice between opening the issue of Golan politically with Moscow and confronting the threat of a resistance that could turn into a war is no longer far, after the bet on demanding from the Americans what is impossible and after they reached to the dilemma of the inevitable withdrawal due to their obedience to the Israeli advices of escalation in order to reach to negotiating paths.

The Iranians along with the resistance forces master the game of exchanging outcomes with Russia since their alliance with Syria. It seems clear that the Russian-Iranian understanding which achieved a cumulative success in containing Turkey is succeeding in doing the same thing according to the Iranian-Russian alliance with many countries at different proportions. The unified strong Syria has the main priority in the objectives of this strategic alliance.

Translated by Lina Shehadeh,

إيران في المواجهة: الأسد وبوتين على ضفاف الحصاد الإيجابي

ناصر قنديل

– منذ ترجم التحالف الروسي السوري الإيراني في تموضع القوات الروسية في سورية عام 2015 وانطلاق مسار دعم خطة الجيش السوري لتحرير الأراضي التي تسيطر عليها الجماعات الإرهابية، انطلاقاً من حلب وصولاً إلى البادية ودير الزور والغوطة ودرعا وانتهاءً بإدلب. ويبدو لكل مَن يتابع ما هو أبعد من ظواهر الأمور أن التنسيق الروسي السوري الإيراني قائم في كل خطوة. فالتصعيد الإيراني بوجه الوجود الأميركي في المنطقة كردّ على اغتيال القائدين قاسم سليماني وأبومهدي المهندس، واعتبار العراق ساحة المواجهة الأهم سياسياً وعسكرياً، رافقته حركة روسية واضحة على المسارين السوري والليبي لحسم ضمّ تركيا إلى تحالف كامل مع روسيا، تتأسس على مشاريع نقل الغاز إلى أوروبا وما يعنيه اقتصادياً لتركيا في ظل الصراع المفتوح مع رعاية واشنطن للأنبوب الإسرائيلي، وانضمام اليونان وقبرص إليه، والنزاع على موقع مصر بين المشروعين، في ظل صراع لبناني إسرائيلي على ترسيم حدود حقول الغاز، وصراع سوري إسرائيلي على كل شيء، وتموضع إيطالي مع تركيا وروسيا. فجاء الإعلان عن وقف إطلاق النار في ليبيا، حيث يتقاسم الروس والأتراك العلاقات بطرفي النزاع، وفي سورية حيث على أنقرة أن تدفع فاتورة دورها في ليبيا بالاستعداد للخروج من سورية.

– الانسحاب الأميركي من العراق بات حقيقة قادمة وفقاً للقراءة الروسية التركية. وهذا يعني الانسحاب الموازي من سورية حكماً، سواء استدعى ذلك من قوى المقاومة تصعيد العمليات أم لم يستدعِ، ولذلك فإن التفاهم على التسليم بمركزية دور الدولة السورية، وسيطرتها على كامل التراب الوطني السوري لم يعُد موضوعاً يحتمل المناورة والتأجيل، وعلى خلفية هذا الإقرار التركي نضجت الظروف لأول لقاء رسمي عالي المستوى علناً بين الدولتين السورية والتركية، برعاية روسية تمثل بلقاء رئيس مجلس الأمن الوطني السوري اللواء علي مملوك بالجنرال حقان فيدان رئيس المخابرات التركية، والمحور هو مستقبل إدلب، وترجمة المطالبة السورية بانسحاب تركي من كامل التراب السوري، ضمن جدول زمني يتم تنسيقه بين دمشق وأنقرة وموسكو، وبسط سلطة الدولة السورية وحدها على أراضيها بما يبدّد كل المخاوف من قيام كانتونات تحمل ألواناً عرقية وقومية، وتمثل مصدراً للقلق السوري والتركي كحال مشروع انفصالي كردي.

– على الضفة الإسرائيلية التي تمثل الوجه الأهم للهموم الأميركية، لم يكن القبول بطلب الرئيس السوري بالإفراج غير المشروط عن عميد الأسرى صدقي المقت وعودته إلى مسقط رأسه في الجولان المحتل، بضغوط روسية واضحة، إلا استشعاراً من كيان الاحتلال وقادته بأن ملف الجولان سيفتح قريباً بعد رحيل القوات التركية والأميركية، وأن قرارات الضمّ التي كسرتها عودة المقت إلى الجولان، باتت مجرد حبر على ورق، وأن زمن الاختيار الإسرائيلي بين فتح ملف الجولان سياسياً مع موسكو وبين مواجهة خطر مقاومة يمكن أن تتحوّل حرباً لم يعد بعيداً، بعدما صار الرهان على مطالبة الأميركيين بالأكثر مستحيلاً، وقد وصلوا بسبب إطاعتهم للنصائح الإسرائيلية بمفاعيل التصعيد لإنضاج مسارات تفاوضية، إلى المأزق الذي لا مفر منه إلا بالانسحاب.

– يجيد الإيرانيون ومعهم قوى المقاومة لعبة رمي الهدايا في حضن الروس منذ تحالفهم في سورية، ويبدو واضحاً، أن التفاهم الروسي الإيراني الذي حقق نجاحاً تراكمياً في احتواء تركيا، ينجح في فعل الشيء نفسه وفق معادلة المطرقة الإيرانية والسندان الروسي مع آخرين كثر ولو بنسب واتجاهات مختلفة، وتبقى لسورية الموحّدة والسيدة والقوية الأولوية في أهداف هذا التحالف الاستراتيجي.

Why the New Silk Roads are a ‘threat’ to US bloc

Modern day traders on the ancient Silk Road track in Central Asia. Photo: Facebook

The Middle East is the key to wide-ranging, economic, interlinked integration, and peace

By PEPE ESCOBAR

Under the cascading roar of the 24/7 news cycle cum Twitter eruptions, it’s easy for most of the West, especially the US, to forget the basics about the interaction of Eurasia with its western peninsula, Europe.

Asia and Europe have been trading goods and ideas since at least 3,500 BC. Historically, the flux may have suffered some occasional bumps – for instance, with the irruption of 5th-century nomad horsemen in the Eurasian plains. But it was essentially steady up to the end of the 15th century. We can essentially describe it as a millennium-old axis – from Greece to Persia, from the Roman empire to China.

A land route with myriad ramifications, through Central Asia, Afghanistan, Iran and Turkey, linking India and China to the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea, ended up coalescing into what we came to know as the Ancient Silk Roads.

By the 7th century, land routes and sea trade routes were in direct competition. And the Iranian plateau always played a key role in this process.

The Iranian plateau historically includes Afghanistan and parts of Central Asia linking it to Xinjiang to the east, and to the west all the way to Anatolia. The Persian empire was all about land trade – the key node between India and China and the Eastern Mediterranean.

The Persians engaged the Phoenicians in the Syrian coastline as their partners to manage sea trade in the Mediterranean. Enterprising people in Tyre established Carthage as a node between the Eastern and Western Mediterranean. Because of the partnership with the Phoenicians, the Persians would inevitably be antagonized by the Greeks – a sea trading power.

