The upcoming Summit for Democracy as a time machine

November 29, 2021

Introduction:

Biden’s “Summit for Democracy” scheduled for December 9-10, 2021, has posted its final list of invited countries.

Let’s take a look:

Albania
Angola
Antigua and Barbuda
Argentina
Armenia
Australia
Austria
Bahamas
Barbados
Belgium
Belize
Botswana
Brazil
Bulgaria
Cabo Verde
Canada
Chile
Colombia
Costa Rica
Croatia
Cyprus
Czech Republic
Democratic Republic of Congo
Denmark
Dominica
Dominican Republic
Ecuador
Estonia
European Union
Fiji
Finland
France
Georgia
Germany
Ghana
Greece
Grenada
Guyana
Iceland
India
Indonesia
Iraq
Ireland
Israel
Italy
Jamaica
Japan
Kenya
Kiribati
Kosovo
Latvia
Liberia
Lithuania
Luxembourg
Malawi
Malaysia
Maldives
Malta
Marshall Islands
Mauritius
Mexico
Micronesia
Moldova
Mongolia
Montenegro
Namibia
Nauru
Nepal
Netherlands
New Zealand
Niger
Nigeria
North Macedonia
Norway
Pakistan
Palau
Panama
Papua New Guinea
Paraguay
Peru
Philippines
Poland
Portugal
Republic of Korea
Romania
Saint Kitts and Nevis­
Saint Lucia
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Samoa
Sao Tome and Principe
Senegal
Serbia
Seychelles
Slovakia
Slovenia
Solomon Islands
South Africa
Spain
Suriname
Sweden
Switzerland
Taiwan
Timor-Leste
Tonga
Trinidad and Tobago
Tuvalu
Ukraine
United Kingdom
Uruguay
Vanuatu
Zambia

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace also published this very helpful map:

Finally, let us also recall the purpose of this summit, as explained by the US Department of State:

  1. Defending against authoritarianism
  2. Addressing and fighting corruption
  3. Promoting respect for human rights

Next, the first thing we need to do is to translate the above into plain English.  Here is how I would translate all this:

  1. Faithfully supporting a single World Hegemony of the (already dead, but nevermind that, they can pretend it is still alive) AngloZionist Empire and obediently participate in any anti-Russian and anti-Chinese operations to prevent the latter from creating a multi-polar world.
  2. Overthrow those government who refuse to participate in the operations mentioned under #1 and/or get rid of some truly useless and too embarrassing “our SOBs” (Zelenskii anybody?)
  3. Participating in strategic PSYOPs to demonize those countries not invited to the Summit while allowing those invited to use any level of repression/suppression of dissent needed to stay in power.

How relevant is this summit in reality?

By itself, such a summit has zero value, if only because it tries to unite around a single (and vapid) agenda countries with totally different circumstances.  It is therefore pretty obvious that all that which come out from this grand show is some insipid declaration “for everything good and against everything bad” (Russian expression).

Results of the regional and municipal elections in Venezuela

One telling example shows how out of touch with reality this entire endeavor will be: the White House has even extended an invitation to uberloser Juan Guaido!  That in spite of the fact that the people of Venezuela have recently massively rejected Guaido and everything he stands for.

This, by the way, also strongly suggest that even though, for example, almost all Latin American countries have been invited to the Summit, this participation is a very good illustration of the comprador nature of the ruling classes in Latin American.  If the people were given the right to decide whether they want to subserviently support the “Yankee/gringo” Empire or not, very few, if any, of the invited countries would send delegates.

In other words, this Summit is first and foremost about APPEARANCES, a PR move destined to strong-arm each government on the planet to make a simple choice, the very same choice Baby Bush offered when he said that “you are either with us or with the terrorists”.  The updated version of this could be “you are either with us, or with the evil Russians and the evil Chinese”.

[BTW – This is the list of countries which have not been invited (for various reasons): Afghanistan, Algeria, Andorra, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Brunei, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cote D’Ivoire, Cambodia, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, China, Comoros, Congo, Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, The Holy See, Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iran, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Lebanon, Lesotho, Libya, Liechtenstein, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Monaco, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nicaragua, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, Qatar, Russia, Rwanda, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Syria, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Vietnam, Yemen, and Zimbabwe.]

The real (people’s) map would look very differently

What would a realistic map look like?

First, almost none of the Latin American countries would be represented.

Second, all of Europe would, but primarily because the EU’s comprador elites are desperate to get from this summit a legitimacy which they are increasingly losing in their own countries due to the truly phenomenal, I would even say, suicidal policies of the EU member states (economy, energy, COVID, crime, immigration, Wokism, etc.).

Next, all of Africa would participate, in a desperate attempt to get as much aid as possible (military, economic, political, etc.) and to show how abjectly subservient to their colonial masters all the African governments still are.  This is hardly their fault, true, but that does not change the abject reality of African politics…

Next, the wider Middle-East, India and Pakistan would also participate, but for very different reasons: these governments have all read the writing on the wall, albeit with some differences, and they know that the US is on the way out, but they want that “out” to be played on terms advantageous to them.  Nobody wants to be the “next Erdogan” and be overthrown by CENTCOM.  I would also add that while CENTCOM ain’t much of a military force anymore, there are numerous multi-billion dollar contracts still linking the USA to these countries and that is reason enough to show up at the Summit, and say all the right things, and then come home and return to business as usual.

Which leaves the entire Asian continent, including Russia, China, Central and Far East Asia.  Here the map is simple: countries near Russia and China are not invited, countries near(er) Australia are.  Asia currently is the continent with the most agency, by far, and the one with the brightest future due not only to its immense resources (human and natural) but also due to the fact that the two Asian giants (Russia and China) are moving together as one to begin to build the multi-polar world they eventually want to see worldwide on the continent they share.  Russia and China also happen to have the most powerful militaries on the planet (especially if counted together, which they increasingly should).

If Malcolm X was still alive today he would probably say that “all the house Negroes have been invited and all the field Negroes have not” (see here) 🙂

The Summit for Democracy as a time machine?

I would argue that the upcoming Summit is like a time machine, not one which allows us to actually travel in time, but one which shows us who will be part of shaping the future of our planet and who will not.  The folks invited by the (already dead) AngloZionist Empire are either comprador elites, or regimes with no real agency (and, therefore, no real legitimacy), and a few desperately poor countries which are literally willing to do anything, anything at all, to please their current masters.  They have no real future to speak of.

As for the future, it is pretty evident that Asia will be, by far, the most important continent to set the agenda for the foreseeable future.  I personally believe that Latin America will be next, all that is needed their is for a few well chosen “dominoes” to fall and the entire continent will be flipped very quickly.  True, right now, if we ONLY look at the official map, Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador and Bolivia look rather isolated.  But let’s look at this differently, the fact that these countries can survive while being surrounded by pro-USA regimes is a very telling sign by itself.  Furthermore, there are also two giants in Latin America: Argentina and Brazil, especially the latter.  Should Brazil be “flipped”, then that would have a huge impact on the rest of the continent.

Next, the two regions which will “fall” next would be the Middle-East, first, and eventually, Europe, second.

There is very little, if anything, the Empire or the USA can do about the Middle-East: the truth is that the future of the region will be set by Iran (the regional superpower) and Russia.  Yes, the Axis of Kindness countries (US+KSA+Israel) can still trigger a major regional war.  But they can’t win it.  That ship has now sailed.

With the EU, however, things are much more complicated and all the Kabuki theatre we currently see about the “imminent” Russian invasion is all about two things: first, “elegantly” get rid of the Ukraine (to a Russian invasion would be best) and about reasserting the Anglo dominance over the European continent.  That plan might still succeed, especially when we consider the very real political power the UK+3B+PU gang has ever EU decision (yes, even the UK still has a lot of influence over the EU ruling classes via its still very real financial power!).

As for Oceania and Africa, they simply don’t matter very much, the former a nicely isolated by distance, the latter has no agency and is totally dependent on some kind of foreign masters.

In the meantime, the brain-dead EU politicians, which should have been placed on suicide watch years ago, are still at it: NATO threatens Russia with “consequences” while the US declares that “all options are on the table“.  We can be sure that Putin personally and everybody else in Russia are absolutely *terrified* by such language, and that is why when the “imminent” Russian invasion does not materialize, the leaders of the (long dead) Empire will proclaim themselves “victorious” against the “Putin regime”!  Bravo!

And even if the Ukies succeed in forcing Russia to intervene, then NATO will proudly declared that its invincible might is what forced the Russians to stop (doesn’t really matter where exactly). Again, bravo!

All this craziness actually makes perfect sense, as an imaginary war is the only one these losers can “win”.

Andrei

China, Russia and India: Foreign Ministers Joint Communique

November 27, 2021

Joint Communique of the 18th Meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Russian Federation, the Republic of India and the People’s Republic of China

November 26, 2021

1. The 18th Meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Russian Federation, the Republic of India and the People’s Republic of China was held in the digital video-conference format on 26 November 2021. The meeting took place in the backdrop of negative impacts of the global Covid-19 pandemic, on-going economic recovery as well as continuing threats of terrorism, extremism, drug trafficking, trans-national organized crime, natural and man-made disasters, food security and climate change.

2. The Ministers exchanged views on further strengthening the Russia-India-China (RIC) trilateral cooperation and also discussed various regional and international issues of importance. The Ministers recalled their last meeting in Moscow in September 2020 as well as the RIC Leaders’ Informal Summit in Osaka (Japan) in June 2019 and noted the need for regular high level meetings to foster closer cooperation among the RIC countries.

3. Expressing their solidarity with those who were negatively affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Ministers underlined the importance of a timely, transparent, effective and non-discriminatory international response to global health challenges including pandemics, with equitable and affordable access to medicines, vaccines and critical health supplies. They reiterated the need for continued cooperation in this fight inter-alia through sharing of vaccine doses, transfer of technology, development of local production capacities, promotion of supply chains for medical products. In this context, they noted the ongoing discussions in the WTO on COVID-19 vaccine Intellectual Property Rights waiver and the use of flexibilities of the TRIPS Agreement and the Doha Declaration on TRIPS Agreement and Public Health.

4. Emphasizing the need for collective cooperation in the fight against Covid-19 pandemic, the Ministers noted the measures being taken by the World Health Organization (WHO), governments, non-profit organisations, academia, business and industry in combating the pandemic. In this context, the Ministers called for strengthening the policy responses of WHO in the fight against Covid-19 and other global health challenges. They also called for making Covid-19 vaccination a global public good.

5. The Ministers agreed that cooperation among the RIC countries will contribute not only to their own growth but also to global peace, security, stability and development. The Ministers underlined the importance of strengthening of an open, transparent, just, inclusive, equitable and representative multi-polar international system based on respect for international law and principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and central coordinating role of the United Nations in the international system.

6. The Ministers reiterated that a multi-polar and rebalanced world based on sovereign equality of nations and respect for international law and reflecting contemporary realities requires strengthening and reforming of the multilateral system. The Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to upholding international law, including the purposes and principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations. The Ministers acknowledged that the current interconnected international challenges should be addressed through reinvigorated and reformed multilateral system, especially of the UN and its principal organs, and other multilateral institutions such as International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank (WB), World Trade Organization (WTO), World Health Organization (WHO), with a view to enhancing its capacity to effectively address the diverse challenges of our time and to adapt them to 21st century realities. The Ministers recalled the 2005 World Summit Outcome document and reaffirmed the need for comprehensive reform of the UN, including its Security Council, with a view to making it more representative, effective and efficient, and to increase the representation of the developing countries so that it can adequately respond to global challenges. Foreign Ministers of China and Russia reiterated the importance they attached to the status of India in international affairs and supported its aspiration to play a greater role in the United Nations.Foreign Ministers of Russia and China congratulated India for its successful Presidency of the UNSC in August 2021.

7. Underlining the significance they attach to the intra-BRICS cooperation, the Ministers welcomed the outcomes of the 13th BRICS Summit held under India’s chairmanship on 9 September 2021. They agreed to work actively to implement the decisions of the successive BRICS Summits, deepen BRICS strategic partnership, strengthen cooperation in its three pillars namely political and security cooperation; economic and finance; and people-to-people and cultural exchanges. Russia and India extend full support to China for its BRICS Chairship in 2022 and hosting the XIV BRICS Summit.

8. In the year of the 20th Anniversary of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) the Ministers underlined that the SCO as an influential and responsible member of the modern system of international relations plays a constructive role in securing peace and sustainable development, advancing regional cooperation and consolidating ties of good-neighbourliness and mutual trust. In this context, they emphasized the importance of further strengthening the Organization’s multifaceted potential with a view to promote multilateral political, security, economic and people-to-people exchanges cooperation. The Ministers intend to pay special attention to ensuring stability in the SCO space, including to step up efforts in jointly countering terrorism, illicit drug trafficking and trans-border organized crime under the framework of SCO-Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure. They appreciated the Ministerial meeting in the SCO Contact Group on Afghanistan format held on 14th July 2021 in Dushanbe.

9. The Ministers supported the G-20’s leading role in global economic governance and international economic cooperation. They expressed their readiness to enhance communication and cooperation including through G-20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and other means, through consultations and mutual support in areas of respective interest.

10. The Ministers stand for maintaining and strengthening of ASEAN Centrality and the role of ASEAN-led mechanisms in the evolving regional architecture, including through fostering ties between ASEAN and other regional organizations such as the SCO, IORA, BIMSTEC. The Ministers reiterated the importance of the need for closer cooperation and consultations in various regional fora and organizations, East Asia Summit (EAS), ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting Plus (ADMM-Plus), Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) and the Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD), to jointly contribute to regional peace, security and stability.

11. The Ministers consider it important to utilize the potential of the countries of the region, international organizations and multilateral associations in order to create a space in Eurasia for broad, open, mutually beneficial and equal interaction in accordance with international law and taking into account national interests. In that regard, they noted the idea of establishing a Greater Eurasian Partnership involving the SCO countries, the Eurasian Economic Union, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and other interested States and multilateral associations.

12. The Ministers condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. The Ministers reaffirmed that terrorism must be comprehensively countered to achieve a world free of terrorism. They called on the international community to strengthen UN-led global counter-terrorism cooperation by fully implementing the relevant UN Security Council (UNSC) resolutions and the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. In this context, they called for early adoption of the UN Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism. The Ministers stressed that those committing, orchestrating, inciting or supporting, financing terrorist acts must be held accountable and brought to justice in accordance with existing international commitments on countering terrorism, including the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, relevant UN Security Council resolutions and the FATF standards, international treaties, including on the basis of the principle “extradite or prosecute” and relevant international and bilateral obligations and in compliance with applicable domestic legislation.

13. The Ministers emphasized the importance of the three international drug control conventions and other relevant legal instruments which form the edifice of the drug control system. They reiterated their firm resolve to address the world drug problem, on a basis of common and shared responsibility. The Ministers expressed their determination to counter the spread of illicit drug trafficking in opiates and methamphetamine from Afghanistan and beyond, which poses a serious threat to regional security and stability and provides funding for terrorist organizations.

14. The Ministers reiterated the need for a holistic approach to development and security of ICTs, including technical progress, business development, safeguarding the security of States and public interests, and respecting the right to privacy of individuals. The Ministers noted that technology should be used responsibly in a human-centric manner. They underscored the leading role of the United Nations in promoting a dialogue to forge common understandings on the security of and in the use of ICTs and development of universally agreed norms, rules and principles for responsible behaviour of States in the area of ICTs and recognized the importance of strengthening its international cooperation. The Ministers recalled that the development of ICT capabilities for military purposes and the malicious use of ICTs by State and non-State actors including terrorists and criminal groups is a disturbing trend. The Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to principles of preventing conflicts stemming from the use of ICTs, as well as ensuring use of these technologies for peaceful purposes. In this context, they welcomed the work of recently concluded UN-mandated groups namely Open Ended Working Group on the developments in the fields of Information and Telecommunications in the context of international security (OEWG) and the Sixth United Nations Group of Governmental Experts (UNGGE) on Advancing responsible State behaviour in cyberspace in the context of international security and their consensual final reports. The Ministers supported the OEWG on the security of and in the use of ICTs 2021-2025.

15. The Ministers, while emphasizing the important role of the ICTs for growth and development, acknowledged the potential misuse of ICTs for criminal activities and threats. The Ministers expressed concern over the increasing level and complexity of criminal misuse of ICTs as well as the absence of a UN-led framework to counter the use of ICTs for criminal purposes. Noting that new challenges and threats in this respect require international cooperation, the Ministers appreciated the launch of the UN Open-Ended Ad-Hoc Intergovernmental Committee of Experts to elaborate a comprehensive international convention on countering the use of ICTs for criminal purposes under the auspices of the United Nations, pursuant to the United Nations General Assembly resolution 74/247.

16. The Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to broadening and strengthening the participation of emerging markets and developing countries (EMDCs) in the international economic decision-making and norm-setting processes, especially in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic. In this regard, they emphasized the importance of constant efforts to reform the international financial architecture. They expressed concern that enhancing the voice and participation of EMDCs in the Bretton Woods institutions remains far from realization.

17. The Ministers reaffirmed their support for a transparent, open, inclusive and non-discriminatory multilateral trading system, with the World Trade Organization (WTO) at its core. In this context, they reiterated their support for the necessary reform which would preserve the centrality, core values and fundamental principles of the WTO while taking into account the interests of all members, especially developing countries and Least Developing Countries (LDCs). They emphasized the primary importance of ensuring the restoration and preservation of the normal functioning of a two-stage WTO Dispute Settlement system, including the expeditious appointment of all Appellate Body members. The post-pandemic world requires diversified global value chains that are based on resilience and reliability.

18. The Ministers agreed that the imposition of unilateral sanctions beyond those adopted by the UNSC as well as “long-arm jurisdiction” were inconsistent with the principles of international law, have reduced the effectiveness and legitimacy of the UNSC sanction regime, and had a negative impact on third States and international economic and trade relations. They called for a further consolidation and strengthening of the working methods of the UN Security Council Sanctions Committee to ensure their effectiveness, responsiveness and transparency.