When the Chinese, promoting the New Silk Roads, emphasize “people to people exchange” as one of its main traits, they mean the millenary Euro-Asia dialogue. History may even have aborted two massive, direct encounters.

The first was after Alexander The Great defeated Darius III of Persia. But then Alexander’s Seleucid successors had to fight the rising power in Central Asia: the Parthians – who ended up taking over Persia and Mesopotamia and made the Euphrates the limes between them and the Seleucids.

The second encounter was when emperor Trajan, in 116 AD, after defeating the Parthians, reached the Persian Gulf. But Hadrian backed off – so history did not register what would have been a direct encounter between Rome, via Persia, with India and China, or the Mediterranean meeting with the Pacific.

Mongol globalization

The last western stretch of the Ancient Silk Roads was, in fact, a Maritime Silk Road. From the Black Sea to the Nile delta, we had a string of pearls in the form of Italian city/emporia, a mix of end journey for caravans and naval bases, which then moved Asian products to Italian ports.

Commercial centers between Constantinople and Crimea configured another Silk Road branch through Russia all the way to Novgorod, which was very close culturally to the Byzantine world. From Novgorod, merchants from Hamburg and other cities of the Hanseatic League distributed Asian products to markets in the Baltics, northern Europe and all the way to England – in parallel to the southern routes followed by the maritime Italian republics.

Between the Mediterranean and China, the Ancient Silk Roads were of course mostly overland. But there were a few maritime routes as well. The major civilization poles involved were peasant and artisanal, not maritime. Up to the 15th century, no one was really thinking about turbulent, interminable oceanic navigation.

The main players were China and India in Asia, and Italy and Germany in Europe. Germany was the prime consumer of goods imported by the Italians. That explains, in a nutshell, the structural marriage of the Holy Roman Empire.

At the geographic heart of the Ancient Silk Roads, we had deserts and the vast steppes, trespassed by sparse tribes of shepherds and nomad hunters. All across those vast lands north of the Himalayas, the Silk Road network served mostly the four main players. One can imagine how the emergence of a huge political power uniting all those nomads would be in fact the main beneficiary of Silk Road trade.

Well, that actually happened. Things started to change when the nomad shepherds of Central-South Asia started to have their tribes regimented as horseback archers by politico-military leaders such as Genghis Khan.

Welcome to the Mongol globalization. That was actually the fourth globalization in history, after the Syrian, the Persian and the Arab.    Under the Mongolian Ilkhanate, the Iranian plateau – once again playing a major role – linked China to the Armenian kingdom of Cilicia in the Mediterranean.

The Mongols didn’t go for a Silk Road monopoly. On the contrary: during Kublai Khan – and Marco Polo’s travels – the Silk Road was free and open. The Mongols only wanted caravans to pay a toll.

With the Turks, it was a completely different story. They consolidated Turkestan, from Central Asia to northwest China. The only reason Tamerlan did not annex India is that he died beforehand. But even the Turks did not want to shut down the Silk Road. They wanted to control it.

Venice lost its last direct Silk Road access in 1461, with the fall of Trebizond, which was still clinging to the Byzantine empire. With the Silk Road closed to the Europeans, the Turks – with an empire ranging from Central-South Asia to the Mediterranean – were convinced they now controlled trade between Europe and Asia.

Not so fast. Because that was when European kingdoms facing the Atlantic came up with the ultimate Plan B: a new maritime road to India.

And the rest – North Atlantic hegemony – is history.

Enlightened arrogance

The Enlightenment could not possibly box Asia inside its own rigid geometries. Europe ceased to understand Asia, proclaimed it was some sort of proteiform historical detritus and turned its undivided attention to “virgin,” or “promised” lands elsewhere on the planet.

We all know how England, from the 18th century onwards, took control of the entire trans-oceanic routes and turned North Atlantic supremacy into a lone superpower game – till the mantle was usurped by the US.

Yet all the time there has been counter-pressure from the Eurasian Heartland powers. That’s the stuff of international relations for the past two centuries – peaking in the young 21st century into what could be simplified as The Revenge of the Heartland against Sea Power. But still, that does not tell the whole story.

Rationalist hegemony in Europe progressively led to an incapacity to understand diversity – or The Other, as in Asia. Real Euro-Asia dialogue – the de facto true engine of history – had been dwindling for most of the past two centuries.

Europe owes its DNA not only to much-hailed Athens and Rome – but to Byzantium as well. But for too long not only the East but also the European East, heir to Byzantium, became incomprehensible, quasi incommunicado with Western Europe, or submerged by pathetic clichés.

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), as in the Chinese-led New Silk Roads, are a historical game-changer in infinite ways. Slowly and surely, we are evolving towards the configuration of an economically interlinked group of top Eurasian land powers, from Shanghai to the Ruhr valley, profiting in a coordinated manner from the huge technological know-how of Germany and China and the enormous energy resources of Russia.

The Raging 2020s may signify the historical juncture when this bloc surpasses the current, hegemonic Atlanticist bloc.

Now compare it with the prime US strategic objective at all times, for decades: to establish, via myriad forms of divide and rule, that relations between Germany, Russia and China must be the worst possible.

No wonder strategic fear was glaringly visible at the NATO summit in London last month, which called for ratcheting up pressure on Russia-China. Call it the late Zbigniew “Grand Chessboard” Brzezinski’s ultimate, recurrent nightmare.

Germany soon will have a larger than life decision to make. It’s like this was a renewal – in way more dramatic terms – of the Atlanticist vs Ostpolitik debate. German business knows that the only way for a sovereign Germany to consolidate its role as a global export powerhouse is to become a close business partner of Eurasia.

In parallel, Moscow and Beijing have come to the conclusion that the  US trans-oceanic strategic ring can only be broken through the actions of a concerted block: BRI, Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU), Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), BRICS+ and the BRICS’ New Development Bank (NDB), the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

Middle East pacifier

The Ancient Silk Road was not a single camel caravan route but an inter-communicating maze. Since the mid-1990s I’ve had the privilege to travel almost every important stretch – and then, one day, you see the complete puzzle. The New Silk Roads, if they fulfill their potential, pledge to do the same.

Maritime trade may be eventually imposed – or controlled – by a global naval superpower. But overland trade can only prosper in peace. Thus the New Silk Roads potential as The Great Pacifier in Southwest Asia – what the Western-centric view calls the Middle East.

The Middle East (remember Palmyra) was always a key hub of the Ancient Silk Roads, the great overland axis of Euro-Asia trade going all the way to the Mediterranean.

For centuries, a quartet of regional powers – Egypt, Syria, Mesopotamia (now Iraq) and Persia (now Iran) – have been fighting for hegemony over the whole area from the Nile delta to the Persian Gulf. More recently, it has been a case of external hegemony: Ottoman Turk, British and American.