19. The Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in its three dimensions- economic, social and environmental in a balanced and integrated manner – and reiterated that the Sustainable Development Goals are integrated and indivisible and must be achieved ‘leaving no one behind’. The Ministers called upon the international community to foster a more equitable and balanced global development partnership to address the negative impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and to accelerate the implementation of 2030 Agenda while giving special attention to the difficulties and needs of the developing countries. The Ministers urged developed countries to honour their Official Development Assistance (ODA) commitments, including the commitment to achieve the target of 0.7 percent of gross national income for official development assistance (ODA/GNI) to developing countries and to facilitate capacity building and the transfer of technology to developing countries together with additional development resources, in line with national policy objectives of the recipients.

20. The Ministers also reaffirmed their commitment to Climate action by implementation of Kyoto Protocol and Paris Agreement adopted under the principles of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), including the principle of Equity, Common But Differentiated Responsibilities, the criticality of adequate finance and technology flows, judicious use of resources and the need for sustainable lifestyles. They recognized that peaking of Greenhouse Gas Emissions will take longer for developing countries, in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty. They stressed the importance of a Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework that addresses the three objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in a balanced way. They welcomed the outcomes of the 26th Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP-26) and the 15th Conference of Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP-15).

21. The Ministers underlined the imperative of dialogue to strengthen international peace and security through political and diplomatic means. The Ministers confirmed their commitment to ensure prevention of an arms race in outer space and its weaponization, through the adoption of a relevant multilateral legally binding instrument. In this regard, they noted the relevance of the draft treaty on the prevention of the placement of weapons in outer space and of the threat or use of force against outer space objects. They emphasized that the Conference on Disarmament, as the single multilateral negotiating forum on this subject, has the primary role in the negotiation of a multilateral agreement, or agreements, as appropriate, on the prevention of an arms race in outer space in all its aspects. They expressed concern over the possibility of outer space turning into an arena of military confrontation. They stressed that practical transparency and confidence building measures, such as the No First Placement initiative may also contribute towards the prevention of an arms race in outer space. The Ministers reaffirmed their support for enhancing international cooperation in outer space in accordance with international law, based on the Outer Space Treaty. They recognized, in that regard, the leading role of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS). They agreed to stand together for enhancing the long-term sustainability of outer space activities and safety of space operations through deliberations under UNCOPUOS.

22. The Ministers reiterated the importance of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction (BTWC) as a key pillar of the global disarmament and security architecture. They highlighted the need for BTWC States Parties to comply with BTWC, and actively consult one another on addressing issues through cooperation in relation to the implementation of the Convention and strengthening it, including by negotiating a legally binding Protocol for the Convention that provides for, inter alia, an efficient verification mechanism. The BTWC functions should not be duplicated by other mechanisms. They also reaffirmed support for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and called upon the State Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) to uphold the Convention and the integrity of the CWC and engage in a constructive dialogue with a view to restoring the spirit of consensus in the OPCW.

23. The Ministers showed deep concern about the threat of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) falling into the hands of terrorist groups, including the use of chemicals and biological agents for terrorist purposes. To address the threat of chemical and biological terrorism, they emphasized the need to launch multilateral negotiations on an international convention for the suppression of acts of chemical and biological terrorism at the Conference on Disarmament. They urged all States to take and strengthen national measures, as appropriate, to prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction, their means of delivery and materials and technologies related to their manufacture.

24. The Ministers noted rising concerns regarding dramatic change of the situation in Afghanistan. They reaffirmed their support for basic principle of an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and called for formation of a truly inclusive government that represents all the major ethnic and political groups of the country. The Ministers advocated a peaceful, secure, united, sovereign, stable and prosperous inclusive Afghanistan that exists in harmony with its neighbors. They called on the Taliban to take actions in accordance with the results of all the recently held international and regional formats of interaction on Afghanistan, including the UN Resolutions on Afghanistan. Expressing concern over deteriorating humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, the Ministers called for immediate and unhindered humanitarian assistance to be provided to Afghanistan. The Ministers also emphasized on the central role of UN in Afghanistan.

25. They stressed the necessity of urgent elimination of UNSC proscribed terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda, ISIL and others for lasting peace in Afghanistan and the region. The Ministers acknowledged the widespread and sincere demand of the Afghan people for lasting peace. They reaffirmed the importance of ensuring that the territory of Afghanistan should not be used to threaten or attack any other country, and that no Afghan group or individual should support terrorists operating on the territory of any other country.

26. The Ministers reiterated the importance of full implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and UNSC Resolution 2231 and expressed their support to the relevant efforts to ensure the earliest reinvigoration of the JCPOA which is a landmark achievement for multilateral diplomacy and the nuclear non-proliferation.

27. The Ministers reaffirmed their strong commitment to the sovereignty, political independence, territorial integrity and unity of Myanmar. They expressed support to the efforts of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (ASEAN) aimed at implementation of its Five-Point Consensus in cooperation with Myanmar. They called on all sides to refrain from violence.

28. The Ministers underlined the importance of lasting peace and security on the Korean Peninsula. They expressed their support for a peaceful, diplomatic and political solution to resolve all issues pertaining to the Korean Peninsula.

29. The Ministers welcomed the announcement of the Gaza ceasefire beginning 21 May 2021 and stressed the importance of the restoration of general stabilization. They recognized the efforts made by the UN and regional countries to prevent the hostilities from escalating. They mourned the loss of civilian lives resulting from the violence, called for the full respect of international humanitarian law and urged the international community’s immediate attention to providing humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian civilian population, particularly in Gaza. They supported in this regard the Secretary General’s call for the international community to work with the United Nations, including the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), on developing an integrated, robust package of support for a swift and sustainable reconstruction and recovery as well as for appropriate use of such aid. The Ministers reiterated their support for a two-State solution guided by the international legal framework previously in place, resulting in creating an independent and viable Palestinian State and based on the vision of a region where Israel and Palestine live side by side in peace within secure and recognised borders.

30. The Ministers reaffirmed their strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic. They expressed their conviction that there can be no military solution to the Syrian conflict. They also reaffirmed their support to a Syrian-led and Syrian-owned, UN-facilitated political process in full compliance with UNSC Resolution 2254. They welcomed in this context the importance of the Constitutional Committee in Geneva, launched with the decisive participation of the countries-guarantors of the Astana Process and other states engaged in efforts to address the conflict through political means, and expressed their support to the efforts of Mr. Geir Pedersen, Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General for Syria, to ensure the sustainable and effective work of the Committee. They reiterated their conviction that in order to reach general agreement, members of the Constitutional Committee should be governed by a sense of compromise and constructive engagement without foreign interference and externally imposed timelines. They emphasized the fundamental importance of allowing unhindered humanitarian aid to all Syrians in accordance with the UN humanitarian principles and the post-conflict reconstruction of Syria that would contribute to the safe, voluntary and dignified return of Syrian refugees and internally displaced persons to their places of origin thus paving the way to achieving long-term stability and security in Syria and the region in general.

31. The Ministers expressed grave concern over the ongoing conflict in Yemen which affects the security and stability not only of Yemen, but also of the entire region, and has caused what is being called by the United Nations as the worst humanitarian crisis currently in the world. They called for a complete cessation of hostilities and the establishment of an inclusive, Yemeni-led negotiation process mediated by the UN. They also stressed the importance of providing urgent humanitarian access and assistance to all Yemenis.

32. The Ministers welcomed the formation of the new transitional Presidency Council and Government of National Unity in Libya as a positive development and hoped that it would promote reconciliation among all political parties and Libyan society, work towards restoration of peace and stability and conduct elections on 24 December 2021 to hand over power to the new government as per the wishes of the Libyan people. They also noted the important role of UN in this regard.

33. The Ministers noted that some of the planned activities under the RIC format could not take place in the physical format due to the global Covid-19 pandemic situation. They welcomed the outcomes of the 18th RIC Trilateral Academic Conference organized by the Indian Council of World Affairs, New Delhi (ICWA) in the video-conference format on 22-23 April 2021. In this context, they also commended the contribution of the Institute of Chinese Studies (New Delhi), Institute of Far Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Moscow) and China Institute of International Studies (Beijing) in establishing the RIC Academic Conference as the premier annual analytical forum for deepening RIC cooperation in diverse fields.

34. The Ministers expressed their support to China to host Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.

35. Foreign Minister of the People’s Republic of China and the Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation thanked the External Affairs Minister of India for successful organization of the RIC Foreign Ministers Meeting. External Affairs Minister of India passed on the chairmanship in the RIC format to the Foreign Minister of the People’s Republic of China. The date and venue of the next RIC Foreign Ministers Meeting will be agreed upon through the diplomatic channels.

State of American Hypocrisy!

November 21, 2021

By Zamir Awan for the Saker Blog

Senator Ted Cruz, a member of the Republican Party, was the key figure who introduced legislation to exempt India from sanctions under the 2017 CAATSA for buying the Russian S-400 system.

Russian news agencies reported that Russia has started delivering the first of the S-400s to India, citing Dmitry Shugayev, head of the Russian military cooperation agency, who said the first S-400 unit will have arrived in India at the end of this year. The deal was reached in 2018, and Russia has started the delivery. It has created an imbalance of power in the region. India may attain supremacy in the region after the deployment of S-400, as no country in the whole area has S-400.

If truth be told, the US policies are always discriminatory since they imposed sanctions for Turkey’s purchase of the Russian S-400 air defense system but have exempted India for the same move.

As a matter of fact, the US policies are discriminatory. They imposed the sanction on Turkey, a NATO member, to deal with Russia for S-400 but exempt India. Turkey was a close ally with the US during the cold war era and a significant partner in countering communism. Turkey’s contribution to the Western World is huge and known well. Turkey was a buffer state between Russian and Europe and protected them against communist threats. Technologically, Turkey is well advanced, and that was why the US included Turkey in the development of F-35 fighter jets. But, as an overreaction of the S-400 deal, The US sidelined Turkey from F-35. Unfair!

Similarly, President Trump imposed sanctions on Iran after leaving the Nuclear agreement but allowed India to maintain trade relations with Iran routinely. India exploited the situation and gained maximum economic benefits. India was importing Oil and Gas at concessional rates from Iran and exporting its products at higher prices. Also, India got many projects in Iran, as the American sanctions bared many other countries to keep away from Iran, leaving the ground open for India only. So India was facing no competition and getting projects at the price of their own desires. The biggest project India was involved in in Iran was Road and Railway networks. It allowed India to reach all parts of Iran, so India established a strong network of its agents in length and width of Iran. These agents were also working for America as well as Israel. They were providing ground support for all types of evil activities against Iran. The worth mentioning is recent attacks of Israel on Iranian nuclear assets, sites, personals, etc. These attacks were Cyberattacks, Artificial Intelligence Technologies, and very much precise. All this is possible if ground support, ground data, ground support is available. It is suspected that Indian agents deployed all over Iran under cover of several projects are coordinating with Americans or Israelis. Without such networks, Isreal can not execute very precise targets. India was the beneficiary of all turmoils and exploited all opportunities in its interests.

American legislations are only for adversaries, but her dears, like India, always enjoy exceptions and relaxations. Americans are exposed and are losing credibility. Discriminatory policies may never sustain longer and may reach an end, but after damaging American reputation. It might cause irreparable damage to America. Once upon a time, there was a country where justice and equality prevailed, but that was in history. Today, discrimination, partiality, injustice prevails in American society, and civil unrest is visible all over America. Anti-American sentiments are on the rise worldwide.

It is believed that having lost trust and credibility, the discriminatory policies of the US may never sustain longer and have caused irreparable damage to America. The recent civil unrest in America is due to its narrow-mindedness, bias policies, and targeting certain ethnicities, religions, or races. Well said, the injustice may never sustain forever. The righteous and wrong must be differentiated. When cruelty exceeds all limits, God Almighty’s ultimate authority replaces nations who are invaders, aggressors, and proud with the humble, oppressed, and God-fearing nations.

Hypocrisy will never stay long, and one day, others will understand and react. The media is in the control of a few world powers, misleading the rest of the world. Just for reference, after dropping Atom Boms in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan in 1945, some of the so-called leading media from America visited Japan at the sites of Atom bombs. They reported no signs of radioactivity in Japan, which means fooling people that no Atom bomb was dropped on Japan. However, people in Japan yet suffers due to radioactivity. Unfortunate!


Author: Prof. Engr. Zamir Ahmed Awan, Sinologist (ex-Diplomat), Editor, Analyst, Non-Resident Fellow of CCG (Center for China and Globalization), National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST), Islamabad, Pakistan. (E-mail: awanzamir@yahoo.com).

Afghanistan: Between Pipelines and ISIS-K, the Americans Are Still in Play

US trained and armed Afghan security forces are joining ISIS-K, which makes the US ‘withdrawal’ from Afghanistan look more like an American ‘repositioning’ to keep chaos humming

By Pepe Escobar

Afghanistan: between pipelines and ISIS-K, the Americans are still in play

Global Research,

November 11, 2021

The Cradle 10 November 2021

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***

Something quite extraordinary happened in early November in Kabul.

Taliban interim-Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi and Turkmen Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov got together to discuss a range of political and economic issues. Most importantly, they resurrected the legendary soap opera which in the early 2000s I dubbed Pipelineistan: the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline.

Call it yet another remarkable, historical twist in the post-jihad Afghan saga, going back as far as the mid-1990s when the Taliban first took power in Kabul.

In 1997, the Taliban even visited Houston to discuss the pipeline, then known as TAP, as reported in Part 1 of my e-book Forever Wars.

During the second Clinton administration, a consortium led by Unocal – now part of Chevron – was about to embark on what would have been an extremely costly proposition (nearly $8 billion) to undercut Russia in the intersection of Central and South Asia; as well as to smash the competition: the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) pipeline.

The Taliban were duly courted – in Houston and in Kabul. A key go-between was the ubiquitous Zalmay Khalilzad, aka ‘Bush’s Afghan,’ in one of his earlier incarnations as Unocal lobbyist-cum-Taliban interlocutor. But then, low oil prices and non-stop haggling over transit fees stalled the project. That was the situation in the run-up to 9/11.

In early 2002, shortly after the Taliban were expelled from power by the American “bombing to democracy” ethos, an agreement to build what was then still billed as TAP (without India), was signed by Ashgabat, Kabul and Islamabad.

The Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline route

As years went by, it was clear that TAPI, which runs for roughly 800 km across Afghan lands and could yield as much as $400 million annually in transit revenue for Kabul’s coffers, would never be built while hostage to a guerrilla environment.

Still, five years ago, Kabul decided to revive TAPI and work started in 2018 – under massive security in Herat, Farah, Nimruz and Helmand provinces, already largely under Taliban control.

At the time, the Taliban said they would not attack TAPI and would even provide their own security. The gas pipeline was to be paired with fiber optic cables – as with the Karakoram Highway in Pakistan – and a railway line from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan.

History never stops playing tricks in the graveyard of empires. Believe it or not, we’re now back to the same situation on the ground as in 1996.

The spanner in the works

If we pay attention to the plot twists in this never-ending Pipelineistan saga, there’s no guarantee whatsoever that TAPI will finally be built. It’s certainly a quadruple win for all involved – including India – and a massive step towards Eurasia’s integration in its Central-South Asian node.Afghanistan Takes Center Stage in the New Great Game

Enter the spanner in the works: ISIS-Khorasan (ISIS-K), the subsidiary of Daesh in Afghanistan.

Russian intel has known for over a year that the usual suspects have been providing help to ISIS-K, at least indirectly.

Yet now there’s a new element, confirmed by Taliban sources, that quite a few US-trained soldiers of the previous Afghan National Army are incorporating themselves into ISIS-K to fight against the Taliban.

ISIS-K, which sports a global jihadi mindset, has typically viewed the Taliban as a group of dirty nationalists. Earlier jihadi members used to be recruited from the Pakistani Taliban and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). Yet now, apart from former soldiers, they are mostly young, disaffected urban Afghans, westernized by trashy pop culture.

It’s been hard for ISIS-K to establish the narrative that the Taliban are western collaborators – considering that the NATO galaxy continues to antagonize and/or dismiss the new rulers of Kabul.

So the new ISIS-K spin is monomaniac: basically, a strategy of chaos to discredit the Taliban, with an emphasis on the latter being unable to provide security for average Afghans. That is what underlies the recent horrific attacks on Shia mosques and government infrastructure, including hospitals.

In parallel, US President Joe Biden’s “over the horizon” spin, meant to define the alleged American strategy to fight ISIS-K, has not convinced anyone, apart from NATO vassals.

Since its creation in 2015, ISIS-K continues to be financed by the same dodgy sources that fueled chaos in Syria and Iraq. The moniker itself is an attempt to misdirect, a divisive ploy straight out of the CIA’s playbook.

Historic ‘Khorasan’ comes from successive Persian empires, a vast area ranging from Persia and the Caspian all the way to northwest Afghanistan – and has nothing whatsoever to do with Salafi-jihadism and the Wahhabi lunatics who make up the terrorist group’s ranks. Furthermore, these ISIS-K jihadis are based in south-eastern Afghanistan, away from Iran’s borders, so the ‘Khorasan’ label makes zero sense.

Russian, Chinese and Iranian intel operate on the basis that the US ‘withdrawal’ from Afghanistan, as in Syria and Iraq, was not a withdrawal but a repositioning. What’s left is the trademark, undiluted American strategy of chaos executed via both direct (troops stealing Syrian oil) and indirect (ISIS-K) actors.

The scenario is self-evident when one considers that Afghanistan was the precious missing link of China’s New Silk Roads. After the US exit, Afghanistan is not only primed to fully engage with Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), but also to become a key node of Eurasia integration as a future full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU).

To hedge against these positive developments, the routine practices of the Pentagon and its NATO subsidiary remain in wait in Afghanistan, ready to disrupt political, diplomatic, economic and security progress in the country. We may be now entering a new chapter in the US Hegemony playbook: Closet Forever Wars.

The closely connected SCO

Fifth columnists are tasked with carrying the new imperial message to the West. That’s the case of Rahmatullah Nabil, former head of Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS), “the Afghan intelligence service with close ties to the CIA,” as described by Foreign Policy magazine..

In an interview presented with a series of trademark imperial lies – “law and order is disintegrating,” “Afghanistan has no friends in the international community,” “the Taliban have no diplomatic partners” – Nabil, at least, does not make a complete fool of himself.

He confirms that ISIS-K keeps recruiting, and adds that former Afghan defense/security ops are joining ISIS-K because “they see the Islamic State as a better platform for themselves.”

He’s also correct that the Taliban leadership in Kabul is “afraid the extreme and young generation of their fighters” may join ISIS-K, “which has a regional agenda.”

Russia “playing a double game” is just silly. In presidential envoy Zamir Kabulov, Moscow maintains a first-class interlocutor in constant touch with the Taliban, and would never allow the “resistance,” as in CIA assets, to be based in Tajikistan with an Afghan destabilization agenda.

On Pakistan, it’s correct that Islamabad is “trying to convince the Taliban to include pro-Pakistan technocrats in their system.” But that’s not “in return for lobbying for international recognition.” It’s a matter of responding to the Taliban’s own management needs.

The SCO is very closely connected on what they collectively expect from the Taliban. That includes an inclusive government and no influx of refugees. Uzbekistan, for instance, as the main gateway to Central Asia for Afghanistan, has committed to participating in the reconstruction business.

For its part, Tajikistan announced that China will build a $10 million military base in the geologically spectacular Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region. Countering western hysteria, Dushanbe made sure that the base will essentially host a special rapid reaction unit of the Regional Department for Organized Crime Control, subordinated to Tajikistan’s Minister of Internal Affairs.

That will include around 500 servicemen, several light armored vehicles, and drones. The base is part of a deal between Tajikistan’s Interior Ministry and China’s Ministry of State Security.

The base is a necessary compromise. Tajik President Emomali Rahmon has a serious problem with the Taliban: he refuses to recognize them, and insists on better Tajik representation in a new government in Kabul.

Beijing, for its part, never deviates from its number one priority: preventing Uighurs from the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) by all means from crossing Tajik borders to wreak havoc in Xinjiang.

So all the major SCO players are acting in tandem towards a stable Afghanistan. As for US Think Tankland, predictably, they don’t have much of a strategy, apart from praying for chaos.

*

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Pepe Escobar, born in Brazil, is a correspondent and editor-at-large at Asia Times and columnist for Consortium News and Strategic Culture in Moscow. Since the mid-1980s he’s lived and worked as a foreign correspondent in London, Paris, Milan, Los Angeles, Singapore, Bangkok. He has extensively covered Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia to China, Iran, Iraq and the wider Middle East. Pepe is the author of Globalistan – How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War; Red Zone Blues: A Snapshot of Baghdad during the Surge. He was contributing editor to The Empire and The Crescent and Tutto in Vendita in Italy. His last two books are Empire of Chaos and 2030. Pepe is also associated with the Paris-based European Academy of Geopolitics. When not on the road he lives between Paris and Bangkok.

He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Featured image: American-trained Afghan forces are defecting to join ISIS-K, in what increasingly looks like a US plan to subvert the war-torn country’s recovery. (Source: The Cradle)The original source of this article is The CradleCopyright © Pepe EscobarThe Cradle, 2021

China selling advanced warships to Pakistan is bad news for India – and America

By VT Editors -November 10, 2021

RT: As the first frigate for Islamabad’s navy was launched this week, Beijing sent a statement of intent that it has various ways and means to stop the US and its allies encircling it.https://twitter.com/RGR15051618/status/1458331241967546371?s=20

Over the past several years, India and China have increasingly become geopolitical competitors.

While the Galwan Valley border clash last year was epitomized as the biggest trigger, the mutual distrust runs much deeper and wider, not least as the United States has used India as a strategic counterweight to China’s growing power, as part of its ‘Indo-Pacific’ strategy.

In response, Beijing has solidified its economic, strategic and military partnership with Pakistan, India’s primary adversary.

While China and India continue to trade at a high level, surpassing $100 billion recently, this strategic game is firmly locked in place, and the newest development affirms this.

It has tilted from China feigning neutrality on India-Pakistan disputes, to it being much more explicit in backing Islamabad against New Delhi. Yesterday, China’s state run tabloid the Global Times announced that Beijing had “delivered to Pakistan the largest and most advanced warship China has ever exported,” selling them a Type 054A/P frigate built by the China State Shipbuilding Corporation Limited (CSSC).

The PNS Tughril is the first of four frigates being constructed for the Pakistan Navy. The ship is a highly capable platform with large surface-to-surface, surface-to-air and underwater firepower, as well as possessing stealth and surveillance capabilities.

While Pakistan has long been integrated with China’s military-industrial complex, this naval deal marks a new milestone, not only in the message it sends to India, but also in being yet another step Beijing is taking to offset Western efforts of maritime military containment around it. These efforts were accelerated with the launch of the AUKUS nuclear submarine deal earlier this year. In doing so, Pakistan’s contribution to this contest now cannot be ignored.

On paper, the People’s Republic of China has only one true ‘treaty ally’ – a country it guarantees to defend militarily – and that is North Korea, even though its relationship with Pyongyang has not functioned as a complete alliance since the end of the Cold War.

Beyond this, Beijing has maintained a longstanding foreign policy tradition of ‘non-alignment’, which crystalized during the Sino-Soviet split in the 1950s and 1960s and saw Mao Zedong pivot to support the developing world. In the decades since, China has maintained this position, at least at face value, in an effort to not antagonize the United States (which worked for a long period) and to not divide the world into dangerous Cold War blocs.

However, the world is changing. Some commentators, such as Chinese-American political scientistMinxin Pei, have argued that the inauguration of initiatives like AUKUS meant China would “lose” an arms race.

The US has indeed attempted to rally allies against Beijing anyway, with the specific focus being in the maritime sphere, with the ‘Quad’ grouping of India, Australia, Japan and the UK. All of this has involved ramping up naval exercises in the South China Sea and around China’s periphery. With China not having as many formal allies, and Beijing’s foreign policy anxiety of ‘encirclement’, the key strategic question for their policymakers has been, “How do we respond to this strategic reality in the maritime domain?”

It is China’s emerging response to this question that shows that commentators such as Pei are being short-sighted. Beijing has moved to utilize a growing number of differing strategic partnerships, inviting other countries into the game to focus on countering specific adversaries where there is a common interest.

For example, this included its first ever joint maritime patrol with Russia last month around Japan. Few contemplated that China would also play the ‘Pakistan card’, giving New Delhi and Washington pause for thought in the western Indian Ocean. The relationship between Beijing and Pakistan, which is often known as ‘China’s Iron brother’ is a formal alliance in all but name, tailored for power projection, yet informalized for strategic flexibility.

Away from the military sphere, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor will become a primary strategic and commercial route to bypass the Indian subcontinent, access the Red Sea and make China’s supply routes less vulnerable to maritime attack in the East, and to avoid being “cut off” during any conflict.

Pakistan is a very important military counterweight to India. While the country is regarded in the West for being poor and often unstable, it is wrong to call it weak. Sometimes, the size comparison with an even larger India can make it seem weaker than it is. Pakistan is a nuclear power with the world’s sixth largest army and a population of over 220 million. If China can succeed in developing it, it has more economic potential than many countries in the West. And its long running conflicts with India make it almost indispensable to Beijing.

Beijing is drawing in specific quasi-allies, for specific purposes in pushing back against the US-led coalition. Traditionally, Pakistan is a land power, due to the strategic realities of its wars with India in the disputed Jammu & Kashmir territories of the northeast. For a country of its size, Pakistan’s navy is tiny. It has just two destroyers, five frigates, and two corvettes. Bar some submarines, the rest are just patrol boats.

The UK’s Royal Navy has two aircraft carriers, six destroyers and 12 frigates, while India has more than 150 ships. So what is China’s plan? It’s to help build up Islamabad’s navy as a regionally targeted strategic counterweight that ensures that India, the US, and its allies do not gain hegemony over the western Indian ocean. Beijing can then focus its own resources on the South and East China Seas and Taiwan straits, while drafting in other players.

The trend is quite clear. If the US is going to encircle China with foreign navies, then China will seek to counter that by not just building up its own navy, but also enticing other countries to do so too in their areas of interest.

It’s easy to dismiss this week’s news as no big deal, ‘China sold a ship to Pakistan, so what’, but it’s certainly not true. It marks a strategic shift by Beijing to sell bigger and stronger state-of-the-art ships to de facto allies; it was not willing to do so in the past but circumstances have changed. The more China arms and builds up Pakistan, the more difficult it becomes for New Delhi to focus on joining containment efforts against Beijing, and the weaker its geopolitical hand becomes, as it is bogged down in its own neighbourhood.

For now, it is uncertain as to whether China can upgrade alliances with any other countries, bar its partnership with Russia. Attempting to do so with Iran would rock the boat regionally in the Middle East; they are likewise prohibited from doing so with North Korea because of UN sanctions. But using its informal method of technically non-aligned, strategic partnerships, Beijing has found an answer to the US-led militarization against it, while it continues to ramp up its own capabilities.

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Taliban spokesman on rising ISIS threat, & relations with US, China & Iran

October 28, 2021

See the source image

Description:

In a recent extended interview with RT Arabic, Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem commented on the adequacy of the Taliban’s internal security measures following concerns of a rising ISIS threat; relations with neighboring states and the international community (including the US, China and Iran); the makeup of the new Afghani government; and the possibility of international recognition for the Taliban-led government in Kabul following a major conference in Moscow.

The third meeting of the Moscow Format Consultations on Afghanistan took place in the Russian capital on October the 20th, 2021. It brought together representatives from Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan as well as a high-level Taliban delegation.

The following is a transcript of major translated segments from that interview.

Source: RT Arabic (YouTube)

Date: October 21, 2021

(Note: Please help us keep producing independent translations by contributing a small monthly amount here )

Transcript:

Host:

Let’s ask about the (current) reality (as you’re suggesting): with the withdrawal of foreign forces (from Afghanistan), (and) Taliban’s control and even the establishment of a government in Kabul, Dr Mohammad, there are warnings (being issued) – Russian information says there are 2,000 members of ISIS deployed in Afghanistan, and we’ve seen in the past days (suicide) bombings targeting mosques in several areas and unfortunately most of (these mosques) seem to have a specific sectarian identity. Perhaps the concerns of neighbouring states and world state stem from here; how will the Taliban, and you (as officials) in the government, deal with this threat that you do not deny is present in Afghanistan today?

Mohammad Naeem, spokesman for the Taliban’s political office:

I wish I would get a chance to answer (your questions) –

Host:

– Yes please –

Naeem:

– You ask questions, and there must be a (chance to answer clearly) so as not to confuse the viewers and to (let them) understand what we’re saying and what’s being asked.

Well, if there’s a certain problem in a certain country taking place, does this mean that there are many problems? If it is so, (why don’t we look at what) happened a few days ago in a certain Arab country (Lebanon), where someone killed 6 or 7 (people); so, (can we say) that this country has turned into total chaos, or that it (is suffering from) many problems? Problems can happen anywhere, in any country, (even) in advanced states that might – (despite) having great (security) capacity, capabilities, expertise, and security experts – they (might) have everything (that allows them to secure a stable security situation), yet still (security issues) take place. If we want to judge (the Taliban’s security capabilities) based on reality, we must at least see what Afghanistan was like six months ago, how the situation was in Afghanistan a year ago, and how it has become today –

Host:

– Yes –

Naeem:

– This is (how) we must judge, based on reality, that’s what reason requires, and this is (how we make a) judgement based on logic; we (must) observe (the change that has been occurring) from six months till now, how the situation in Afghanistan was three months ago and how it has become now. This is well known to all!

Host:

Would you allow me, Dr Mohammad, to ask: perhaps we do not deny (the fact) of the ISIS presence in Afghanistan, (in light of this,) are you open to – and I wish to mention again, it’s a concern for neighbouring states and world state, are you open to cooperating with neighbouring states and other states to fight ISIS? Perhaps in the form of exchanging (intelligence) information? For example, the Russian side is talking about 2,000 (ISIS) fighters (present in Afghanistan), does this information intersect with the information you have?

Naeem:

Here I must go back to a point you referred (to) in the previous question, you said there is a problem (in Afghanistan). About two weeks ago, in a certain European country, a voice was raised in support of what you’re worrying about now (i.e. the ISIS threat emerging from Afghanistan). Why are all of (these states) silent now? We haven’t even heard a voice denouncing the (stance) of that advanced state (which was) supporting those (ISIS) members! Why? Who would answer this question? If we want to be realistic, we should look at the reality…Why would having a problem in a certain part of the country, (suicide) bombings or other problems, be an issue (of international concern), while the support of a certain state for these (suicide) bombings and those (ISIS members isn’t denounced) and nobody says a word (against it)? Why is that?

Host:

So, Dr Mohammad, what you’re saying is that the (threat posted to neighbouring states by the) presence of ISIS (in Afghanistan) is being exaggerated. Have you explained this issue during your meeting with the states participating in the Moscow Format (meeting)?

Naeem:

Is the (truth) hidden from anyone? (The truth) that media is exaggerating a problem, (because) it’s a directed media that receives orders (and publicises information accordingly), they tell them this (should be portrayed as) a serious issue, so they exaggerate (the situation). On the other side, a country supports those (ISIS terrorists) but nobody denounces it, neither you, nor any other media outlet (denounces it) or at least explores this issue. Why? You should at least hold a session to discuss such matters! –

Host:

– Can we ask in this regard –

Naeem:

–  That’s (regarding) the (first) point. As for the issue of (international) cooperation (to fight ISIS), we are capable of controlling the situation (ourselves) –

Host:

– Yes –

Naeem:

– and (capable) of controlling the problems in the country and eliminating those problems (ourselves). We don’t need the help of others in the security and military fields; we have proven this and the whole world has seen (our capabilities). We were fighting in Afghanistan on three fronts; one against the occupation (forces), another against the puppet administration created by the occupation, and the (third) against those (ISIS members). You know (very) well that those (ISIS) members had specifically chosen a certain geography (to deploy in, which is) in Nangarhar and Kunar in the eastern part of the country, and in Jawzjan and Faryab in the northern part of the country. But today, is it reasonable for anyone to come and tell us that this geography, no matter how small it is, is under the control of those (ISIS members which threaten our security)? That’s (not acceptable) at all! We’re capable of (controlling the situation ourselves) –

Host:

–  So, you’re giving assurances now (to neighbouring countries and the international community) –

Naeem:

– if we were able to defeat the occupation (forces) –

Host:

– Yes –

Naeem:

– and get the occupation (forces) out of our country, and defeat that (puppet) administration that enjoyed great capacities, capabilities, and expertise, why wouldn’t we be able to defeat these groups of extremists?

……….

Host:

Let’s ask in this regard; in Afghanistan, we’re speaking about a transitional stage, (about) a caretaker government – a transitional government, after the occupation of this country that lasted for 20 years. In the coming period – and this also raises concerns and demands for states all over the world, do you intend to hold elections or form a broader government that includes more segments (of Afghan society)? Perhaps all segments of Afghan society?

Naeem:

In terms of inclusiveness, the (current system) is a comprehensive system in which the various segments of people are represented, and this is clear to all, as there are (members representing) the Pashtun, Tajik, Uzbek, Baloch and other ethnicities. Therefore, there is no problem in terms of (comprehensive representation of different ethnicities). However, if someone has a problem (with the current government’s composition because) they want to (include) some corrupt names or figures, whose (performance) was experienced over the past 20 years, and they wish to bring them (back) and include them in this system in order to corrupt it as they corrupted the previous one, this is out of the question. We do not allow anyone to interfere in our internal affairs, as we do not wish to interfere in the affairs of other (states), and fortunately, there were voices in the Moscow (Format) meeting today supporting this idea, that internal affairs are a matter that concerns each (specific) country and (its) people (alone) –

Host:

– So, you’ve seen this at the Moscow meeting by the participating states; the issue of respect for Afghan sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of Afghanistan?

Naeem:

Of course, there was support for this issue (i.e., respect for Afghan sovereignty), and it’s an indispensable matter…every state suffers from internal issues, however, it’s out of the question (for any state) to dictate to other (states) that their system should be according to its (own) opinion. That’s unrealistic and unacceptable; no state accepts the interference of any other state in its (internal) affairs, so why would any state (allow itself) to interfere in another state’s (internal) affairs?

Host:

Yes. How do you describe security coordination with neighbouring states? Are the lines of communication with the US still open?

Naeem:

We have relations with neighbouring and regional states, and the international community in general, and they have been good (relations) for a long time, not only today. As for the Americans, there were meetings (held) for two days in past weeks, (we) exchanged ideas and views and (we had) discussed (certain) topics, and there is ongoing communication (between us and the Americans). In the end, we want to resolve issues through dialogue and understanding. Fortunately, everyone is convinced with this idea (i.e., resolving issues through dialogue), even those who used the language of war have understood and realised (what) reality (requires) – they realised that problems cannot be solved through guns, tanks, and (military) aircrafts, but by sitting at the (negotiation) table and discussing matters and reaching the (realisation) that what is reached by understanding is the best (solution), and this is a positive step, and we support this perception.

Host:

Is there a possibility to have communication (on) security (matters), or even security coordination with the US side?

Naeem:

I have previously said, we do not need assistance in the military or security fields, we can eliminate problems ourselves –

Host:

– (I’m speaking in terms) of coordination Dr Mohammad, all states coordinate with each other, and as it’s known, Moscow coordinates with Washington in the exchange of information (for example, to inform each other) about a certain issue (or to) call attention (to the need for addressing a certain matter), such issues are in the context of normal relations between states, (so,) why doesn’t Kabul coordinate with Washington in the context of information exchange (between the two states)?

Naeem:

If a certain side or state coordinates with another state regarding security matters or information, this is a matter that depends on each state’s (preferred approach), however, as for us – I represent the side I speak for – we do not need (any external assistance). (Let’s speak about) our goal, we want to know what’s (our) goal (and work accordingly to achieve it), the goal is to not (allow) anyone to use Afghan territory against the security of any (other) state, and we pledged to (work towards) that and we’re committed to that pledge, as we are capable of eliminating problems if there were any, and if (we’re speaking about) some existing issues, (those) are minor problems that we can put an end to. Therefore, we do not feel the need (to coordinate with anyone) as we’re capable of resolving our internal issues ourselves.

Host:

How do you describe (Afghanistan’s) relation with Iran, Dr Mohammad, especially that it views the targeting of Shia minorities – (i.e.,) Shia mosques in Afghanistan – with suspicion, how do you describe (your) relations with Tehran?