So delicate, so fragile, so immensely rich in culture, no other region in the world has been, continually, since the dawn of history, an absolutely key zone. Of course, the Middle East was also a crisis zone even before oil was found (the Babylonians, by the way, already knew about it).

The Middle East is a key stop in the 21st century, trans-oceanic supply chain routes – thus its geopolitical importance for the current superpower, among other geoeconomic, energy-related reasons. But its best and brightest know the Middle East does not need to remain a center of war, or intimations of war, which, incidentally, affect three of those historical, regional powers of the quartet (Syria, Iraq and Iran).

What the New Silk Roads are proposing is wide-ranging, economic, interlinked integration from East Asia, through Central Asia, to Iran, Iraq and Syria all the way to the Eastern Mediterranean. Just like the Ancient Silk Roads. No wonder vested War Party interests are so uncomfortable with this real peace “threat.”

The New Russian Government

A much needed evolution but not a revolution

THE SAKER • JANUARY 22, 2020 

The suspense is over and we now know the names of all the members of the new Russian government. You can, for example, take this good summary published by RT.

What is important right now is not only what did happen, but also what did NOT happen. I will begin with two extremely important things which did NOT happen:

First, the Russian government has NOT remained unchanged. The naysayers had predicted that nothing at all would change, that the same folks who be sitting in maybe different seats, but that the changes would be primarily cosmetic. That did not happen. In reality 12 people kept their seats and another 9 were replaced.

Second, this was NOT a total gutting of the Atlantic Integrationist block. Most visibly, Anton Siluanov remained as head of the Finance Ministry. However, Siluanov was demoted from his position as First Deputy Prime Minister of Russia which has now been taken by Andrei Belousov, a huge change indeed. As for Medvedev, he was given a “golden promotion” to the largely technical position as Vice Chairman of the Security Council of Russia.

So what has taken place?

Most Russian observers notice two key things:

First, this is a highly competent, technically skilled, government. Truly, and arguably for the first time, each position in the new cabinet is now occupied by a professional whose expertise is recognized by all.

Second, this is very much a non-ideological government. This is not to say that the social and economic policies of Russia will not change, they will and the new government clearly indicates that, especially with the nominations of Prime Minister Mishustin and his First Deputy Prime Minister Andrey Belousov: these are both on record as very much proponents of what is called “state capitalism” in Russia: meaning an economic philosophy in which the states does not stifle private entrepreneurship, but one in which the state is directly and heavily involved in creating the correct economic conditions for the government and private sector to grow. Most crucially, “state capitalism” also subordinates the sole goal of the corporate world (making profits) to the interests of the state and, therefore, to the interests of the people.

In other words, goodbye turbocapitalism à la Atlantic Integrationists!

Russia has now made the fight against poverty a national strategic priority, something which the Russian people had wanted for years and which the previous “economic block” never considered a priority.

Furthermore, the entire Eurasian Sovereignists block of the government has remained unchanged. This indicates two things:

First, the Russian national security and foreign policy will remain unchanged.

Second, the Eurasian Sovereignists have finally weakened the Atlantic Integrationists to such a degree that a Medvedev nicely “boxed in” in the Russian Security Council or a Siluanov “boxed in” in the new Russian government have ceased to represent a serious threat to the future of Russia.

In other words – we can expect the new government to put even much more efforts into the ultimate goal of the full sovereignization of Russia (this goal is also reflected in the new Constitutional changes which will now place Russian national laws above any international treaty or agreements, another longtime goal of the Eurasian Sovereignists).

All I can say here is “finally!!”.

Another important thing which we can note is that Putin decided to work through evolution, not revolution. In fact, he has described this new government as a “balanced” one. There are many, including myself, who would have preferred not to see the names Medvedev and Siluanov again, but there are also many (possibly many more) who seeing these names still present might be reassured that Russia is not about to embark on a radically different political course. Frankly, I think that over the past century Russia has had enough revolutions, wars, big upheavals and terrible tragedies. There IS something to be said for stability and a gradual correction of course.

Furthermore, a new government which appears to have been formed purely on the merit of its individual members can probably generate much more support than a radically ideological one.

Where does all this leave Russia?

I would say that the Eurasian Sovereignists have finally secured their full control over the Russian state and that the demise of the Atlantic Integrationists is now a new fact of life. Since in this new government the only clearly identifiable group besides the Eurasian Sovereignists are the technocrats, this give Russia a much better chance to stand strong and united in the face of an AngloZionist Empire which has now clearly become unpredictable and therefore very dangerous (the murder of Soleimani is the best example of the actions of an Empire which has totally lost any sense of reality).

It is also interesting to note the reaction of the propaganda outlets for the Empire. Here are two of my favorite ones:

* * *

While the western “Russia experts” are usually folks who know close to nothing about Russia and the little they do not, they don’t understand, it is reassuring (and, let’s be honest here, heart warming) to see the impotent rage felt by the defenders of the AngloZionist Empire who clearly have lost control of Russia (in spite of being in TOTAL control of the Russia of the 1990s!).

Finally, the appointment of this new government leaves the Russian opposition – both the “official” parliamentary opposition and the so-called “non-system” opposition – in total disarray: the former only pretends to oppose the policies of the Kremlin while the latter is so terminally discredited that it can’t even make it into the Duma. This lack of any credible opposition might appear desirable, especially for those who, like myself, support the Kremlin, but in reality it is just another facet of a much deeper problem: Russia remains a country defined by one person, Putin, and not by a healthy and stable political system. The latest reforms did take a few very good steps in the right direction (the Duma’s powers and responsibilities have been increased), but Russia will remain “Putin’s country” for the foreseeable future.

MILITARY AND POLITICAL TRENDS OF 2019 THAT WILL SHAPE 2020

South Front

In the year 2019 the world was marked with a number of emerging and developing crises. The threat of terrorism, conflicts in the Middle East, expanding instability in South America, never-ending military, political and humanitarian crises in Africa and Asia, expansion of NATO, insecurity inside the European Union, sanction wars and sharpening conflicts between key international players. One more factor that shaped the international situation throughout the year was the further collapse of the existing system of international treaties. The most widely known examples of this tendency are the collapse of the INF and the US announcement of plans to withdraw from the New START. Meanwhile, the deterioration of diplomatic mechanisms between key regional and global actors is much wider than these two particular cases. It includes such fields as NATO-Russia relations, the US posture towards Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights, unsuccessful attempts to rescue vestiges of the Iran nuclear deal, as well as recent setbacks in the diplomatic formats created to de-escalate the Korean conflict.

One of the regions of greatest concern in the world, is the Middle East. The main destabilizing factors are the remaining terrorist threat from al-Qaeda and ISIS, the crises in Libya, Syria and Iraq, the ongoing Saudi invasion of Yemen, the deepening Israeli-Arab conflict, and a threat of open military confrontation involving the US and Iran in the Persian Gulf. These factors are further complicated by social and economic instability in several regional countries such as Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and even Iran.