Naeem:

Iran is a neighbouring state just like other neighbouring states, and we have relations (with Iran that have been existing) for years, (and they’re) good relations, and we wish for these relations to develop in light of – we have two basic fundamentals; the fundamental provisions of the Islamic Shariah, and the higher interests of our people and country. So our relations with all neighbouring and regional states and states worldwide are moving forward in light of these two basic fundamentals. Therefore, we don’t have any problem (with any state in terms of relations), and we have normal relations (with states worldwide) which are developing forward with time.

Host:

So, what about (Afghanistan’s relations with) Tajikistan?

Naeem:

We have no problems with Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, or –

Host:

– lately, there were tensions that led to a military build-up across the (common) borders (between Afghanistan and Tajikistan).

Naeem:

No (it’s not like that), (but) of course (it’s seen that way because) unfortunately, some media outlets spread negative thoughts in societies instead of performing their mission, which is to spread positive thoughts in societies and among individuals.

……..

Host:

Do you see China, Dr Mohammad, as the country that will play an economic role – the most important economic role in the coming period in Afghanistan?

Naeem:

China is also a neighbouring country of ours, and everyone knows well that China is a major state in the world that has influence on international issues, and is a member of the UN Security Council (as well). So, we deal with China as a neighbouring state, and as it’s known, China is a major economic state, and if it has investment (plans in Afghanistan), we’d support (China’s) contribution to the reconstruction of Afghanistan, (and we also wish) to have improved economic relations (with China) in the future.

Host:

Briefly, Dr Mohammad, I’ll go back to the Moscow Format (meeting) – the Moscow platform, in your opinion and according to your readings, information, and position of responsibility, will this platform be the starting point of international recognition for the Afghan government?

Naeem:

You know there were meetings (held) previously in Doha as well, meetings with the US and European states, (in which) we met with about 15 states, (and those) meetings were positive to some extent. We also travelled to Turkey, Uzbekistan, and other countries (to hold international meetings). Therefore, the Moscow (Format) meeting was undoubtedly a positive step, a good one (too), and we consider it a step towards solving the problems (of Afghanistan) for the future – God willing –

Host:

Thank you very much, spokesman of the Taliban political office, Dr Mohammad Naeem.


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From Russia, With (Taliban) Love

October 22, 2021

Image Credit: The Cradle
From Russia, With (Taliban) Love

By Pepe Escobar posted with permission and cross posted with The Cradle

Facing high expectations, a five-man band Taliban finally played in Moscow. Yet the star of the show, predictably, was the Mick Jagger of geopolitics: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Right from the start, Lavrov set the tone for the Moscow format consultations, which boast the merit of “uniting Afghanistan with all neighboring countries.” Without skipping a beat, he addressed the US elephant in the room – or lack thereof: “Our American colleagues chose not to participate,” actually “for the second time, evading an extended troika-format meeting.”

Asia’s powerbrokers dropped an Afghan bombshell in Moscow today: ‘the country’s reconstruction must be paid for by its military occupiers of 20 years.’

Washington invoked hazy “logistical reasons” for its absence.

The troika, which used to meet in Doha, consists of Russia, the US, China and Pakistan. The extended troika in Moscow this week featured Russia, China, India, Iran, Pakistan and all five Central Asian ‘stans.’ That, in essence, made it a Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) meeting, at the highest level.

Lavrov’s presentation essentially expanded on the themes highlighted by the recent SCO Dushanbe Declaration: Afghanistan should be an “independent, neutral, united, democratic and peaceful state, free of terrorism, war and drugs,” and bearing an inclusive government “with representatives from all ethnic, religious and political groups.”

The joint statement issued after the meeting may not have been exactly a thriller. But then, right at the end, paragraph 9 offers the real bombshell:

“The sides have proposed to launch a collective initiative to convene a broad-based international donor conference under the auspices of the United Nations as soon as possible, certainly with the understanding that the core burden of post-conflict economic and financial reconstruction and development of Afghanistan must be shouldered by troop-based actors which were in the country for the past 20 years.”

The West will argue that a donor conference of sorts already happened: that was the G-20 special summit via videoconference earlier in October, which included UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Then, last week, much was made of a European promise of 1 billion euros in humanitarian aid, which, as it stands, remains extremely vague, with no concrete details.

At the G-20, European diplomats admitted, behind closed doors, that the main rift was between the West “wanting to tell the Taliban how to run their country and how to treat women” as necessary conditions in exchange for some help, compared to Russia and China following their non-interference foreign policy mandates.

Afghanistan’s neighbors, Iran and Pakistan, were not invited to the G-20, and that’s nonsensical. It’s an open question whether the official G-20 in Rome, on 30-31 October, will also address Afghanistan along with the main themes: climate change, Covid-19, and a still elusive global economic recovery.

No US in Central Asia

So the Moscow format, as Lavrov duly stressed, remains the go-to forum when it comes to addressing Afghanistan’s serious challenges.

Now we come to the crunch. The notion that the economic and financial reconstruction of Afghanistan should be conducted mainly by the former imperial occupier and its NATO minions – quaintly referred to as “troop-based actors” – is a non-starter.

The US does not do nation-building – as the entire Global South knows by experience. Even to unblock the nearly $10 billion of the Afghan Central Bank confiscated by Washington will be a hard slog. The IMF predicted that without foreign help the Afghan economy may shrink by 30 percent.

The Taliban, led by second Prime Minister Abdul Salam Hanafi, tried to put on a brave face. Hanafi argued that the current interim government is already inclusive: after all, over 500,000 employees of the former administration have kept their jobs.

But once again, much precious detail was lost in translation, and the Taliban lacked a frontline figure capable of capturing the Eurasian imagination. The mystery persists: where is Mullah Baradar?

Baradar, who led the political office in Doha, was widely tipped to be the face of the Taliban to the outside world after the group’s takeover of Kabul on 15 August. He has been effectively sidelined.

The background to the Moscow format, though, offers a few nuggets. There were no leaks – but diplomats hinted it was tense. Russia had to play careful mediator, especially when it came to addressing grievances by India and concerns by Tajikistan.

Everyone knew that Russia – and all the other players – would not recognize the Taliban as the new Afghan government, at least not yet. That’s not the point. The priority once again had to be impressed on the Taliban leadership: no safe haven for any jihadi outfits that may attack “third countries, especially the neighbors,” as Lavrov stressed.

When President Putin casually drops the information, on the record, that there are at least 2,000 ISIS-K jihadis in northern Afghanistan, this means Russian intel knows exactly where they are, and has the capabilities to snuff them, should the Taliban signal help is needed.

Now compare it with NATO – fresh from its massive Afghan humiliation – holding a summit of defense ministers in Brussels this Thursday and Friday to basically lecture the Taliban. NATO’s secretary-general, the spectacularly mediocre Jens Stoltenberg, insists that “the Taliban are accountable to NATO” over addressing terrorism and human rights.

As if this was not inconsequential enough, what really matters – as background to the Moscow format – is how the Russians flatly refused a US request to deploy their intel apparatus somewhere in Central Asia, in theory, to monitor Afghanistan.

First they wanted a “temporary” military base in Uzbekistan or Tajikistan: Putin–Biden actually discussed it at the Geneva summit. Putin counter-offered, half in jest, to host the Americans in a Russian base, probably in Tajikistan. Moscow gleefully played along for a few weeks just to reach an immovable conclusion: there’s no place for any US “counter-terrorism” shenanigans in Central Asia.

To sum it all up, Lavrov in Moscow was extremely conciliatory. He stressed how the Moscow format participants plan to use all opportunities for “including” the Taliban via several multilateral bodies, such as the UN, the SCO – where Afghanistan is an observer nation – and crucially, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), which is a military alliance.

So many layers of ‘inclusiveness’ beckon. Humanitarian help from SCO nations like Pakistan, Russia and China is on its way. The last thing the Taliban need is to be ‘accountable’ to brain-dead NATO.

A COLD, COLD WINTER IS COMING TO EUROPE (AND THE WORLD)

 06.10.2021

South Front

A Cold, Cold Winter Is Coming To Europe (And The World)

The current situation in the energy market is quite worrisome. Europe is taking the brunt of it, and is concerned that a long and cold winter could send it off the edge into an economic crisis, as natural gas prices are soaring to never-before-seen heights.

The Asian market, which is the largest in the world is also in a tattered state, with China already feeling the consequences of reducing dependency on coal and lack of energy resources.

This all is a result of several factors that have led to the present reality of events and the exacerbating situation.

The spot price for natural gas continues breaking records, by reaching $1,600 per 1,000 cubic meters before dropping back to $1,400 on October 6th.

Spot is initially a high-risk market; it is based on the sellers of the product that create an artificial surplus or lack of said product. If the product was deficient by definition, for example there’s not enough of it to begin with, then buyers could potentially control the market, but this is a different story.

Furthermore, gas prices are much less controlled compared to oil prices, which fluctuated rapidly in 2020. Various energy resources’ prices depend on their own specifics, but it is an obvious fact that these prices connected.

The market is concerned about energy supply this winter and shrugged off October 4th’s news from Nord Stream 2 AG, the operator of the controversial Russia-led gas pipeline, which started filling the first string of the pipeline with gas to get ready for the moment that German authorities grant it an operational license.

While gas prices are soaring, US oil prices rose for the fifth day in a row to levels not seen since 2014, amid global concerns about energy supply due to signs of tension in the oil, natural gas and coal markets.

Brent prices also rose due to concerns about supplies, especially after OPEC+ decided to stick to the planned increase in production. To put it simply, there might be an artificial deficiency which causes an increase in price.

Following a short meeting on October 4th, the OPEC+ ministers approved an increase in production by 400 thousand barrels per day in November, after which the price of oil on the New York Stock Exchange reached its highest in almost seven years. On the eve of the talks, speculation spread that the cartel and its allies could increase production by 800 thousand barrels per day in November, but, according to delegates, such a proposal was not announced.

According to Amrita Sen, a leading oil analyst and co-founder of Energy Aspects, Saudi Arabia seeks to make as few changes as possible to the current OPEC+ agreement on monthly production increases.

Instead of pushing for increased production and lowered prices, the United States appeared satisfied with Riyadh’s plan and hasn’t exerted any political pressure to change the situation.

The American Petroleum Institute reported that oil reserves in the United States increased by 951 thousand barrels in the week of October 1st.

Despite increasing prices, the United States is increasing its reserves in the face of the potential increase in prices even further.

The biggest “victim” is the European consumer.

Europe is already feeling the pressure, as natural gas is incredibly important to industry, increasing oil prices complicate the situation even further.

Not only does industry need to use a lot of natural gas, but some part of it also needs to be distributed to households, and the colder the weather gets, the more gas is required. Civilian infrastructure, as well as households needing increasing amounts of natural gas led to a higher deficiency in industry, which could itself lead to an increase in the price of various products, as well as many businesses straight up closing.

Northern Europe is already feeling the strain, as the depletion of reservoirs hinders the production of hydroelectric power.

The water level in Norwegian hydroelectric power plants for this time of year is at a minimum level. This is a concern just a few weeks before the reduction of reservoirs in late autumn. There is not enough water for export to the continent and to the UK.

Ireland and the UK are the hardest hit by the global gas shortage and are experiencing a shortage of electricity.

In Asia, which is the trade center of LNG, the situation is also quite difficult.

LNG-AS spot prices reached a record high, approximately 100% higher than one month ago, and 500% higher year over year.

A standard LNG cargo of 3.4 trillion BTU (British Thermal Units) now costs $100-120 million, while at the end of February its cost was less than $20 million.

It is not clear if any buyer is capable of actually paying for the LNG they’ve bought, as such sellers are requesting letters of credit, guaranteeing that there will be solvency when the time to pay comes.

India following China is on the verge of an energy crisis as coal reserves have reached a critical level.

According to the Ministry of Energy of India, 135 thermal power plants in the country on average had coal reserves for only four days. The shortage of electricity has already begun to affect the economy of neighboring China, where last month the manufacturing sector experienced the first decline in indicators since the beginning of the pandemic.

What could be the reason for all of this?

Notably, the renewable energy agenda, launched in the early 2000s in conjunction with the shale production program in the United States.

Both of these were ways in which the West reduced its energy dependence on exports.

It was necessary to minimize the impact of the inevitable price spike by the time the global gas market was created.

Each acceleration of new mining projects was accompanied by an increase in prices, which provided an investment flow into more expensive production.

However, the renewable energy program structurally failed. To put it simply: the United States’ ambition fell apart, as the largest gas resources are located in Russia and Iran, and both are countries that Washington has little, if any, influence over. Qatar and Australia are not enough to turn the tide.

In this strategy of reducing energy dependence at the time of the formation of the global gas market, Europe relied on renewable energy, and the United States – on shale.

The share of renewable energy in the total energy balance of the USA does not exceed 8%, in Europe it is approximately 20%, and globally it sits around 5%, in the area of statistical mistake.

In accordance with the shares of renewable energy, we are seeing a gas price boom today. The United States, with the help of shale, forced not only OPEC and Russia, but also Europe and Japan to pay for the new market structure. It’s just like in 1973, when the spot-exchange oil market was created.

The current natural gas market is in shambles, as it suffered a terrible combination of circumstances.

Fuel reserves in Europe were reduced in the face of the very real possibility of a prolonged winter, a decrease in supplies from Russia and an increase in demand for LNG in Asia, which prevented the restoration of reserves in the summer.

This was joined by a decline in production in the North Sea, due to a maintenance that was delayed because of the pandemic.

This is all exacerbated by the hasty transition towards renewable energy sources without the necessary technology to adequately do so.

A surprising factor is also the fact that prices were also affected by a decrease in the average wind speed to the lowest since the 1960s, interruptions in the operation of nuclear power plants and a fire on an underwater power cable connecting the UK and France.

To put it in simple terms, the “Green Deal” is motivated not by a scientific or economic approach, but by populism aimed at voters: pseudo-leftists and neo-liberals.

This is in addition to the hesitancy of multi-national corporations to invest in infrastructure, fixed assets and production. It is much more preferable to fix the profit margin and distribute funds among shareholders and management.

Finally, Hurricane Ida was a sort of jump-start of the energy crisis, as it led to the shutdown of production of massive amounts of energy in the Gulf of Mexico.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Protection, as of September 12th, 48.6% of oil production and 54.4% of gas production in the Gulf of Mexico were still stopped.

Due to the hurricane, more than 40 million barrels of refined fuel were lost and slightly fewer were lost in blocked production.

Exporters were forced to redistribute trade flows around the Atlantic and America to ensure supplies.

All of these factors combined are promising a very cold winter, and a very bleak, and extremely expensive future, compared to which the 2008 financial crisis may seem like a minor inconvenience.

As a consequence, industry will suffer, but the final consumer will suffer the most.

The rise in gas and electricity prices in Europe sends a powerful signal to manufacturers to consider temporarily closing factories, and to owners of homes and offices to turn off thermostats to prevent stocks from falling to a critical minimum and depletion of fuel reserves this winter.

For manufacturers, a short-term closure has a double benefit: a reduction in electricity costs, as well as an increase in prices for their products, which helps protect profits from rising electricity and gas prices. Still, a balance needs to be found as a business cannot remain closed indefinitely.

After a sufficient number of reliable plant closures and other energy-saving measures are announced, futures prices are likely to decline, as there will not be enough buyers, regardless of the price.

The supply chain will be disrupted if factories close, and this brings along its own set of problems.

If the upcoming winter does not turn out to be mild, rising prices and physical shortages of gas, coal and electricity are unlikely to remain limited to energy markets, and this will affect the rest of the economy, as is already happening in China.

Separately, this is a wake-up call that climate change is rapidly turning into a direct factor influencing asset allocation decisions for investors. It used to be a fringe possibility, somewhere in the background.

Investors can no longer afford to ignore the disasters befalling the world, because all of these result in rising prices for natural gas and other commodities.

The centralized EU policy to achieve zero emissions by 2050, significantly aggravated and accelerated the development of the crisis. It promises to become even worse as Germany promises to close down nuclear power plants by the end of 2021. Berling stop supplying electricity to the very European networks that have taken the brunt of the crisis. The resulting gap will be felt by the whole of Europe.

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Iran’s SCO promotion & the rise of a new world order: Report

September 27, 2021

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A recent report published on Al Mayadeen’s website highlights the significance of Iran’s accession to full membership status at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a powerful international body that just grew even bigger.

The report suggests that Iran’s admission into the SCO is part of a broader global shift to a new world order in which the Asian region plays a central role.

Source:  Al Mayadeen (Website)

Date:  September 17, 2021

(Note: Please help us keep producing independent translations by contributing a small monthly amount here )

Transcript:

Iran is a Full Member of the “Shanghai Organization” … Timing and Economic Importance

17 September, 2021

The acceptance of Iran as a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) at this time  indicates(positive) signs (for the Islamic Republic), as it coincides with changes inside and outside the country. (These) changes appear to be in (Iran’s) favor, especially after it broke the US economic embargo by signing a strategic partnership agreement with China.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit began today in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, on the 20th anniversary of the foundation of this organization. The (SCO) defines itself as an international political, economic and security organization with a regional character represented by the Eurasia region. It was founded by China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan in the year 2001.

In 2005, Iran, India and Pakistan joined the organization as observer members, and in 2017, India and Pakistan became permanent members. Afghanistan, Mongolia and Belarus are currently observer member states of the organization, while the countries of Armenia, the Republic of Azerbaijan, Nepal, Cambodia, Turkey and Sri Lanka applied to join the organization in 2015.

However, the role of this organization and its political influence extend beyond the Eurasia region to other regions of the Asian continent, and even beyond (Asia’s) borders, given the economic and military weight enjoyed by its members. It is also gradually expanding outside its narrow scope by including other countries from the Central Asian region, the most important of which are India and Pakistan.


Iran as a Full Member of the Shanghai Organization

In another expansionary step with great significance at various levels, the Organization announced at its meeting today – through the words of Chinese President Xi Jinping – its acceptance to grant Iran full membership after (Tehran) had been an observer member for years. The Chinese president said: “Iran will be considered a full member of the Shanghai Organization at today’s meeting.”


The Significance of the Timing of the Membership

Granting Iran full membership within the Shanghai Organization at this time seems remarkable as it comes after:

1)  The China-Iran strategic agreement, which was signed in Tehran on March 27 (2021), after a regional tour by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi that included the Gulf states and Turkey. The Strategic Partnership Agreement, as it was called, is a 25-year agreement between the two countries covering the political, economic, military and industrial fields.

This agreement serves both countries, as it guarantees the global economic giant (China) further expansion in its role and establishment of its presence on the international scene, especially in the countries that the United States has placed on the list of “forbidden regions” upon which harsh economic sanctions are imposed. It also gives Iran an opportunity to liberate itself from these sanctions and sell its oil products which the US not only refuses to buy, but also prevents other countries from buying by threatening them with sanctions, in an attempt to put economic pressure on Iran to change its political positions.

(According to this agreement), in return for its exported oil, Iran can import what it needs in terms of industrial equipment, machinery and expertise, and prepare (develop) its ports and infrastructure with Chinese assistance. (This step) allows China to use these facilities to export its products via land and sea towards the eastern shores of the Mediterranean, and on to the European continent in the north, and Africa in the south.


2) The complete and rushed US military withdrawal from Afghanistan, the country that has been occupied by the United States and its NATO allies for 20 years.

Afghanistan is located within the borders of the Eurasian region, between the two major countries in the world, China and Russia. The United States sought to prevent the rapprochement (between these two countries) and impede their economic growth, especially China’s, by cutting off the routes for its land and sea exports to the West, and threatening its security by igniting wars and security disturbances.

It is worth noting that it is no coincidence that the organization was formed only 4 months before the date of the American invasion of Afghanistan, and to the sound of the drums of war that the US and Britain started after the September 11 attacks that toppled the World Trade Center in New York and targeted the US Department of Defense (Pentagon).

The US role in obstructing the work of the Shanghai Organization and the growth of China’s economic standing was demonstrated by the rush of the “Taliban” movement leaders – which quickly and gradually seized all the Afghan regions in conjunction with the departure of the occupying (US) forces – to visit China, meet officials in its Foreign Ministry, emphasize China’s pivotal role in the reconstruction of the country exhausted by occupation and conflicts, and reassure (Beijing) that they will not use Afghan territory to target the security of other countries.


3) The election of a new president of Iran last June.

The (former) head of the judiciary and a strongman, Ibrahim Raisi won by a large margin of votes over his remaining rivals, this after the withdrawal of the most famous candidates in his favor, one of which was the former chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili.

Since the beginning of his term, Raisi has sought to enhance his country’s presence and position in the world by strengthening its relations at the regional level, and benefiting from all its capabilities, foremost of which is its geographical location. During his speech at the (Shanghai) summit, the Iranian president stated that “Iran can be a bridge for Eurasia linking the north to the south.”

Before heading to Tajikistan, Raisi said that his country’s participation in the summit “will focus on our economic and cultural relations with Asian countries,” stressing that “cooperation with neighboring countries and the region is a top priority of Iran’s foreign policy.” Last August, Raisi declared that strengthening Iran’s relations with Russia and China, the two main members of the organization, was one of the priorities of his foreign policy.


Creating Economic Opportunities for Iran and Liberating it from the US Embargo

Of the three previous points, the strategic agreement between Iran and China – Beijing forming the most prominent pillar of the organization – is the most important thing that contributed to Iran’s full membership. What occurred appears to be nothing other than the expansion of the official international recognition of Iran’s regional role and presence; a greater facilitation (for Iran) to help it get through the (all-out) US embargo; and the creation of opportunities for Iran in different fields by China and Russia.

President Vladimir Putin stated during his speech at the summit that his country “supports the decision submitted for approval by the Council of Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization regarding the start of procedures for Iran’s admission to the organization,” stressing the mutual importance of its admission by saying that this would “increase the international influence of the organization.”

The first Iranian comment came from the spokesman for the head of the Iranian Parliament, Nizamuddin Mousavi, who said in an interview with ISNA that what we are witnessing is “the establishment of a new world order, where the Eastern Power Quartet (Russia, China, India, Iran) brings together some of the most important international players in this new world order.” He added that “Iran’s admission into this organization, despite Washington’s opposition, proves that the era of unilateral policies is over, and that we are witnessing the establishment of a new world order.”

In economic terms, Mousavi said that his country’s admission “means reaching a market of 3 billion people, and this is a great opportunity that requires a roadmap so that we can benefit from it in the best way.”

This accession was preceded by the nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 states, several rounds of which were conducted in the Austrian capital Vienna in the last months of the term of former President Hassan Rouhani. There was talk of future rounds of negotiations after the formation of the first Iranian government under President Ibrahim Raisi. The accession (of Iran to SCO membership) also came after the positive visit of the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, to Tehran, and his meeting with the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Mohammad Eslami.

All the foregoing factors contribute to the reassurance that Iran feels at the beginning of Ibrahim Raisi presidency, and brings the country closer to an international position that (Tehran) seeks despite the obstacles posed by its enemies. However, to hold on to these gains and take advantage of the new opportunities available, Iran will face major challenges (in the road ahead).


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Eurasia takes shape: How the SCO just flipped the world order

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With Iran’s arrival, the SCO member-states now number nine, and they’re focused on fixing Afghanistan and consolidating Eurasia.Photo Credit: The Cradle
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SEPTEMBER 22, 2021

By Pepe Escobar posted with permission and cross-posted with The Cradle

Part 1 of 2 on Eurasia

With Iran’s arrival, the SCO member-states now number nine, and they’re focused on fixing Afghanistan and consolidating Eurasia.

As a rudderless West watched on, the 20th anniversary meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization was laser-focused on two key deliverables: shaping up Afghanistan and kicking off a full-spectrum Eurasian integration.

The two defining moments of the historic 20th anniversary Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Dushanbe, Tajikistan had to come from the keynote speeches of – who else – the leaders of the Russia-China strategic partnership.

Xi Jinping: “Today we will launch procedures to admit Iran as a full member of the SCO.”

Vladimir Putin: “I would like to highlight the Memorandum of Understanding that was signed today between the SCO Secretariat and the Eurasian Economic Commission. It is clearly designed to further Russia’s idea of establishing a Greater Eurasia Partnership covering the SCO, the EAEU (Eurasian Economic Union), ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and China’s Belt and Road initiative (BRI).”

In short, over the weekend, Iran was enshrined in its rightful, prime Eurasian role, and all Eurasian integration paths converged toward a new global geopolitical – and geoeconomic – paradigm, with a sonic boom bound to echo for the rest of the century.

That was the killer one-two punch immediately following the Atlantic alliance’s ignominious imperial retreat from Afghanistan. Right as the Taliban took control of Kabul on August 15, the redoubtable Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of Russia’s Security Council, told his Iranian colleague Admiral Ali Shamkhani that “the Islamic Republic will become a full member of the SCO.”

Dushanbe revealed itself as the ultimate diplomatic crossover. President Xi firmly rejected any “condescending lecturing” and emphasized development paths and governance models compatible with national conditions. Just like Putin, he stressed the complementary focus of BRI and the EAEU, and in fact summarized a true multilateralist Manifesto for the Global South.

Right on point, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev of Kazakhstan noted that the SCO should advance “the development of a regional macro-economy.” This is reflected in the SCO’s drive to start using local currencies for trade, bypassing the US dollar.

Watch that quadrilateral

Dushanbe was not just a bed of roses. Tajikistan’s Emomali Rahmon, a staunch, secular Muslim and former member of the Communist Party of the USSR – in power for no less than 29 years, reelected for the 5th time in 2020 with 90 percent of the vote – right off the bat denounced the “medieval sharia” of Taliban 2.0 and said they had already “abandoned their previous promise to form an inclusive  government.”

Rahmon, who has never been caught smiling on camera, was already in power when the Taliban conquered Kabul in 1996. He was bound to publicly support his Tajik cousins against the “expansion of extremist ideology” in Afghanistan – which in fact worries all SCO member-states when it comes to smashing dodgy jihadi outfits of the ISIS-K mold .

The meat of the matter in Dushanbe was in the bilaterals – and one quadrilateral.

Take the bilateral between Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Chinese FM Wang Yi. Jaishankar said that China should not view “its relations with India through the lens of a third country,” and took pains to stress that India “does not subscribe to any clash of civilizations theory.”

That was quite a tough sell considering that the first in-person Quad summit takes place this week in Washington, DC, hosted by that “third country” which is now knee deep in clash-of-civilizations mode against China.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan was on a bilateral roll, meeting the presidents of Iran, Belarus, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. The official Pakistani diplomatic position is that Afghanistan should not be abandoned, but engaged.

That position added nuance to what Russian Special Presidential Envoy for SCO Affairs Bakhtiyer Khakimov had explained about Kabul’s absence at the SCO table: “At this stage, all member states have an understanding that there are no reasons for an invitation until there is a legitimate, generally recognized government in Afghanistan.”

And that, arguably, leads us to the key SCO meeting: a quadrilateral with the Foreign Ministers of Russia, China, Pakistan and Iran.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Qureshi affirmed: “We are monitoring whether all the groups are included in the government or not.” The heart of the matter is that, from now on, Islamabad coordinates the SCO strategy on Afghanistan, and will broker Taliban negotiations with senior Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara leaders. This will eventually lead the way towards an inclusive government regionally recognized by SCO member-nations.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was warmly received by all – especially after his forceful keynote speech, an Axis of Resistance classic. His bilateral with Belarus president Aleksandr Lukashenko revolved around a discussion on “sanctions confrontation.” According to Lukashenko: “If the sanctions did any harm to Belarus, Iran, other countries, it was only because we ourselves are to blame for this. We were not always negotiable, we did not always find the path we had to take under the pressure of sanctions.”

Considering Tehran is fully briefed on Islamabad’s SCO role in terms of Afghanistan, there will be no need to deploy the Fatemiyoun brigade – informally known as the Afghan Hezbollah – to defend the Hazaras. Fatemiyoun was formed in 2012 and was instrumental in Syria in the fight against Daesh, especially in Palmyra. But if ISIS-K does not go away, that’s a completely different story.

Particular important for SCO members Iran and India will be the future of Chabahar port. That remains India’s crypto-Silk Road gambit to connect it to Afghanistan and Central Asia. The geoeconomic success of Chabahar more than ever depends on a stable Afghanistan – and this is where Tehran’s interests fully converge with Russia-China’s SCO drive.

What the 2021 SCO Dushanbe Declaration spelled out about Afghanistan is quite revealing:

1. Afghanistan should be an independent, neutral, united, democratic and peaceful state, free of terrorism, war and drugs.

2. It is critical to have an inclusive government in Afghanistan, with representatives from all ethnic, religious and political groups of Afghan society.

3. SCO member states, emphasizing the significance of the many years of hospitality and effective assistance provided by regional and neighboring countries to Afghan refugees, consider it important for the international community to make active efforts to facilitate their dignified, safe and sustainable return to their homeland.

As much as it may sound like an impossible dream, this is the unified message of Russia, China, Iran, India, Pakistan and the Central Asian “stans.” One hopes that Pakistani PM Imran Khan is up to the task and ready for his SCO close-up.

That troubled Western peninsula

The New Silk Roads were officially launched eight years ago by Xi Jinping, first in Astana – now Nur-Sultan – and then in Jakarta.

This is how I reported it at the time.

The announcement came close to a SCO summit – then in Bishkek. The SCO, widely dismissed in Washington and Brussels as a mere talk shop, was already surpassing its original mandate of fighting the “three evil forces” – terrorism, separatism and extremism – and encompassing politics and geoeconomics.

In 2013, there was a Xi-Putin-Rouhani trilateral. Beijing expressed full support for Iran’s peaceful nuclear program (remember, this was two years before the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also known as the JCPOA).

Despite many experts dismissing it at the time, there was indeed a common China-Russia-Iran front on Syria (Axis of Resistance in action). Xinjiang was being promoted as the key hub for the Eurasian Land Bridge. Pipelineistan was at the heart of the Chinese strategy – from Kazakhstan oil to Turkmenistan gas. Some people may even remember when Hillary Clinton, as Secretary of State, was waxing lyrical about an American-propelled New Silk Road.

Now compare it to Xi’s Multilateralism Manifesto in Dushanbe eight years later, reminiscing on how the SCO “has proved to be an excellent example of multilateralism in the 21stcentury,” and “has played an important role in enhancing the voice of developing countries.”

The strategic importance of this SCO summit taking place right after the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) in Vladivostok cannot be overstated enough. The EEF focuses of course on the Russian Far East – and essentially advances interconnectivity between Russia and Asia. It is an absolutely key hub of Russia’s Greater Eurasian Partnership.

A cornucopia of deals is on the horizon – expanding from the Far East to the Arctic and the development of the Northern Sea Route, and involving everything from precious metals and green energy to digital sovereignty flowing through logistics corridors between Asia and Europe via Russia.

As Putin hinted in his keynote speech, this is what the Greater Eurasia Partnership is all about: the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU), BRI, India’s initiative, ASEAN, and now the SCO, developing in a harmonized network, crucially operated by “sovereign decision-making centers.”

So if the BRI proposes a very Taoist “community of shared future for human kind,” the Russian project, conceptually, proposes a dialogue of civilizations (already evoked by the Khatami years in Iran) and sovereign economic-political projects. They are, indeed, complementary.

Glenn Diesen, Professor at the University of South-Eastern Norway and an editor at the Russia in Global Affairs journal, is among the very few top scholars who are analyzing this process in depth. His latest book remarkably tells the whole story in its title:  Europe as the Western Peninsula of Greater Eurasia: Geoeconomic Regions in a Multipolar World. It’s not clear whether Eurocrats in Brussels – slaves of Atlanticism and incapable of grasping the potential of Greater Eurasia – will end up exercising real strategic autonomy.

Diesen evokes in detail the parallels between the Russian and the Chinese strategies. He notes how China “is pursuing a three-pillared geoeconomic initiative by developing technological leadership via its China 2025 plan, new transportation corridors via its trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative, and establishing new financial instruments such as banks, payment systems and the internationalization of the yuan. Russia is similarly pursuing technological sovereignty, both in the digital sphere and beyond, as well as new transportation corridors such as the Northern Sea Route through the Arctic, and, primarily, new financial instruments.”

The whole Global South, stunned by the accelerated collapse of the western Empire and its unilateral “rules-based order, now seems to be ready to embrace the new groove, fully displayed in Dushanbe: a multipolar Greater Eurasia of sovereign equals.

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.

A Saigon moment looms in Kabul

August 13, 2021

See the source image
Vietnam Civilians try to board a US helicopter at the US Embassy in Saigon, 1975

August 12, 2021 will go down as the day the Taliban avenged America’s invasion and struck the blow that brought down its man in Kabul

A Saigon moment looms in Kabul

by Pepe Escobar,  posted with permission and first posted at Asia Times

August 12, 2021. History will register it as the day the Taliban, nearly 20 years after 9/11 and the subsequent toppling of their 1996-2001 reign by American bombing, struck the decisive blow against the central government in Kabul.

In a coordinated blitzkrieg, the Taliban all but captured three crucial hubs: Ghazni and Kandahar in the center, and Herat in the west. They had already captured most of the north. As it stands, the Taliban control 14 (italics mine) provincial capitals and counting.

First thing in the morning, they took Ghazni, which is situated around 140 kilometers from Kabul. The repaved highway is in good condition. Not only are the Taliban moving closer and closer to Kabul: for all practical purposes they now control the nation’s top artery, Highway 1 from Kabul to Kandahar via Ghazni.

That in itself is a strategic game-changer. It will allow the Taliban to encircle and besiege Kabul simultaneously from north and south, in a pincer movement.

Kandahar fell by nightfall after the Taliban managed to breach the security belt around the city, attacking from several directions.

In Ghazni, provincial governor Daoud Laghmani cut a deal, fled and then was arrested. In Kandahar, provincial governor Rohullah Khanzada – who belongs to the powerful Popolzai tribe – left with only a few bodyguards.

He opted to engage in an elaborate deal, convincing the Taliban to allow the remaining military to retreat to Kandahar airport and be evacuated by helicopter. All their equipment, heavy weapons and ammunition should be transferred to the Taliban.

Afghan Special Forces represented the cream of the crop in Kandahar. Yet they were only protecting a few select locations. Now their next mission may be to protect Kabul. The final deal between the governor and the Taliban should be struck soon. Kandahar has indeed fallen.

In Herat, the Taliban attacked from the east while notorious former warlord Ismail Khan, leading his militia, put up a tremendous fight from the west. The Taliban progressively conquered the police HQ, “liberated” prison inmates and laid siege to the governor’s office.

Game over: Herat has also fallen with the Taliban now controlling the whole of Western Afghanistan, all the way to the borders with Iran.

Tet Offensive, remixed

Military analysts will have a ball deconstructing this Taliban equivalent to the 1968 Tet Offensive in Vietnam. Satellite intel may have been instrumental: it’s as if the whole battlefield progress had been coordinated from above.

Yet there are some quite prosaic reasons for the success of the onslaught apart from strategic acumen: corruption in the Afghan National Army (ANA); total disconnect between Kabul and battlefield commanders; lack of American air support; the deep political divide in Kabul itself.

In parallel, the Taliban had been secretly reaching out for months, through tribal connections and family ties, offering a deal: don’t fight us and you will be spared.

Add to it a deep sense of betrayal by the West felt by those connected with the Kabul government, mixed with fear of Taliban revenge against collaborationists.

A very sad subplot, from now on, concerns civilian helplessness – felt by those who consider themselves trapped in cities that are now controlled by the Taliban. Those that made it before the onslaught are the new Afghan IDPs, such as the ones who set up a refugee camp in the Sara-e-Shamali park in Kabul.

A new generation of IDPs in Afghanistan. Image: Supplied

Rumors were swirling in Kabul that Washington had suggested to President Ashraf Ghani to resign, clearing the way for a ceasefire and the establishment of a transitional government.

On the record, what’s established is that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin promised Ghani to “remain invested” in Afghan security.

Reports indicate the Pentagon plans to redeploy 3,000 troops and Marines to Afghanistan and another 4,000 to the region to evacuate the US Embassy and US citizens in Kabul.

The alleged offer to Ghani actually originated in Doha – and came from Ghani’s people, as I confirmed with diplomatic sources.

The Kabul delegation, led by Abdullah Abdullah, the chairman of something called the High Council for National Reconciliation, via Qatar mediation, offered the Taliban a power-sharing deal as long as they stop the onslaught. There’s been no mention of Ghani resigning, which is the Taliban’s number one condition for any negotiation.

The extended troika in Doha is working overtime. The US lines up immovable object Zalmay Khalilzad, widely mocked in the 2000s as “Bush’s Afghan.” The Pakistanis have special envoy Muhammad Sadiq and ambassador to Kabul Mansoor Khan.