After the defeat of ISIS, the war in Syria entered a low intensity phase. However, it appears that the conflict is nowhere near its end and the country remains a point of instability in the region.

ISIS cells are still active in the country. The announced US troop withdrawal appeared to be only an ordinary PR stunt as US forces only changed their main areas of presence to the oil-rich areas in northeastern Syria. Washington exploits its control over Syrian resources and influence on the leadership of the Syrian Kurds in order to effect the course of the conflict. The Trump administration sees Syria as one of the battlegrounds in the fight against the so-called Iranian threat.

The province of Idlib and its surrounding areas remain the key stronghold of radical militant groups in Syria. Over the past years, anti-government armed groups suffered a series of defeats across the country and withdrew towards northwestern Syria. The decision of the Syrian Army to allow encircled militants to withdraw towards Idlib enabled the rescue of thousands of civilians, who were being used by them as human shields in such areas as Aleppo city and Eastern Ghouta. At the same time, this increased significantly the already high concentration of militants in Greater Idlib turning it into a hotbed of radicalism and terrorism. The ensuing attempts to separate the radicals from the so-called moderate opposition and then to neutralize them, which took place within the framework of the Astana format involving Turkey, Syria, Iran and Russia, made no progress.

The Summer-Fall advance of the Syrian Army in northern Hama and southern Idlib led to the liberation of a large area from the militants. Nevertheless, strategically, the situation is still the same. Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, formerly the official branch of al-Qaeda in Syria, controls most of the area. Turkish-backed ‘moderate militants’ act shoulder to shoulder with terrorist groups.

Turkey is keen to prevent any possible advances of the government forces in Idlib. Therefore it supports further diplomatic cooperation with Russia and Iran to promote a ‘non-military’ solution of the issue. However it does not seem to have enough influence with the Idlib militant groups, in particular HTS, to impose a ceasefire on them at the present time. Ankara could take control of the situation, but it would need a year or two that it does not have. Therefore, a new round of military escalation in the Idlib zone seems to be only a matter of time.

Syria’s northeast is also a source of tensions. Turkey seized a chunk of territory between Ras al-Ayn and Tell Abyad in the framework of its Operation Peace Spring. The large-scale Turkish advance on Kurdish armed groups was halted by the Turkish-Russian ‘safe zone’ agreement and now the Syrian Army and the Russian Military Police are working to separate Kurdish rebels from Turkish proxies and to stabilize Syria’s northeast. If this is successfully done and the Assad government reaches a political deal with Kurdish leaders, conditions for further peaceful settlement of the conflict in this part of the country will be created. It should be noted that Damascus has been contributing extraordinary efforts to restore the infrastructure in areas liberated from terrorists by force or returned under its control by diplomatic means. In the eyes of the local population, these actions have an obvious advantage over approaches of other actors controlling various parts of Syria.

Israel is another actor pursuing an active policy in the region. It seeks to influence processes which could affect, what the leadership sees as, interests of the state. Israel justifies aggressive actions in Syria by claiming to be surrounded by irreconcilable enemies, foremost Iran and Hezbollah, who try to destroy Israel or at least diminish its security. Tel Aviv makes all efforts to ensure that, in the immediate vicinity of its borders, there would be no force, non-state actors, or states whose international and informational activities or military actions might damage Israeli interests. This, according to the Israeli vision, should ensure the physical security of the entire territory currently under the control of Israel and its population.

The start of the Syrian war became a gift for Israel. It was strong enough to repel direct military aggression by any terrorist organization, but got a chance to use the chaos to propel its own interests. Nonetheless, the rigid stance of the Israeli leadership which became used to employing chaos and civil conflicts in the surrounding countries as the most effective strategy for ensuring the interests of the state, was delivered a blow. Israel missed the moment when it had a chance to intervene in the conflict as a kind of peacemaker, at least on the level of formal rhetoric, and, with US help, settle the conflict to protect its own interests. Instead, leaders of Israel and the Obama administration sabotaged all Russian peace efforts in the first years of the Russian military operation and by 2019, Tel Aviv had found itself excluded from the list of power brokers in the Syrian settlement. Hezbollah and Iran, on the other hand, strengthened their position in the country after they, in alliance with Damascus and Russia, won the war on the major part of Syrian territory, and Iran through the Astana format forged a tactical alliance with Turkey.

Iran and Hezbollah used the preliminary outcome of the conflict in Syria, and the war on ISIS in general, to defend their own security and to expand their influence across the region.  The so-called Shia crescent turned from being a myth exploited by Western diplomats and mainstream media into a reality. Iran and Hezbollah appeared to be reliable partners for their regional allies even in the most complicated situations.

Russia’s strategic goal is the prevention of radical Islamists from coming to power. Russia showed itself ready to enter dialogue with the moderate part of the Syrian opposition. Its leadership even demonstrated that it is ready to accept the interests of other actors, the US, Israel, Kurdish groups, Turkey, Iran, and Hezbollah, if this would help in reaching a final deal to settle the conflict.

Summing up the developments of 2019, one might expect that the current low-intensity state of the Syrian conflict would continue for years. However, several factors and developments could instigate the renewal of full-fledged hostilities:

  • A sudden demise or forceful removal of President Bashar al-Assad could create a situation of uncertainty within the patriotic component of the Syrian leadership;
  • Changes within the Russian political system or issues inside Russia which could lead to full or partial withdrawal of support to the Syrian government and withdrawal of Russian forces from Syria;
  • A major war in the Middle East which would turn the entire region into a battlefield. In the current situation, such a war could only start by escalation between the US-Israeli-led bloc and Iran.

The Persian Gulf and the Saudi-Yemen battleground are also sources of regional instability. In the second half of 2019, the situation there was marked by increased chances of open military confrontation between the US-Israeli-Saudi bloc and Iran. Drone shoot-downs, oil tanker detentions, open military buildups, and wartime-like rhetoric became something common or at least not very surprising. The US, Saudi Arabia, and Israel point to Iran as the main instigator of tensions.

Iran and its allies deny responsibility for the escalation reasonably noting that their actions were a response to aggressive moves by the US-Israeli-Saudi axis. From this point of view, Iran’s decision to limit its commitments to the already collapsed Nuclear Deal, high level of military activity in the Persian Gulf, shoot down of the US Global Hawk spy drone, and increased support to regional Shia groups are logical steps to deter US—led aggression and to solidify its own position in the region. Iran’s main goal is to demonstrate that an open military conflict with it will have a devastating impact to the states which decide to attack it, as well as to the global economy.

The US sanctions war, public diplomatic support of rioters, and the Trump administration’s commitment to flexing military muscle only strengthen Tehran’s confidence that this approach is right.

As to Yemen’s Houthis, who demonstrated an unexpected success in delivering retaliatory strikes to Saudi Arabia, they would continue to pursue their main goal – achieving a victory in the conflict with Saudi Arabia or forcing the Kingdom to accept the peace deal on favorable terms. To achieve this, they need to deliver maximum damage to Saudi Arabia’s economy through strikes on its key military and infrastructure objects. In this case, surprising missile and drone strikes on different targets across Saudi Arabia have already demonstrated their effectiveness.