The Russians have the Kremlin’s envoy to Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov. And the Chinese have a new Afghan envoy, Xiao Yong.

Russia-China-Pakistan are negotiating with a Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) frame of mind: all three are permanent members. They emphasize a transition government, power-sharing, and recognition of the Taliban as a legitimate political force.

Diplomats are already hinting that if the Taliban topple Ghani in Kabul, by whatever means, they will be recognized by Beijing as the legitimate rulers of Afghanistan – something that will set up yet another incendiary geopolitical front in the confrontation against Washington.

As it stands, Beijing is just encouraging the Taliban to strike a peace agreement with Kabul.

The Pashtunistan riddle

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has minced no words as he stepped into the fray. He confirmed the Taliban leadership told him there’s no negotiation with Ghani in power – even as he tried to persuade them to reach for a peace deal.

Khan accused Washington of regarding Pakistan as “useful” only when it comes to pressing Islamabad to use its influence over the Taliban to broker a deal – without considering the “mess” the Americans left behind.

Khan once again said he “made it very clear” there will be no US military bases in Pakistan.

This is a very good analysis of how hard it is for Khan and Islamabad to explain Pakistan’s complex involvement with Afghanistan to the West and also the Global South.

The key issues are quite clear:

1. Pakistan wants a power-sharing deal and is doing what it can in Doha, along the extended troika, to reach it.

2. A Taliban takeover will lead to a new influx of refugees and may encourage jihadis of the al-Qaeda, TTP and ISIS-Khorasan kind to destabilize Pakistan.

3. It was the US that legitimized the Taliban by striking an agreement with them during the Donald Trump administration.

4. And because of the messy withdrawal, the Americans reduced their leverage – and Pakistan’s – over the Taliban.

The problem is Islamabad simply does not manage to get these messages across.

And then there are some bewildering decisions. Take the AfPak border between Chaman (in Pakistan’s Balochistan) and Spin Boldak (in Afghanistan).

The Pakistanis closed their side of the border. Every day tens of thousands of people, overwhelmingly Pashtun and Baloch, from both sides cross back and forth alongside a mega-convoy of trucks transporting merchandise from the port of Karachi to landlocked Afghanistan. To shut down such a vital commercial border is an unsustainable proposition.

All of the above leads to arguably the ultimate problem: what to do about Pashtunistan?

The absolute heart of the matter when it comes to Pakistan’s involvement in Afghanistan and Afghan interference in the Pakistani tribal areas is the completely artificial, British Empire-designed Durand Line. 

Islamabad’s definitive nightmare is another partition. Pashtuns are the largest tribe in the world and they live on both sides of the (artificial) border. Islamabad simply cannot admit a nationalist entity ruling Afghanistan because that will eventually foment a Pashtun insurrection in Pakistan.

And that explains why Islamabad prefers the Taliban compared to an Afghan nationalist government. Ideologically, conservative Pakistan is not that dissimilar from the Taliban positioning. And in foreign policy terms, the Taliban in power perfectly fit the unmovable “strategic depth” doctrine that opposes Pakistan to India.

In contrast, Afghanistan’s position is clear-cut. The Durand Line divides Pashtuns on both sides of an artificial border. So any nationalist government in Kabul will never abandon its desire for a larger, united Pashtunistan.

As the Taliban are de facto a collection of warlord militias, Islamabad has learned by experience how to deal with them. Virtually every warlord – and militia – in Afghanistan is Islamic.

Even the current Kabul arrangement is based on Islamic law and seeks advice from an Ulema council. Very few in the West know that Sharia law is the predominant trend in the current Afghan constitution.

Closing the circle, ultimately all members of the Kabul government, the military, as well as a great deal of civil society come from the same conservative tribal framework that gave birth to the Taliban.

Apart from the military onslaught, the Taliban seem to be winning the domestic PR battle because of a simple equation: they portray Ghani as a NATO and US puppet, the lackey of foreign invaders.

And to make that distinction in the graveyard of empires has always been a winning proposition.

Related Video

All roads lead to the Battle for Kabul

August 10, 2021

All roads lead to the Battle for Kabul

City after city have fallen from government to Taliban control but Afghanistan’s end-game is still unclear

by Pepe Escobar, posted with permission and first posted at Asia Times

The ever-elusive Afghan “peace” process negotiations re-start this Wednesday in Doha via the extended troika – the US, Russia, China and Pakistan. The contrast with the accumulated facts on the ground could not be starker.

In a coordinated blitzkrieg, the Taliban have subdued no less than six Afghan provincial capitals in only four days. The central administration in Kabul will have a hard time defending its stability in Doha.

It gets worse. Ominously, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has all but buried the Doha process. He’s already betting on civil war – from the weaponization of civilians in the main cities to widespread bribing of regional warlords, with the intent of building a “coalition of the willing” to fight the Taliban.

The capture of Zaranj, the capital of Nimruz province, was a major Taliban coup. Zaranj is the gateway for India’s access to Afghanistan and further on to Central Asia via the International North-South Transportation Corridor (INSTC).

India paid for the construction of the highway linking the port of Chabahar in Iran – the key hub of India’s faltering version of the New Silk Roads – to Zaranj.

At stake here is a vital Iran-Afghanistan border crossing cum Southwest/Central Asia transportation corridor. Yet now the Taliban control trade on the Afghan side. And Tehran has just closed the Iranian side. No one knows what happens next.

The Taliban are meticulously implementing a strategic master plan. There’s no smoking gun, yet – but highly informed outside help – Pakistani ISI intel? – is plausible.

First, they conquer the countryside – a virtually done deal in at least 85% of the territory. Then they control the key border checkpoints, as with Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Iran and Spin Boldak with Balochistan in Pakistan. Finally, it’s all about encircling and methodically taking provincial capitals – that’s where we are now.

Taliban posing with military garb stolen from Dostum’s palace in Sheberghan. Photo: Supplied

The final act will be the Battle for Kabul. This may plausibly happen as early as September, in a warped “celebration” of the 20 years of 9/11 and the American bombing of 1996-2001 Talibanistan.

That strategic blitzkrieg

What’s going on across the north is even more astonishing than in the southwest.

The Taliban have conquered Sheberghan, a heavily Uzbek-influenced area, and took no time to spread images of fighters in stolen garb posing in front of the now-occupied Dostum Palace. Notoriously vicious warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum happens to be the current Afghan vice-president.

The Taliban’s big splash was to enter Kunduz, which is still not completely subdued. Kunduz is very important strategically. With 370,000 people and quite close to the Tajik border, it’s the main hub of northeast Afghanistan.

Kabul government forces have simply fled. All prisoners were released from local jails. Roads are blocked. That’s significant because Kunduz is at the crossroads of two important corridors – to Kabul and Mazar-i-Sharif. And crucially, it’s also a crossroads of corridors used to export opium and heroin.

The Bundeswehr used to occupy a military base near Kunduz airport, now housing the 217th Afghan Army corps. That’s where the few remaining Afghan government forces have retreated.

The Taliban are now bent on besieging the historically legendary Mazar-i-Sharif, the big northern city, even more important than Kunduz. Mazar-i-Sharif is the capital of Balkh province. The top local warlord, for decades, has been Atta Mohammad Noor, who I met 20 years ago.

He’s now vowing to defend “his” city “until the last drop of my blood.” That, in itself, spells out a major civil war scenario.

The Taliban endgame here is to establish a west-east axis from Sheberghan to Kunduz and the also captured Taloqan, the capital of Takhar province, via Mazar-i-Sharif in Balkh province, and parallel to the northern borders with Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

If that happens, we’re talking about an irreversible, logistical game-changer, with virtually the whole north escaping from the control of Kabul. No way the Taliban will “negotiate” this win – in Doha or anywhere else.

An extra astonishing fact is that all these areas do not feature a Pashtun majority, unlike Kandahar in the south and Lashkar Gah in the southwest, where the Taliban are still fighting to establish complete control.

The Taliban’s control over almost all international border crossings yielding customs revenue leads to serious questions about what happens next to the drug business.

Will the Taliban again interdict opium production – like the late Mullah Omar did in the early 2000s? A strong possibility is that distribution will not be allowed inside Afghanistan.

After all, export profits can only benefit Taliban weaponization – against future American and NATO “interference.” And Afghan farmers may earn much more with opium poppy cultivation than with other crops.

NATO’s abject failure in Afghanistan is visible in every aspect. In the past, Americans used military bases in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. The Bundeswehr used the base in Termez, Uzbekistan, for years.

Termez is now used for Russian and Uzbek joint maneuvers. And the Russians left their base in Kyrgzstan to conduct joint maneuvers in Tajikistan. The whole security apparatus in the neighboring Central Asian “stans” is being coordinated by Russia.

China’s main security priority, meanwhile, is to prevent future jihadi incursions in Xinjiang, which involve extremely hard mountain crossings from Afghanistan to Tajikistan and then to a no man’s land in the Wakhan corridor. Beijing’s electronic surveillance is tracking anything that moves in this part of the roof of the world.

This Chinese think tank analysis shows how the moving chessboard is being tracked. The Chinese are perfectly aware of the “military pressure on Kabul” running in parallel to the Taliban diplomatic offensive, but prefer to stress their “posing as an aggressive force ready to take over the regime.”

Chinese realpolitik also recognizes that “the United States and other countries will not easily give up the operation in Afghanistan for many years, and will not be willing to let Afghanistan become the sphere of influence of other countries.”

This leads to characteristic Chinese foreign policy caution, with practically an advice for the Taliban not to “be too big,” and try “to replace the Ghani government in one fell swoop.”

How to prevent a civil war

So is Doha DOA? Extended troika players are doing what they can to salvage it. There are rumors of feverish “consultations” with the members of the Taliban political office based in Qatar and with the Kabul negotiators.

The starter will be a meeting this Tuesday of the US, Russia, Afghanistan’s neighbors and the UN. Yet even before that, the Taliban political office spokesman, Naeem Wardak, has accused Washington of interfering in internal Afghan affairs.

Pakistan is part of the extended troika. Pakistani media is all-out involved in stressing how Islamabad’s leverage over the Taliban “is now limited.” An example is made of how the Taliban shut the key border crossing in Spin Boldak – actually a smuggling haven – demanding Pakistan ease visa restrictions for Afghans.

Now that is a real nest of vipers issue. Most old school Taliban leaders are based in Pakistan’s Balochistan and supervise what goes in and out of the border from a safe distance, in Quetta.

Extra trouble for the extended troika is the absence of Iran and India at the negotiating table. Both have key interests in Afghanistan, especially when it comes to its hopefully new peaceful role as a transit hub for Central-South Asia connectivity.

Moscow from the start wanted Tehran and New Delhi to be part of the extended troika. Impossible. Iran never sits on the same table with the US, and vice-versa. That’s the case now in Vienna, during the JCPOA negotiations, where they “communicate” via the Europeans.

New Delhi for its part refuses to sit on the same table with the Taliban, which it sees as a terrorist Pakistani proxy.

There’s a possibility that Iran and India may be getting their act together, and that would include even a closely connected position on the Afghan drama.

When Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar attended President Ebrahim Raisi’s inauguration last week in Tehran, they insisted on “close cooperation and coordination” also on Afghanistan.

What this would imply in the near future is increased Indian investment in the INSTC and the India-Iran-Afghanistan New Silk Road corridor. Yet that’s not going to happen with the Taliban controlling Zaranj.

Beijing for its part is focused on increasing its connectivity with Iran via what could be described as a Persian-colored corridor incorporating Tajikistan and Afghanistan. That will depend, once again, on the degree of Taliban control.

But Beijing can count on an embarrassment of riches: Plan A, after all, is an extended China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), with Afghanistan annexed, whoever is in power in Kabul.

What’s clear is that the extended troika will not be shaping the most intricate details of the future of Eurasia integration. That will be up to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which includes Russia, China, Pakistan, India, the Central Asian “stans” and Iran and Afghanistan as current observers and future full-members.

So the time has come for the SCO’s ultimate test: how to pull off a near-impossible power-sharing deal in Kabul and prevent a devastating civil war, complete with imperial B-52 bombing.

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UN Security Council high-level debate on maritime security

August 09, 2021

UN Security Council high-level debate on maritime security

http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/66352

The event took place at the initiative of Prime Minister of the Republic of India Narendra Modi. India holds the presidency of the UN Security Council in August 2021.

* * *

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Prime Minister, my dear friend, Mr Modi, ladies and gentlemen,

Let me thank you, Mr Prime Minister, for the fact that you, as someone who is currently holding the UN Security Council presidency, convened this Security Council meeting to discuss an important and sensitive topic, namely, modern challenges and threats in maritime security. Your initiative is in line with the constructive role that India has traditionally played in the international arena, thus contributing to the promotion of multifaceted, mutually beneficial and equitable cooperation.

The seas and oceans have always connected people and civilisations. Unfortunately, sea routes are fraught with many threats. That is why it is important that today we are reviewing substantive practical matters related to fighting “21st century piracy” meaning to establish a more effective counteraction to transnational crime and prevent the use of seas and oceans for criminal purposes.

As you, Mr Prime Minister, aptly mentioned in your remarks, for us to achieve meaningful success in this area, we must unite the efforts of all stakeholders, as well as international organisations and regional associations with the central coordinating role of the UN and the UN Security Council.

I have said it more than once and now, addressing the Security Council members, and I would like to reiterate that Russia stands for strict observance of the key norms and principles of international law enshrined in the UN Charter, such as respect for sovereignty, non-interference in internal affairs and resolution of disputes by way of dialogue.

I hope that the participants in our debates will agree that the UN principles are mandatory in the sphere of peaceful and responsible use of marine spaces, their natural resources, protection of the marine environment, and sustainable economic activity in the vast swathes of our planet covered by water.

As a leading maritime power, Russia is doing much to preserve and strengthen the international legal order as it applies to maritime security. Our country is strongly involved in activities covering the entire range of these issues both at the UN and as part of numerous regional formats, including the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia, the ASEAN Regional Forum and East Asian summits.

Russia is also interested in building productive cooperation with the Indian Ocean Rim Association and the Indian Ocean Commission.

And, of course, we are trying to help ensure security in the Persian Gulf zone and the Gulf of Guinea in the Atlantic, where cases of sea banditry with hostage taking have become more frequent.

The specific nature of the situation is that it is really difficult for some countries to defend themselves from international criminal syndicates, pirates and terrorists. This is why there is the matter of uniting the power potential of all the interested countries’ special services and corresponding troops under the auspices of the UN.

Russia is ready to further share its experience in antiterrorist operations as well as in preventing crime, and identifying and eliminating bandit groups, including at sea.

We believe it would be useful to regularly exchange insights and best practices in countering terrorism, armed robbery and criminal activities at sea.

In this context, it would be feasible to think about establishing a special structure within the UN that would directly address problems related to combatting maritime crime in various regions. At the same time, this body would rest on UN member states’ support and actively involve experts, representatives of civil society, researchers and even private businesses in its work. We hope that our partners would consider Russia’s proposal constructively.

In conclusion I would like to reaffirm that the Russian Federation is committed to the common task of countering crime at sea in all its forms. We are ready to further promote the development of equal international cooperation in this area.

I would like once again thank our Indian friends for this useful initiative to hold this meeting today and to wish India continued success in implementing its functions as president of the United Nations Security Council this month.

Colleagues, thank you for your attention.

Today’s Taliban May Be Truly ‘New’, and the Shift Could Transform the Middle East

Today 20/07/2021

Source: Al Mayadeen

Most significantly, rather than having a tunnel vision limited to the narrow territory of Kandahar, the new young Taliban leaders want to play the strategic ‘Great Game’.

There is a subtle breeze blowing; it is too soon to call it ‘a wind’.  But a striking change has – and is – occurring.  Is it enough?  We should be rightly cautious; yet the Taliban that I knew, as it first coalesced – the brainchild of General Hamid Gul of Pakistan’s Intelligence service – is not the Taliban of today.  Perhaps we need, too, to avoid being locked into stale narratives. Suhail Shaheen, their spokesman, made this point when he lamented the “propaganda launched against us”, and by which he implied that the world should admit that the Taliban has indeed changed.

Several of these shifts are breathtaking: The Taliban were a narrow Pashtun revanchist movement, wholly Gulliverised by rigid tribal law, and influenced by intolerant Saudi Salafism and Pakistani Islamism.

What do we see today? The Taliban is engaging in extensive diplomacy with Iran. Tehran, it seems, is no longer apostate, no longer an ideological and theological foe.  The Taliban now seek to mesh Iran into their wider strategic interests. And more extraordinary, the Afghan Shi’i Hazaras – originally slaughtered and fearfully repressed by the Taliban – are now a component of the Taliban!  Then there is now also a ‘Tajik Taliban’, whereas before, the Taliban were a sworn enemy to the northern (mostly Tajik) forces of Ahmad Shah Massoud. Today’s Taliban is no longer a simple instrument of Pashtun hegemony – maybe up to 30% are Tajik, Uzbek, or Hazara. In other words, the kernel of inclusion is already in the soil.

Most significantly, rather than having a tunnel vision limited to the narrow territory of Kandahar, the new young Taliban leaders want to play the strategic ‘Great Game’. Their vision has broadened. They are saying as such, very forcibly to Moscow and Tehran: They will be inclusive; they will try to avoid major bloodshed, and they look to Moscow and Tehran as mediators for a new Afghan dispensation.  And there is something more: Saudi and Pakistan formerly controlled the money spigot. Now it is China.  For several years now, the Taliban has cultivated China – and China has cultivated the Taliban.

But we must keep our feet on the ground.  The Taliban is not autonomous. Both India and Pakistan wield weight in it, and the narco-gangs (the legacy of the CIA’s ill-considered earlier attempts to buy prominent Afghan warlords) may act as spoilers.

But the point here – aside from the caveats above – is, is this enough?  Enough for what? Enough to see the US out of the region, that is. There is here, a marked and unusual, constellation of interests.  All the principal actors want the US gone from the region.

It is not geo-strategic high science to understand that America’s withdrawal from Iraq and Syria will be contingent on what now happens in Afghanistan. If there is an unholy mess after August 31st, further US withdrawals from the region will become hugely more problematic in terms of domestic US opposition.  It is in the interest of the Taliban – as much as of Russia, Iran, and China – that Afghanistan does not now humiliate Biden through a descent into (very possible) bloody civil war.

A tough ‘ask’, but as Pepe Escobar points out, the SCO heavyweights, China and Russia, will be joined on July 14 in Dushanbe, by four Central Asian ‘stans’, plus India and Pakistan (Afghanistan and Iran attend as observers).

Wang Yi and Lavrov likely will tell Ghani’s FM, “in no uncertain terms, that there’s got to be a national reconciliation deal, with no American interference, and that the deal must include the end of the opium-heroin ratline”.  (Russia already has pocketed a firm promise from the Taliban that jihadism won’t be allowed to fester.  The endgame: loads of productive investment, Afghanistan is incorporated to Belt and Road and – later on – to the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU).

Why should the Taliban agree?  Well, they can be the facilitators of an American wider withdrawal (or, its’ spoiler). But, if they are patient – and agree to wait until US attention has moved on – they can allow Ghani to fall some months later – all in good time.  The Taliban might claim then to be the vanguard to a new more sophisticated, more inclusive Sunni Islamism that is aligned with a major Belt and Road infrastructure project.

How did this happen?  Professor Rabbani just might be smiling from his grave.  It seems the ‘new’ Taliban may have taken the Tajik leader’s political clothing.The opinions mentioned in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Al mayadeen, but rather express the opinion of its writer exclusively.

Zionism and Hindu Nationalism Bring Israel and India Together

June 7, 2021

Source

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) visit the “Hall of Names” in the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum in Jerusalem on July 4, 2017. Photo by Abir Sultan, AFP via Getty Images

Why Hindu nationalists have found a brother in arms in Israel and supported recent Israeli escalation in Gaza, which killed 253 Palestinians, 66 of whom are children

hen Israeli warplanes, artillery positions and armed drones rained missiles and bombs upon Gaza for 11 consecutive days last month, killing 253 Palestinians, 66 of whom were children, the Israeli Government received predictable support from the United States, but the words of solidarity it received from India has raised eyebrows around the world.

Whereas Congressional Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. offered boilerplate talking points in defense of Israeli military aggression against a largely defenseless civilian population, members of India’s ruling party – Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – and its allies unabashedly pontificated their solidarity with the self-proclaimed Jewish state on social media.

For more than a week, the hashtags #IndiaWithIsrael, “#ISupportIsrael, #IndiaStandsWithIsrael and #PalestineTerrorists were the top trending topics on Twitter in India, demonstrating widespread popular support for the Israel and its heavy-handed military response to Palestinian resistance.

Indian journalist Rana Ayyub reviewed tweets posted under these hashtags and found that “a common thread that runs through is a visceral hatred for Muslims and a bloodlust to see Muslims massacred and shown their place,” adding, “Most handles followed by one or more BJP minister or the PM himself.”

Read: Hindutva Ideology: India’s Gradual Move Towards Genocide

These tweets echoed pronouncements made by members of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Government, including Member of Parliament Tejasyi Surya, who posted on Twitter, “We are with you. Stay strong, Israel,” and a BJP spokesperson, Guarav Goel, who posted, “Dear Israelis, you are not alone, we Indians stand strongly with you.”

These expressions of solidarity with Israel by members of India’s ruling party and its supporters make it easy to forget that the Indian relationship with Israel has been anything but close or even cordial, with previous Indian administrations expressing hostility towards Israel for its persecution of the Palestinian people and occupation of the Palestinian Territories.

“Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English or France to the French,” Mahatma Gandhi wrote in 1938. A decade later India would become one of only 13 countries to vote against the United Nations Partition Plan, which divided historic Palestine into two separate states – thus forming the foundation of the Israeli state in 1948.

Read: What is the Future for India’s Muslims with the Rise of Hindu Nationalism?

India also voted for a UN resolution that condemned Zionism as “a form of racism and racial discrimination,” stating, “The racist regime in occupied Palestine and the racist regime in Zimbabwe and South Africa have a common imperialist origin, forming a whole and having the same racist structure and being organically linked in their policy aimed at repression of the dignity and integrity of the human being.”

India’s Cold War alliance with the Soviet Union also made it a natural opponent of the United States’ geopolitical orbit, while its large Muslim population helped the country maintain close ties with the Arab world, particularly the Palestinians – but when the Communist superpower collapsed in 1991, New Delhi hit the reset button on its relationship with Tel Aviv.

A natural thawing of relations between the two former British ruled colonies has blossomed into a full blown “special friendship,” with many likening the bond between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Modi as a full blown “bromance,” one that oversaw a record $1.5 billion arms deal in 2016, making Israel the second-largest weapons exporter to the Indian state. Bilateral trade between the two countries has ballooned from $200 million in the early 1990s to nearly $6 billion today.

This fledgling Modi-Netanyahu “bromance” is not only driven by trade deals, but also by shared values, as both Hindu nationalism and Zionism draw from the same spring of hate – ethno-nationalist ideologies. Whereas Hindu nationalists seek to transform India into a Hindu Rashtra (nation), one absent non-Hindu religious minorities, but particularly Muslims, Zionism aims to cleanse the Palestinian Territories of non-Jews, but particularly Muslims.

Read: India Makes the Lives of Kashmiri Prisoners Worse During COVID19

At the core of the Modi Government’s ideological DNA is the militant Hindu organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which has long admired Israel’s brutality of the Palestinian people. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat gave voice to this sentiment when he said in 2016, “Israel was attacked by surrounding Islamic countries on five occasions, but the Israeli people repulsed their aggressions and extended their boundaries due to strong resolve to save motherland.”

Somdeep Sen, an associate professor of international development studies at Roskilde University in Denmark, accurately observes, “The electoral successes of the BJP have meant that what was once a fringe Hindu nationalist love affair with Israel has now become a matter of public policy.”

It’s no surprise then that India has modelled its settler-colonial-project in Kashmir on Israel’s settler enterprise in the Palestinian Territories by turning military outposts into settlements, and settlements into bona fide towns and even small cities. In both projects, the occupying force rules over a restive Muslim majority population, and it’s for this reason India has turned to Israel for its supply of occupation management tools and strategies.

Sitrep: Here Comes China: Space, Trade, Encirclement and Tibet

May 22, 2021

Selections from Godfree Roberts’ extensive weekly newsletter: Here Comes China. You can get it here: https://www.herecomeschina.com/#subscribe

Further selections and editorial commentary by Amarynth.


Space News

The Zhurong rover touched down May 15 on Mars and signaled ground control 320 million kilometers away. After diagnostic tests, it will spend 90 days exploring and analyzing the area, climate, magnetic field and subsurface. The Tianwen-1 orbiter is changing its trajectory so Zhurong can transmit high-resolution photos.

 Read full article $→

“The mission is very ambitious. They plan to do, in one go, three steps NASA took several decades to achieve: getting into orbit, landing on the surface and then driving a rover around,” said Roberto Orosei, from the Institute for Radioastronomy in Bologna, Italy. Other space milestones this past year include the final BeiDou GPS satellite and the first of 11 launches to build a Space StationRead full article →

Update from RT this morning:  “China’s Mars rover rolls off landing platform, joining US robots patrolling Red Planet”

https://www.rt.com/news/524522-chinese-rover-rolls-platform/

The Tianhe core module cabin of China’s space station project has completed in-orbit performance checks, including rendezvous and docking, life support systems for astronauts and robotic arms, as well as a series of space application equipment examinations. 

Read full article →


At $23 billion, China is the world’s largest ice cream market. Competitors include Mengniu Dairy, Yili, Guanming, and Sanyuan, along with foreign giants like Nestlé and Unilever. US ice cream sales average $7 billion annually. Read full article →

A record 9.09 million university students will graduate this year and Vice Premier Sun Chunlan says,  “Go to central and western regions where the country needs you” (and where there are 1.4 available jobs per graduate). Read full article →

The EU’s goods trade surged in Q1 and China remained its top trade partner, with imports and exports both increasing 20% YoY. The US followed, with both imports and exports shrinking. Read full article $→

US importers paid 90% of tariff costs on Chinese goods, or 18.5% more for Chinese products subject to the 20% tariff. Chinese exporters receive 1.5% less for the same product. Read full article $→

US exports to China of wine, cotton, log timber and wood have increased over the past year after Beijing blocked those products from Australia. The US is prioritising its own economic interests over its ally’s, despite Antony Blinken’s promise that Washington would not leave Australia to face ‘economic coercion’ from Beijing. Read full article $→

Supplies of Russian agricultural products to China increased by 17.6% in Q1. Trade turnover reached $40.207 billion, 20% higher YoY. The two aim to double 2021 trade to $200 billion. Read full article $→


Presidents Xi and Putin launched construction on four nuclear reactors made with Russian technology: two reactors each in Jiangsu and Liaoning Provinces, set to begin 2026 – 2028. They will be powered by Rosatom’s 3G pressurized water reactor technology at a  cost of $1.7 billion per site. Read full article $→


US Encirclement of China: A Progress Report

We will post this long-read article by Brian Berletic in full as the New Eastern Outlook site has been down for a number of days.

Tensions between Washington and Beijing are not merely the recent results of former US President Donald Trump’s time in office – but rather just the latest chapter in US efforts to contain China that stretch back decades.

Indeed, US foreign policy has for decades admittedly aimed at encircling and containing China’s rise and maintaining primacy over the Indo-Pacific region.

The “Pentagon Papers” leaked in 1969 would admit in regards to the ongoing US war against Vietnam that:

…the February decision to bomb North Vietnam and the July approval of Phase I deployments make sense only if they are in support of a long-run United States policy to contain China.

The papers also admitted that China, “looms as a major power threatening to undercut [American] importance and effectiveness in the world and, more remotely but more menacingly, to organize all of Asia against [America].

The papers also made it clear that there were (and still are), “three fronts to a long-run effort to contain China: (a) the Japan-Korea front; (b) the India-Pakistan front; and (c) the Southeast Asia front.”

Since then, it is clear that from the continued US military presence in both Japan and South Korea, the now two decades-long US occupation of Afghanistan on both Pakistan’s and China’s borders, and the emergence of the so-called “Milk Tea Alliance” aimed at overthrowing Southeast Asian governments friendly with China and replacing them with US-backed client regimes – this policy to contain China endures up to today.

Assessing US activity along these three fronts reveals the progress and setbacks Washington faces – and various dangers to global peace and stability Washington’s continued belligerence pose.

The Japan-Korea Front 

Military.com in their article, “Here’s What It Costs to Keep US Troops in Japan and South Korea,” reports:

In all, more than 80,000 US troops are deployed to Japan and South Korea. In Japan alone, the US maintains more than 55,000 deployed troops — the largest forward-deployed US force anywhere in the world.

The article notes that according to the US Government Accountability Office (GAO), the US spent “$34 billion to maintain military presences in Japan and South Korea between 2016 and 2019.”

The article cites the GAO providing an explanation as to why this massive US military presence is maintained in East Asia:

“…US forces help strengthen alliances, promote a free and open Indo-Pacific region, provide quick response to emergencies and are essential for US national security.”

“Alliances” that are “strengthened” by the physical presence of what are essentially occupying US forces suggests the “alliance” is hardly voluntary and claims of promoting a “free and open Indo-Pacific region” is highly subjective – begging the question of to whom the Indo-Pacific is “free and open” to.

And as US power wanes both regionally in the Indo-Pacific as well as globally, Washington has placed increasing pressure on both Japan and South Korea to not only help shoulder this financial burden, but to also become more proactive within Washington’s containment strategy toward China.

Japan is one of three other nations (the US itself, Australia, and India) drafted into the US-led Quadrilateral Security Dialogue – also know as the “Quad.”

Rather than the US solely depending on its own military forces based within Japanese territory or supported by its Japan-based forces, Japan’s military along with India’s and Australia’s are also being recruited to take part in military exercises and operations in and around the South China Sea.

India’s inclusion in the Quad also fits well into the US 3-front strategy that made up Washington’s containment policy toward China as early as the 1960s.

The India-Pakistan Front 

In addition to recruiting India into the Quad alliance, the US helps encourage escalation through political support and media campaigning of India’s various territorial disputes with China.

The US also targets Pakistan’s close and ongoing relationship with China – including the support of armed insurgents in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province.

Recently, a bombing at a hotel in Quetta, Baluchistan appears to have targeted China’s ambassador to Pakistan, Ambassador Nong Rong.

The BBC in its article, “Pakistan hotel bomb: Deadly blast hits luxury venue in Quetta,” would claim:

Initial reports had suggested the target was China’s ambassador.

Ambassador Nong Rong is understood to be in Quetta but was not present at the hotel at the time of the attack on Wednesday.

The article also noted:

Balochistan province, near the Afghan border, is home to several armed groups, including separatists.

Separatists in the region want independence from the rest of Pakistan and accuse the government and China of exploiting Balochistan, one of Pakistan’s poorest provinces, for its gas and mineral wealth.

Absent from the BBC’s reporting is the extensive and open support the US government has provided these separatists over the years and how – clearly – this is more than just a local uprising against perceived injustice, but yet another example of armed conflict-by-proxy waged by Washington against China.

As far back as 2011 publications like The National Interest in articles like, “Free Baluchistan” would openly advocate expanding US support for separatism in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province.

The article was written by the late Selig  Harrison – who was a senior fellow at the US-based corporate-financier funded Center for International Policy – and would claim:

Pakistan has given China a base at Gwadar in the heart of Baluch territory. So an independent Baluchistan would serve US strategic interests in addition to the immediate goal of countering Islamist forces.

Of course, “Islamist forces” is a euphemism for US-Persian Gulf state sponsored militants used to both fight Western proxy wars as well as serve as a pretext for Western intervention. Citing “Islamist forces” in Baluchistan, Pakistan clearly serves as an example of the latter.

In addition to op-eds published by influential policy think tanks, US legislators like US Representative Dana Rohrabacher had proposed resolutions such as (emphasis added),

“US House of Representatives Concurrent Resolution 104 (112th): Expressing the sense of Congress that the people of Baluchistan, currently divided between Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan, have the right to self-determination and to their own sovereign country.”

There is also funding provided to adjacent, political groups supporting separatism in Baluchistan, Pakistan as listed by the US government’s own National Endowment for Democracy (NED) website under “Pakistan.” Organizations like the “Association for Integrated Development Balochistan” are funded by the US government and used to mobilize people politically, constituting clear interference by the US in Pakistan’s internal political affairs.

The Gwadar Port project is a key juncture within China’s growing global network of infrastructure projects as part of its One Belt, One Road initiative. The US clearly opposes China’s rise and has articulated robust strategies to counter it; everything up to and including open war as seen in the Pentagon Papers regarding the Vietnam War.

The recent bombing in Baluchistan, Pakistan demonstrates that this strategy continues in regards to utilizing local militants to target Chinese-Pakistani cooperation and is one part of the much wider, region-wide strategy of encircling and containing China.

The Southeast Asia Front

Of course the US war against Vietnam was part of a wider effort to reassert Western primacy over Southeast Asia and deny the region from fueling China’s inevitable rise.

The US having lost the war and almost completely retreating from the Southeast Asia region saw Southeast Asia itself repair relations amongst themselves and with China.

Today, the nations of Southeast Asia count China as their largest trade partner, investor, a key partner in infrastructure development, a key supplier for the region’s armed forces, as well as providing the majority of tourism arrivals throughout the region. For countries like Thailand, more tourists arrive from China than from all Western nations combined.

Because existing governments in Southeast Asia have nothing to benefit from by participating in American belligerence toward China, the US has found it necessary to cultivate and attempt to install into power various client regimes. This has been an ongoing process since the Vietnam War.

The US has targeted each nation individually for years. In 2009 and 2010, US-backed opposition leader-in-exile Thaksin Shinawatra deployed his “red shirt” protesters in back-to-back riots – the latter of which included some 300 armed militants and culminated in city-wide arson across Bangkok and the death of over 90 police, soldiers, protesters, and bystanders.

In 2018, US-backed opposition groups took power in Malaysia after the US poured millions of dollars for over a decade in building up the opposition.

Daniel Twining of the US National Endowment for Democracy subsidiary – the International Republican Institute – admitted during a talk (starting at 56 minutes) by the Center for Strategic and International Studies that same year that:

…for 15 years working with NED resources, we worked to strengthen Malaysian opposition parties and guess what happened two months ago after 61 years? They won.

He would elaborate on how the NED’s network played a direct role in placing US-backed opposition figures into power within the Malaysian government, stating:

I visited and I was sitting there with many of the leaders the new leaders of this government, many of whom were just our partners we had been working with for 15 years and one of the most senior of them who’s now one of the people running the government said to me, ‘gosh IRI you never gave up on us even when we were ready to give up on ourselves.’

Far from “promoting freedom” in Malaysia – Twining would make clear the ultimate objective of interfering in Malaysia’s internal political affairs was to serve US interests not only in regards to Malaysia, but in regards to the entire region and specifically toward encircling and containing China.

Twining would boast:

…guess what one of the first steps the new government took? It froze Chinese infrastructure investments.

And that:

[Malaysia] is not a hugely pro-American country. It’s probably never going to be an actual US ally, but this is going to redound to our benefit, and and that’s an example of the long game.

It is a pattern that has repeated itself in Myanmar over the decades with NED money building a parallel political system within the nation and eventually leading to Aung San Suu Kyi and her US-backed National League for Democracy (NLD) party taking power in 2016.

For Myanmar, so deep and extensive is US backing for opposition groups there that elections virtually guarantee US-backed candidates win every single time. The US National Endowment for Democracy’s own website alone lists over 80 programs and organizations receiving US government money for everything from election polling and building up political parties, to funding media networks and “environmental” groups used to block Chinese-initiated infrastructure projects.

The move by Myanmar’s military in February this year, ousting Aung Sang Suu Kyi and the NLD was meant to correct this.

However, in addition to backing political groups protesting in the streets, the US has – for many decades – backed and armed ethnic rebels across the country. These rebels have now linked up with the US-backed NLD and are repeating US-backed regime change tactics used against the Arab World in 2011 in nations like Libya, Yemen, and Syria – including explicit calls for “international intervention.”

A US-Engineered “Asia Spring”  

Just as the US did during the 2011 “Arab Spring” – the US State Department, in a bid to create synergies across various regime change campaigns in Asia, has introduced the “Milk Tea Alliance” to transform individual US-backed regime change efforts in Asia into a region-wide crisis.