The September 14 strike on Saudi oil infrastructure that put out of commission half of the Saudi oil output became only the first sign of future challenges that Riyadh may face in case of further military confrontation.

The unsuccessful invasion of Yemen and the confrontation with Iran are not the only problems for Saudi Arabia. The interests and vision of the UAE and Saudi Arabia in the Middle East have been in conflict for a long time. Nonetheless, this tendency became especially obvious in 2019. The decline of influence of the House of Saud in the region and inside Saudi Arabia itself led to logical attempts of other regional players to gain a leading position in the Arabian Peninsula. The main challenger is the UAE and the House of Maktoum.

Contradictions between Saudi Arabia and the UAE turned into an open military confrontation between their proxies in Yemen. Since August 29th, Saudi Arabia has provided no symmetric answer to the UAE military action against its proxies. It seems that the Saudi leadership has no will or distinct political vision of how it should react in this situation. Additionally, the Saudi military is bogged down in a bloody conflict in Yemen and struggles to defend its own borders from Houthi attacks.

The UAE already gained an upper hand in the standoff with Saudi Arabia in the economic field. This provided motivation for further actions towards expanding its influence in the region.

During the year, Turkey, under the leadership of President Recep Erdogan, continued strengthening its regional positions. It expanded its own influence in Libya and Syria, strengthened its ties with Iran, Qatar, and Russia, obtained the S-400, entered a final phase in the TurkStream project, and even increased controversial drilling activity in the Eastern Mediterranean. Simultaneously, Ankara defended its national interests -repelling pressure from the United States and getting off with removal from the F-35 program only. Meanwhile, Turkish actions should not be seen as a some tectonic shift in its foreign policy or a signal of ‘great friendship’ with Russia or Iran.

Turkish foreign policy demonstrates that Ankara is not seeking to make ‘friends’ with other regional and global powers. Turkey’s foreign policy is mobile and variable, and always designed to defend the interests of Turkey as a regional leader and the key state of the Turkic world.

Developments in Libya were marked by the strengthening of the Libyan National Army (LNA) led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar and backed by the UAE, Egypt, and to some extent Russia. The LNA consolidated control of most of the country and launched an advance on its capital of Tripoli, controlled by the Government of National Accord. The LNA describes its main goal as the creation of the unified government and the defeat of terrorism. In its own turn, the Government of National Accord is backed by Turkey, Qatar, the USA and some European states. It controls a small part of the country, and, in terms of military force, relies on various militias and even radical armed groups linked with al-Qaeda. Ankara signed with the Tripoli government a memorandum on maritime boundaries in the Mediterranean Sea. Thus, it sees the GNA survival as a factor which would allow it to justify its further economic and security expansion in the region. This clash of interests sets conditions for an escalation of the Libyan conflict in 2020.

Egypt was mostly stable. The country’s army and security forces contained the terrorism threat on the Sinai Peninsula and successfully prevented attempts of radical groups to destabilize the country.

By the end of the year, the Greater Middle East had appeared in a twilight zone lying before a new loop of the seemingly never-ending Great Game. The next round of the geopolitical standoff will likely take place in a larger region including the Middle East, the Caucasus, and Central Asia. Consistently, the stakes will grow involving more resources of states and nations in geopolitical roulette.

The threat that faces Central Asia is particularly severe since the two sets of actors have asymmetrical objectives. Russia and China are rather interested in the political stability and economic success of the region which they view as essential to their own political and security objectives. It is not in the interest of either country to have half a dozen failed states in their immediate political neighborhood, riven by political, economic, and religious conflicts threatening to spread to their own territories. In addition to being a massive security burden to Russia and China, it would threaten the development of their joint Eurasian integration projects and, moreover, attract so much political attention that the foreign policy objectives of both countries would be hamstrung. The effect would be comparable to that of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq on the US political and military establishment. The monetary price of these wars, the sheer political distraction, wear and demoralization of the armed forces, and the unfortunately frequent killings of civilians amount to a non-tenable cost to the warring party, not to mention damage to US international “soft power” wrought by scandals associated with Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and “black sites”. Even now, shock-waves in the US military hierarchy continue to be felt regarding the court-martialed senior-ranking US Navy “SEAL” commando charged for the wanton killing of civilians in Northern Iraq during the US military’s anti-ISIS operations.

By contrast, this dismal scenario would be enough to satisfy the US foreign policy establishment which, at the moment, is wholly dominated by “hawks” determined to assure the continuation of US hegemony.  Preventing the emergence of a multi-polar international system by weakening China and Russia is their desire.  This sets the stage for another round of great power rivalry in Central Asia. While the pattern is roughly the same as during the 19th and late 20th centuries—one or more Anglo-Saxon powers seeking to diminish the power of Russia and/or China—the geography of the battlefield is considerably larger for it encompasses the entirety of post-Soviet Central Asian republics.  Also included is China’s province of Xinjiang which has suddenly attracted considerable Western attention, manifested, as usual, by concern for “human rights” in the region.  Historically, such “concern” usually precedes some form of aggressive action. Therefore the two sets of great power actors—the US and other interested Western powers on the one hand, with Russia and China on the other—are locked in a standoff in the region.

The key security problem is militancy and the spread of terrorism. The US and its NATO partners remain unable to achieve a military victory over the Taliban in Afghanistan. The Taliban reached a level of influence in the region, turning it into a rightful party to any negotiations involving the United States. Nonetheless, it is unlikely that a fully-fledged peace deal can be reached between the sides. The Taliban’s main demand is the withdrawal of all foreign troops from the country. For Washington, conceding to this would amount to public humiliation and a forceful need to admit that the superpower lost a war to the Taliban. Washington can achieve a military victory in Afghanistan only by drastically increasing its forces in the country. This will go contrary to Trump’s publicly declared goal – to limit US participation in conflicts all around the world. Therefore, the stalemate will continue with the Taliban and the US sitting at the negotiating table in Qatar, while Taliban forces slowly take control of more and more territory in Afghanistan.

Besides fighting the US-backed government, in some parts of the country, the Taliban even conducts operations against ISIS in order to prevent this group from spreading further. Despite this, around 5,000 ISIS militants operate in Afghanistan’s north, near the border with Tajikistan. Member states of the Collective Security Treaty Organization are concerned that ISIS militants are preparing to shift their focus to Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia, and Russia. The terrorists are infiltrating CIS states, incorporating with organized crime, creating clandestine cells, brainwashing and recruiting new supporters, chiefly the socially handicapped youth and migrants, [and] training them to carry out terrorist activities. The worsening situation in Central Asia contributes to the spread of radical ideas. Now the main threat of destabilization of the entire Central Asian region comes from Tajikistan. This state is the main target of militants deployed in northern Afghanistan.

Destabilization of Central Asia and the rise of ISIS both contribute to achievement of US geopolitical goals. The scenario could devastate Russia’s influence in the region, undermine security of key Russian regional ally, Kazakhstan, and damage the interests of China. The Chinese, Kazakh, and Russian political leadership understand these risks and engage in joint efforts to prevent this scenario.

In the event of further destabilization of Central Asia, ISIS sleeper cells across the region could be activated and a new ISIS self-proclaimed Caliphate could appear on the territory of northern Afghanistan and southern Tajikistan. Russia and China would not benefit from such a development. In the case of China, such instability could expand to its Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, while in Russia the main targets could be the Northern Caucasus and large cities with high numbers of migrant laborers from Central Asian states.

Armenia now together with Georgia became the center of a US soft power campaign to instigate anti-Russian hysteria in the Caucasus. Ethnic groups in this region are traditionally addicted to US mainstream propaganda. On the other hand, the importance of the South Caucasus for Russia decreased notably because of the strong foothold it gained in the Middle East. 2020 is looking to be another economically complicated year for Georgia and Armenia.

Throughout 2019, China consolidated its position as a global power and the main challenger of the United States. From the military point of view, China successfully turned the South China Sea into an anti-access and area-denial zone controlled by its own military and moved forward with its ambitious modernization program which includes the expansion of China’s maritime, airlift, and amphibious capabilities. The balance of power in the Asia-Pacific has in fact shifted and the Chinese Armed Forces are now the main power-broker in the region. China appeared strong enough to fight back against US economic and diplomatic pressure and to repel the Trump Administration’s attempts to impose Washington’s will upon Beijing. Despite economic war with the United States, China’s GDP growth in 2019 is expected to be about 6%, while the yuan exchange rate and the SSE Composite Index demonstrate stability. The United States also tried to pressure China through supporting instability in Hong Kong and by boosting defense aid to Taiwan. However, in both cases, the situation appears to still be within Beijing’s comfort zone.

An interesting consequence of US-led pressure on China is that Washington’s actions provided an impetus for development of Chinese-Russian cooperation. In 2019, Moscow and Beijing further strengthened their ties and cooperation in the economic and military spheres and demonstrated notable unity in their actions on the international scene as in Africa and in the Arctic for example.

As to Russia itself, during the year, it achieved several foreign policy victories.

  • The de-facto diplomatic victory in Syria;
  • Resumption of dialogue with the new Ukrainian regime and the reanimation of the Normandy format negotiations;
  • Improvement of relations with some large European players, like France, Italy, and even Germany;
  • Implementation of the Nord Stream 2 project despite opposition from the US-led bloc;
  • Implementation of the Turkish Stream project with Turkey;
  • Strengthening of the Russian economy in comparison with previous years and the rubble’s stability despite pressure from sanctions. Growth of the Russian GDP for 2019 is expected to be 1.2%, while the Russia Trading System Index demonstrated notable growth from around 1,100 points at the start of the year to around 1,500 by year’s end.

The salient accomplishment of the Russian authorities is that no large terrorist attack took place in the country. At the same time, the internal situation was marked by some negative tendencies. There was an apparent political, media, and social campaign to undermine Chinese-Russian cooperation. This campaign, run by pro-Western and liberal media, became an indicator of the progress in Chinese-Russian relations. Additionally, Russia was rocked by a series of emergencies, corruption scandals linked with law enforcement, the plundering of government funding allocated to the settlement of emergency situations, the space industry, and other similar cases. A number of Russian mid-level officials made statements revealing their real, rent-seeking stance towards the Russian population. Another problem was the deepening social stratification of the population. Most of the citizens experienced a decrease in their real disposable income, while elites continued concentrating margin funds gained through Russia’s successful actions in the economy and on the international level. These factors, as well as fatigue with the stubborn resistance of entrenched elites to being dislodged, caused conditions for political instability in big cities. Liberal and pro-Western media and pro-Western organizations exploited this in an attempt to destabilize the country.

Militarization of Japan has given the US a foothold in its campaign against China, Russia, and North Korea. The Japan Self-Defense Forces were turned into a fully-fledged military a long time ago. Japanese diplomatic rhetoric demonstrates that official Tokyo is preparing for a possible new conflict in the region and that it will fight to further expand its zone of influence. The Japanese stance on the Kuril Islands territorial dispute with Russia is an example of this approach. Tokyo rejected a Russian proposal for joint economic management of four islands and nearby waters, while formally the islands will remain within Russian jurisdiction -at least for the coming years. Japan demands the full transfer of islands a term which is unacceptable to Russia from a military and political point of view. The social and economic situation in Japan was in a relatively stable, but guarded state.

Denuclearization talks between the United States and North Korea reached a stalemate after the North Korean leadership claimed that Washington was in no hurry to provide Pyongyang with acceptable terms and conditions of a possible nuclear deal. The example of the US unilateral withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Iran also played a role. The positive point is that tensions on the Korean Peninsula de-escalated anyway because the sides sat down at the negotiation table. Chances of the open military conflict involving North Korea and the United States remain low.

In February 2019, the Indian-Pakistani conflict over the disputed region of Jammu and Kashmir put the greater region on the brink of a large war with potential for the use of nuclear weapons. However, both India and Pakistan demonstrated reasonable restraint and prevented further escalation despite an open confrontation between their militaries which took place at the same moment. Meanwhile, the February escalation demonstrated the growing power of Pakistan. In the coming years, look to Jammu and Kashmir as a point of constant instability and military tensions, with very little chance that the sides will find a comprehensive political solution to their differences.

The threat of terrorism is another destabilizing factor in the region. In 2019, ISIS cells made several attempts to strengthen and expand their presence in such countries as Malaysia and Indonesia. Law enforcement agencies of both countries are well aware of this threat and contribute constant and active efforts to combat this terrorism and radicalism. It should be noted that Malaysia is in conflict with the Euro-Atlantic elites because of its independent foreign policy course. For example, its government repeatedly questioned the mainstream MH17 narrative and officially slammed the JIT investigation as politicized and nontransparent. So, the leadership of the country is forced to be in a state of permanent readiness to repel clandestine and public attempts to bring it into line with the mainstream agenda.

While the European Union is, theoretically, the world’s biggest economy using the world’s second most popular currency in international transactions, it remains to be seen whether, in the future, it will evolve into a genuine component of a multi-polar international system or become a satellite in someone else’s—most likely US—orbit. There still remain many obstacles toward achieving a certain “critical mass” of power and unity. While individual EU member states, most notably Germany and France, are capable of independent action in the international system, individually they are too weak to influence the actions of the United States, China, or even Russia. In the past, individual European powers relied on overseas colonial empires to achieve great power status. In the 21st century, European greatness can only be achieved through eliminating not just economic but also political barriers on the continent. At present, European leaders are presented with both incentives and obstacles to such integration, though one may readily discern a number of potential future paths toward future integration.

Continued European integration would demand an agreement on how to transfer national sovereignty to some as yet undefined and untested set of European political institutions which would not only guarantee individual rights but, more importantly from the point of view of national elites, preserve the relative influence of individual EU member states even after they forfeited their sovereignty. Even if the Euro-skeptics were not such a powerful presence in EU’s politics, it would still be an insurmountable task for even the most visionary and driven group of political leaders. Such a leap is only possible if the number of EU states making it is small, and their level of mutual integration is already high.

The post-2008 Euro zone crisis does appear to have communicated the non-sustainability of the current EU integration approach, hence the recent appearance of “two-speeds Europe” concept which actually originated as a warning against the threat of EU bifurcation into well integrated “core“ and a less integrated “periphery”. In practical terms it would mean “core” countries, definitely including Germany, France, and possibly the Benelux Union, would abandon the current policy of throwing money at the less well developed EU member states and, instead, focus on forging “a more perfect Union” consisting of this far more homogeneous and smaller set of countries occupying territories that, over a thousand years ago, formed what used to be known as the Carolingian Empire. Like US territories of the 19th century, EU states outside of the core would have to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” to earn membership in the core, which would require them to adopt, wholesale, the core’s political institutions.

The deepening disproportion of EU member state economies, and therefore sharpening economic disputes, are the main factor of instability in Europe. The long-delayed withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the union, which is finally expected to take place in 2020, might trigger an escalation of internal tensions over economic issues which might blow up the EU from the inside. Other cornerstones of European instability are the extraordinary growth of organized crime, street crime, radicalism, and terrorism, most of which were caused by uncontrolled illegal migration and the inability of the European bureaucracy to cut off the flows of illegal migrants, integrate non-radicalized people into European society, and detect all radicals and terrorists that infiltrate Europe with migrants.

The situation is further complicated by the conflict in Ukraine and the destruction of international security treaties, such as the US withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and its planned withdrawal from the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty). These developments go amid constant military and political hysteria of micro-states and Poland instigated by the Euro-Atlantic elites. The EU bureaucracy is using this state of hysteria and ramping up speculations about a supposed military threat from Russia and an economic and political threat from China to distract the public and draw attention away from the real problems.

The return of Russia as the diplomatic and military great power to Africa marked a new round of the geo-economic standoff in the region. The apparent Russian-Chinese cooperation is steadily pushing French and British out of what they describe as their traditional sphere of influence. While, in terms of economic strength, Russia cannot compete with China, it does have a wide range of military and diplomatic means and measures with which to influence the region. So, Beijing and Moscow seem to have reached a non-public deal on a “division of labor”. China focuses on implementation of its economic projects, while Russia contributes military and diplomatic efforts to stabilize the security situation, obtaining revenue for its military and security assistance. Moscow plays a second violin role in getting these guaranteed zones of influence. Terrorism is one of the main threats to the region. The Chinese-Russian cooperation did not go without a response from their Western counterparts that justified their propaganda and diplomatic opposition to Beijing-Moscow cooperation by describing Chinese investments as “debt-traps” and the Russian military presence as “destabilizing”. In 2019, Africa entered into a new round of great powers rivalry.

The intensification of US “soft power” and meddling efforts, social, economic tensions, activities of non-state actors, and organized criminal networks became the main factors of instability in South America. Venezuela and Bolivia were targeted by US-backed coups. While the Venezuelan government, with help from China and Russia, succeeded in repelling the coup attempt, Bolivia was plunged into a violent civil conflict after the pro-US government seized power. Chile remained in a state of social economic crisis which repeatedly triggered wide-scale anti-government riots. Its pro-US government remained in power, mainly, because there was no foreign ‘democratic superpower’ to instigate the regime change campaign. Actions of the government of Colombia, one of the key US regional allies, undermined the existing peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and forced at least a part of the former FARC members to take up arms once again. If repressions, killings, and clandestine operations aimed at the FARC members committed to the peace continue, they may lead to a resumption of FARC-led guerrilla warfare against the central government. The crisis developing in Mexico is a result of the growth of the drug cartels-related violence and economic tensions with the United States. The right-wing Bolsonaro government put Brazil on track with the US foreign policy course to the extent that, the country worked with Washington against Venezuela, claiming that it should not turn into ‘another Cuba’. A deep economic crisis in Argentina opened the road to power for a new left-centric president, Alberto Fernandez. Washington considers South America as its own geopolitical backyard and sees any non pro-US, or just national-oriented government, as a threat to its vital interests. In 2020, the US meddling campaign will likely escalate and expand, throwing the region into a new round of instability and triggering an expected resistance from South American states. An example of this is the situation in Bolivia. Regardless of the actions of ousted President Evo Morales, the situation in the country will continue escalating. The inability of the pro-US government to deliver positive changes and its simultaneous actions to destroy all the economic achievements of the Morales period might cause Bolivia to descend into poverty and chaos causing unrest and possibly, a civil war.

During 2019, the world superpower, led by the administration of President Donald Trump, provided a consistent policy designed to defend the interests of US domestic industry and the United States as a national state by any means possible. This included economic and diplomatic pressure campaigns against both US geopolitical competitors and allies. The most widely known Trump administration move of this kind was the tariff war with China. However, at the same time, Washington contributed notable efforts in almost all regions around the globe. For example, the United States opposed Chinese economic projects in Africa, Russia’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in Europe, tried to limit exports of the Russian defense industry, pressured NATO member states who did not want to spend enough on defense, and proposed that US allies pay more for the honor and privilege of provided “protection”. Additionally, Trump pressured the Federal Reserve Board of Governors into lowering interest rates and announced plans to lower interest rates even further to weaken the dollar in order to boost national industry and increase its product availability on the global market. These plans caused strong resistance from international corporations and global capitalists because this move may undermine the current global financial system based upon a strong US dollar. This straightforward approach demonstrated that Trump and his team were ready to do everything needed to protect US security and economic interests as they see them. Meanwhile, it alienated some “traditional allies”, as in the case of Turkey which decided to acquire Russian S-400s, and escalated the conflict between the Trump Administration and the globalists. The expected US GDP growth in 2019 is 2.2%. The expected production growth of 3.9% reflects the policy aimed at supporting the real sector. In terms of foreign policy, the White House attempted to rationalize US military presence in conflict zones around the world. Despite this, the unprecedented level of support to Israel, confrontation with Iran, China, and Russia, militarization of Europe, coups and meddling into the internal affairs of sovereign states remain as the main markers of US foreign policy. Nevertheless, the main threat to United States stability originates not from Iranians, Russians, or Chinese, but rather from internal issues. The constant hysteria in mainstream media, the attempt to impeach Donald Trump, and the radicalization of different social and political groups contributes to destabilization of the country ahead of the 2020 presidential election.

The year 2019 was marked by a number of dangerous developments. In spite of this, it could have been much more dangerous and violent. Political leadership by key actors demonstrated their conditional wisdom by avoiding a number of open military conflicts, all of which had chances to erupt in the Middle East, South Asia, East Asia, South America, and even Europe. A new war in the Persian Gulf, US military conflict with North Korea, an India-Pakistan war -none of these were started.  A peaceful transfer of power from Petro Poroshenko to Volodymyr Zelensky in Ukraine allowed for the avoidance of a military escalation in eastern Europe. China and the United States showed their restraint despite tensions in the Asia-Pacific, including the Hong Kong issue. A new global economic crisis, expected for some time by many experts, did not happen. The lack of global economic shocks or new regional wars in 2019 does not mean that knots straining relations among leading world powers were loosened or solved. These knots will remain a constant source of tension on the international level until they are removed within the framework of diplomatic mechanisms or cut as a result of a large military conflict or a series of smaller military conflicts.

Chances seem high that 2020 will become the year when a match will be set to the wick of the international powder keg, or that it will be the last relatively calm year in the first quarter of the 21st century. The collapse of international defense treaties and de-escalation mechanisms, as well as accumulating contradictions and conflicts among world nations give rise to an especial concern.

Review of 2019 and Preview for 2020: the Final Combat of Western Hegemonism

December 26, 2019

By Paul Schmutz Schaller for The Saker Blog

The world situation is changing very fast and one needs to make an effort in order to keep pace with the events. The end of a year is a welcome opportunity for an assessment of the current situation. I shall concentrate on two main subjects.

2019: The West has lost the supremacy in the Middle East

I think that this was the most important change in the year drawing to a close. Iran has successfully and creatively defended herself against the „maximal pressure“ from the USA and has kept her distance with the West European countries. Economically, the country has suffered from the US-sanctions, but she has now passed the biggest crisis. The country took the imposed problems as a motivation to improve the economical governance and to diminish the dependance from petrol. While in June, say, there was a more or less real danger of an aggressive war against Iran, now, this treat haas faded into the background. The report of UN-Secretary-General Guterres of Desember 10 saying that the UN, after an investigation in Saudi Arabia, cannot verify the US and Saudi claims that Iran was behind the strikes on Aramco in September, is a diplomatic victory for Iran. As for the Iranian trade, an official recently said that, during the last 9 months, China, Iraq, UAE, Afghanistan and Turkey were major destinations for the Iranian exports while Turkey, UAE and Germany are biggest Iranian trade in terms of imports.

Syria has made further important progress in the fight against terrorism, in particular in the province Idleb. Moreover, the government and the army were able to utilize the partial withdrawal of the US occupying army in the north-east of the country. The reconstruction in Syria moves forward, Russian and Chinese enterprises will thereby play an important role. Hundreds of thousands refugees have come back. In short, as President Assad said in the interview with Italian Rai News 24: „[… ] the situation is much, much better […] and I think that the future of Syria is promising; we are going to come out of this war stronger.“

In the absurd war of Saudi Arabia against Yemen, the strategic situation has completely changed. Saudi Arabia has lost the initiative and different Arabian and African countries have stopped the support for the Saudi army. The Ansarallah movement of the Houthis has made important attacks, in particular against Aramco, and the movement has now strong official relations with Iran.

The West and Israel are still trying hard to exploit the economical and political crisis in Lebanon and Iraq. However, the patriotic forces in both countries were able to keep a positive outlook of the situation and could avoid to fall into the traps.

There is no reason to think that the positive development in the Middle East will change in the next months. Quite the contrary. One can expect that the fight in Afghanistan against terrorism and US occupation will make important progress. Moreover, the influence of China and Russia will further increase. However, the general situation will remain tense. This is of course due to the fact that there is a country like Israel in this region which is utterly hostile against the neighboring countries and tyrannizes the indigenous population.

Asia a a whole has already widely casted off the yoke of Western hegemonism. As of South America, the developments in 2019 show – despite of the coup in Bolivia – a movement to more independence which very probably will continue. I would assume that this vague will also grow in Africa, in particular in Western and central Africa, due to the fight against terrorism and the beneficial influence of China and Russia.

2020: The fight between the American national imperialism and Western hegemony will come to a decision

Trump has won in 2016, based on his program of „America first“. Since then, it has become more and more clear that this program is in fact a program of an American national imperialism. Trump is not interested in a „Western“ perspective. A typical example are the US sanctions against numerous countries, even against traditional allies. This is a crucial change. Since the end of World War 2, the USA were constructed as a worldwide leading power. During the cold war, this has developed into the collective Western hegemony – including countries like Japan, Australia and others – with the USA as the undisputed leader. The emergence of an American national imperialism is a somewhat unexpected challenge for all other Western countries. Nevertheless, it is a logical evolution, provoked among other things by the declining power of Western hegemony and the appearance of China, the new Russia, as well as their strategic collaboration.

The traditional Western hegemonic forces have never accepted the election of Trump in 2016. They are very strong inside the US Democratic Party and in the US parliament in general, but also in Western Europe. With the impeachment and the US election in 2020, the fight between the both tendencies will reach a decision. One should expect that this fight will be very hard. The only logical outcome will be a victory of Trump; however, it is still to be seen whether this will be a clear victory or not. In other words, will the Western hegemonic forces be obliged to accept it this time? I think that these questions will be very crucial in 2020.

Also for Western Europe, the influence of this fight will be immense. Concerning this matter, the UK is the most advanced country in Western Europe. After a struggle of 3 and half years, the population has given a clear mandate to the Johnson government to deliver Brexit. It is probable that now, where this central question is resolved, the development in the UK will be quite dynamical. The formation of a national imperialism will advance quickly. France also is rather well prepared for a victory of the American national imperialism; with the period of de Gaulle in the 1960s, she has a historical model.

On the other hand, I believe that Germany is the less prepared country. Germany is very anti-Trump. In 2016, polls in Germany indicated that up to 90% would vote for Hillary Clinton and only 4% for Donald Trump. The polls during the last years have clearly confirmed this rejection of Trump in the German population. Also, German Chancellor Merkel has been widely seen as a stronghold of the traditional Western hegemony and against American national imperialism. However, the situation is changing. Merkel has lost her authority and is now rather isolated. The awareness is growing that Trump does not stand for a parenthesis in history, but for a fundamental change. The impeachment is not judged as positive as one could await. Moreover, the German industry would like to have better relations with Russia. The US sanctions against Nord Stream 2 will only reinforce the will in Germany to become more autonomous.

There is still another problem. While national imperialism has a long tradition in the UK and in France and will probably be accepted without too much of resistance, in Germany, national imperialism is not popular, for historical reasons. Therefore, one may predict that Germany will have a big debate on her political identity; even a profound crisis is possible. This is certainly complicated by the fact that Merkel has to be replaced and that there is – actually – no convincing successor. I am however quite confident that Germany will be able to find a way for playing a quite positive role in the future world.

We therefore may anticipate that Western hegemony is replaced by national imperialisms. Of course, they will remain a big problem for the world, even if the classical Western hegemony will suffer an important defeat. But the contradictions of other Western countries with the USA will strongly expand. This gives the remaining world much better perspectives.

From my point of view, 2019 was a very positive year and I am convinced that the same will be the case for 2020.

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