The BBC itself admits in articles like, “Milk Tea Alliance: Twitter creates emoji for pro-democracy activists,” that:

The alliance has brought together anti-Beijing protesters in Hong Kong and Taiwan with pro-democracy campaigners in Thailand and Myanmar.

Omitted from the BBC’s coverage of the “Milk Tea Alliance” (intentionally) is the actual common denominators that unite it – US funding through fronts like the National Endowment for Democracy and a unifying hatred of China based exclusively on talking points pushed by the US State Department itself.

Circling back to the Pentagon Papers and recalling the coordinated, regional campaign the US sought to encircle China with – we can then look at more recent US government policy papers like the “Indo-Pacific Framework” published in the White House archives from the Trump administration.

The policy paper’s first bullet point asks:

How to maintain US strategic primacy in the Indo-Pacific region and promote a liberal economic order while preventing China from establishing new, illiberal spheres of influence, and cultivating areas of cooperation to promote regional peace and prosperity?

The paper also discusses information campaigns designed to “educate” the world about “China’s coercive behaviour and influence operations around the globe.” These campaigns have materialized in a propaganda war fabricating accusations of “Chinese genocide” in Xinjiang, China, claims that Chinese telecom company Huawei is a global security threat, and that China – not the US – is the single largest threat to global peace and stability today.

In reality US policy aimed at encircling China is predicated upon Washington’s desire to continue its own decades-long impunity upon the global stage and the continuation of all the wars, humanitarian crises, and abuses that have stemmed from it.

Understanding the full scope of Washington’s “competition” with China helps unlock the confusion surrounding unfolding individual crises like the trade war, the ongoing violence and turmoil in Myanmar, bombings in southwest Pakistan, students mobs in Thailand, riots in Hong Kong, and attempts by the US to transform the South China Sea into an international conflict.

Understanding that these events are all connected – then assessing the success or failure of US efforts gives us a clearer picture of the overall success Washington in encircling China.  It also gives governments and regional blocs a clearer picture of how to manage policy in protecting against US subversion that threatens national, regional, and global peace and stability.

Brian Berletic is a Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine New Eastern Outlook”.


BEIJING, May 21 (Xinhua) — China’s State Council Information Office on Friday issued a white paper on the peaceful liberation of Tibet and its development over the past seven decades.

The white paper, titled “Tibet Since 1951: Liberation, Development and Prosperity,” reviewed Tibet’s history and achievements, and presented a true and panoramic picture of the new socialist Tibet.

You may Download the Full Text or read this very interesting document here: http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2021-05/21/c_139959978.htm

It consists of the following:

Foreword

I. Tibet Before the Peaceful Liberation

II. Peaceful Liberation

III. Historic Changes in Society

IV. Rapid Development of Various Undertakings

V. A Complete Victory over Poverty

VI. Protection and Development of Traditional Culture

VII. Remarkable Results in Ethnic and Religious Work

VIII. Solid Environmental Safety Barriers

IX. Resolutely Safeguarding National Unity and Social Stability

X. Embarking on a New Journey in the New Era

Conclusion


This is but a fraction of what I gleaned from the Here Comes China newsletter.  If you want to learn about the Chinese world, get Godfree’s newsletter here: https://www.herecomeschina.com/#subscribe

Kashmiri Mothers Awaiting Jailed & Disappeared Sons

Source

Srinagar, May 09 (KMS): When most parts of the world are observing Mother’s Day, today, thousands of Kashmiri women continue to wait for the return of their sons imprisoned in jails and subjected to enforced disappearance in custody by Indian troops in occupied Kashmir over the past 33 years.

A report released by the Research Section of Kashmir Media Service on Mother’s Day, today, said that the continued Indian state terrorism had resulted in the killing of 95,780 Kashmiris including women and children from 1989 to 9th of May 2021. As many as 22,926 women have been widowed by the Indian forces and 11,240 women were raped, disgraced or molested during the period.

Over one dozen women including 60-year-old resistance leader, Aasiya Andrabi, Fehmeeda Sofi, Nahida Nasreen, Shazia Akhter,Haseena Begum Saima and Insha Tariq are illegally facing detention in different jails including in India’s infamous Tihar Jail on false charges.

The report pointed out that the troops had subjected about 8,000 Kashmiris to custodial disappearance during the period and the mothers of majority of these disappeared people had been waiting for their return. Second Sunday of May is observed as Mother’s Day since 1914 as a result of continued efforts by Anna Jarvis, daughter of Ann Reeves Jarvis, a peace activist in, West Virginia, the United States, for her mother’s contributions towards the society.

Meanwhile, several mothers including Haseena Begum died whose son Syed Anwar Shah, a wall painter by profession, went missing on 21 July 2000, when arrested by Indian troops in Srinagar.

Mahtaba Begum hailing from Kashmir’s far-off village Karhama died while looking for her son who was arrested during a crackdown in 1990. Her son Mohammad Yaqub Khan was a laborer. Misra begum of Bemina’s boatman colony died in the desolation of her only son Shabbir Hussain Gasi who was arrested by Indian army on 21 January 2000. Hameeda Parveen died in 2012 after searching from pillar to post with the hope that her son would one day return to home. Details informed that her son, Abid Hussain, was a student.

Zoona Begum, hailing from Raj Bagh, whose son disappeared in May 1996 when he was detained after forces raided his house. Her son Imtiyaz Ahmad was a forester. Zoona died in 2011 while waiting for her son to return home.

Haleema Begum, hailing from Batamaloo area, died in February 2020. She struggled for the last 24 years in search of her son, Basharat Ahmad Shah, who was studying at Aligarh Muslim University, India. Basharat was arrested on 7 January 1990 by Indian CRPF from Sopore area.

65-year-old Rehti Begum reflects on her quiet life in Chaki Kawoosa village of Budgam, before her only son went missing. Begum said Muhammad Ramzan was detained in 1994 by the Indian army. He was never seen again.

“There is no one around with whom I can share my pain,” she says. Her husband died months after their son disappeared and she has since worked odd jobs. She searched for Ramzan for three decades, even as age took a toll on her health.

Meanwhile, International Forum for Justice Human Rights Jammu and Kashmir has said that while the world is celebrating Mother’s Day, today, nobody seems to be bothered about the state of Kashmiri mothers.

In a statement issued in Srinagar, IFJHRJK Chairman Muhammad Ahsan Untoo said that while there are celebrations going on around the world to honour the mothers, the Kashmiri mothers are longing to see their sons who have been imprisoned in Indian jails and subjected to enforced disappearances.

He said that the mothers in Kashmir have been inflicted enormous pain by the Indian state by killing and maiming their sons, and murdering and blinding their husbands.

He said that the so-called civilized world should wake up to the sufferings of Kashmiri mothers and address their issues.

Untoo said that over the last several years the sufferings of the Kashmiri mothers have increased manifold. They have been denied bodies of their sons and husbands, killed by the troops.  He urged the world bodies including the United Nations, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International and other bodies of women’s rights to take note of the sufferings of Kashmiri mothers.

Hurriyat AJK leader Abdul Majeed Mir in a statement said that Kashmiri mothers have nothing to observe the Mother Day as they have lost their sons to the brutal Indian troops. 

Russia ‘would really not want’ Cold War 2.0

Russia ‘would really not want’ Cold War 2.0

April 09, 2021

The Triple Yoda, Nikolai Patrushev, hopes cooler heads can avoid sanctions such as the SWIFT ‘nuclear option’

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

The Beltway was always fond of describing the late Andrew Marshall – who identified emerging or future threats for the Pentagon and whose proteges included Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz – as Yoda.

Well, if that’s the case, then Chinese national security supremo Yang Jiechi – who recently made shark fin’s soup out of Tony Blinken in Alaska – is Double Yoda. And Nikolai Patrushev – Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation – is Triple Yoda.

Amid current ice-cold US-Russia relations – plunged into their worst state since the end of the Cold War – Triple Yoda, discreet, diplomatic and always sharp as a dagger, remains a soothing voice of reason, as demonstrated in a stunning interview by Kommersant daily.

Patrushev, born in 1951, is an army general who worked for KGB counter-intel in Leningrad, during the USSR days. Starting in 1994 he was the head of quite a few FSB departments. From 1999 to 2008 he was the FSB director, and led counter-terror ops in the North Caucasus from 2001 to 2003. Since May 2008 he is Russia’s top security advisor.

Patrushev rarely talks to the media. Thus the importance, for global public opinion, of highlighting some of his key insights. Let us hope the Beltway will be listening.

Patrushev clearly states that Russia does not want Cold War 2.0: “We would really not want that.” And he hopes that “common sense will prevail in Washington.”

Patrushev speaks

On Biden declaring Putin a “killer”: “I would not like to draw parallels, but exactly 75 years ago, in March 1946, Churchill delivered the famous Fulton speech in the presence of President Truman, in which he declared our country, his recent ally in the anti-Hitler coalition, an enemy. This marked the beginning of the Cold War.”

On Ukraine and Donbass: “I am convinced that this is a consequence of serious internal problems in Ukraine, from which the authorities are trying to divert attention in this way. They solve their problems at the expense of Donbass, while capital from the country has been flowing abroad for a long time … and Kiev is selling to foreigners – as they say now, at democratic prices – those remnants of industry that were able to stay afloat.”

On the first order of business for the US and Russia: It’s “the sphere of strategic stability and arms control. There is already a positive example here. It is our common decision to extend the Treaty on Strategic Offensive Arms, which was certainly not easy for the US administration.”

On possible areas of cooperation: “There is a certain potential for joint work on such issues as the fight against international terrorism and extremism … as well as Syria, the Middle East settlement, the nuclear problem of the Korean peninsula, the JCPOA with Iran … It is long overdue to discuss cyber-security issues, especially in view of Russia’s concerns and the accusations that have been brought forward to us for several years now.”

On contacts with Washington: “They continue. At the end of March, I had a telephone conversation with the assistant to the president of the United States for national security, Mr Sullivan .… By the way, it was held in a calm, business-like atmosphere, and we communicated quite thoroughly and constructively.”

On having no illusions about US apologies: “The United States dropped atomic bombs on Japan completely unnecessarily – although they knew perfectly well that the Red Army was starting hostilities against the Japanese grouping in Manchuria; they knew that Tokyo was ready to surrender. And the Japanese, and indeed the whole world, have been told for three quarters of a century that atomic strikes were inevitable … a kind of punishment from above. Remember what Obama said in his speech at the Hiroshima mourning event? ‘Death fell from heaven.’ And he did not want to say that this death fell from an American plane on the orders of the American president.”

On improvement of relations: “Given the unprecedentedly difficult nature of the internal situation in the United States today, the prospects for the further development of relations can hardly be called encouraging.”

On the US seeing Russia as a “threat,” and whether it is reciprocal: “We now see the main threat in a pandemic. For the United States, by the way, it turned out to be the moment of truth. The problems that American politicians were hiding from their fellow citizens became obvious, including by diverting their attention to the legends of ‘aggressive Russia.’”

On US bio-labs: “I suggest that you pay attention to the fact that numbers of biological laboratories under US control are growing by leaps and bounds across the world. And – by a strange coincidence – mainly at the Russian and Chinese borders … Of course, we and our Chinese partners have questions. We are told that there are peaceful sanitary and epidemiological stations near our borders, but for some reason they are more reminiscent of Fort Detrick in Maryland, where Americans have been working in the field of military biology for decades. By the way, it is necessary to pay attention to the fact that outbreaks of diseases uncharacteristic of these regions are recorded in the adjacent areas.”

On US accusations that Russia uses chemical weapons: “There is zero evidence, there is no argumentation either; some speculation does not even withstand an elementary test … When chemical incidents occurred in Syria, conclusions were drawn instantly and based on the information of the notorious ‘White Helmets.’ The organization worked so ‘well’ that it sometimes published its reports even before the incidents themselves.”

On NATO: “The question arises: who is holding back whom? Are Washington and Brussels holding back Russia, or is it their task to hold back the development of Germany, France, Italy and other European states? On the whole, NATO can hardly be called a military-political bloc. Remember how in the days of feudalism the vassals were obliged to appear to the master with their armies at his first  request? Only today they still have to buy weapons from the patron, regardless of their financial situation; otherwise questions about their loyalty will arise.”

On Europe: “Engaging with Europe is important. But being together with Europe at any cost is not a fix for Russian geopolitics. Nevertheless we keep the doors open, because we understand perfectly well that there is a momentary situation that Western politicians are guided by, and at the same time there are historical ties that have been developing between Russians and Europeans for centuries.”

On multipolarity: “There are a number of problems in the world today that, in principle, cannot be resolved without normal cooperation between the world’s leading players – Russia, the USA, the EU, China and India.”

The SWIFT ‘nuclear option’

Patrushev’s insights are particularly relevant as the Russia-China strategic partnership is solidifying by the minute; Foreign Minister Lavrov, in Pakistan, has called for literally everyone, “including the European Union,” to join Russia’s vision of a Greater Eurasia; and everyone is waiting for a face-off in the Donbass.

Patrushev’s diplomatic finesse still cannot erase the uneasy feeling in chancelleries across Eurasia about the distinct possibility of an incoming flare-up in the Donbass – with some extremely worrying consequences.

Dangerous scenarios are being openly discussed in Brussels corridors, especially one that sees the US/NATO combo expecting a de facto partition after a short hot war – with Novorossiya absorbing even Odessa.

If that is established as a fact on the ground, a new harsh round of US sanctions will follow. Iron Curtain 2.0 would be in effect; pressure for cancelation of Nord Stream 2 would reach fever pitch; and even the expulsion of Russia from SWIFT would be considered.

Dmitri Medvedev, currently Deputy Chairman of Russia’s Security Council, once called the latter “the nuclear option.” Patrushev was diplomatic enough not to address its volcanic consequences.

Iran-China deal hailed as geopolitical game changer

By VT Editors -April 8, 2021

Carl Zha is an American-Chinese social media activist with an extensive knowledge of Chinese foreign policies. He tells Press TV about the importance of the Iran-China economic pact and its possible ramifications for the region and beyond.

This article is based on an episode of Presscast, a podcast by Press TV

Carl Zha is an American-Chinese social media activist with an extensive knowledge of Chinese foreign policies. He tells Press TV about the importance of the Iran-China economic pact and its possible ramifications for the region and beyond.

This article is based on an episode of Presscast, a podcast by Press TV

Very little has been published on the Iran-China agreement and its possible outcome for the region since it was announced last year.

How important is this deal?

So, we know approximate figure, 400, billion (dollar value of agreement), it’s a pretty big number, and it’s touted as a strategic partnership between China and Iran, where both sides committed to broaden the economic cooperation that both sides already have but increasing investment, increasing cooperation in developing infrastructures. So I think it’s a really big deal because we have all the usual outlets in the mainstream media talking about it or the conservative media in the US are, are taking the stance, oh, you know, like the “Biden’s screwed up. He made Iran and China get together, now they have formed the axis of evil, now we are screwed!” You know it’s a good thing when these people are starting to talk like that.

What are the western media criticisms of the deal?

Um, actually I hear a lot of, you know, I saw a lot of criticism for like the, the Iranian dissidents in the diaspora, I mean a lot of them are posing this as somehow Iran selling out to China. You know I see like an astroturf Twitter campaign about you, Iran, get out of “China, get out of Iran”, right, which is totally overblown because as far as I know, you know China is not is not, you know, posting its military to Iran and China. China is in Iran to do business. Right and it’s a deal, agreed by two sovereign governments between the sovereign government of Iran and China. It’s not like one side is pointing a gun to the other side, say hey, sign at the dotted line, and as a matter of fact, it has nothing to do with the United States.

Iran and China have long standing ties through the Silk Road

The fact that people in the US media are getting worked up about it is rather ridiculous, (since) this is a deal between two nations with long standing ties through the Silk Road, I mean Iran and China have had a historical relationship for over 1000 years, you know, way longer than United States even existed. The fact that the people in Washington, who can barely find Iran and China on a map, are worked up about a deal of cooperation, mind you have a deal of cooperation and friendship between Iran and China. It says a lot more about them than about the deal itself it’s, it’s this fear that oh my god you know all these people are ganging up on us. It’s like no, this has nothing to do with the US.

US foreign policy hostile toward both nations

Iran and China are just continuing their historical relationship. There’s every reason for the two nations to work together, especially when both are being put under pressure by US foreign policy, you know, US foreign policy has been very hostile toward Iran since 1979. US foreign policy has been increasingly hostile toward China since 2010. So I mean, when, when US policymakers realize, China now is in a position strong enough to challenge the US hegemony, and that’s what they’re really worried about they’re worried about the position of the US as a hegemon [sic] in the world; they are worried that US hegemony is going to disappear and be replaced by a multipolar, multilateral world, which, I don’t understand why that’s a bad day, for them it is.

Ever since the United States pulled out of the nuclear deal in 2018, and reapplied sanctions China remained the sole buyer of Iranian petroleum, the sole lifeline that Iran could rely on at the time was coming from China and what they’re doing now is just a continuation of their previous businesses dealings which has now been made official.

China and Iran Cooperation goes a long way. I mean not just, just, historically, but also in the modern time, you know China has always dealt with Iran and in the latest round of sanctions  the US placed on Iran, China continue to do business (with Iran) despite the US sanctions because, you know, the, the US sanctions rely on the premise that the US has dominate the global finance right and because US threatened to sanction, any company, any government that has dealing with Iran, but China is in a position today where you can basically ignore the US sanction and continue to, to work on its traditional relationship, normal relationship, with Iran. And I think that is what has upset people in Washington, because they see the US is losing its grip.

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)

This deal comes in the backdrop of the broader Belt and Road initiative, if I’m not mistaken, please give us more information if you available. This corridor that China has been trying to build through Pakistan and now it connects Iran to this road and maybe later Turkey can, you know, get added to this, how do you view this?

Yeah, I mean, actually the Belt and Road Initiative serves two purposes. The first, the most important purpose is to build up infrastructures throughout the world, throughout especially the global south. So, people there can be increased interconnectivity in the world, that that, you know, people make it seems like, oh, China is building a port So China’s increasing its inputs, but look, a port is is open, a port sits on the ocean, It’s open to anyone. You know Chinese can use the Japanese can use, anybody who wants to do business in Iran can use that board. So that’s a point that’s increasingly global interconnectivity includes the increase of global trade, which for some weird reason the US is trying to oppose. I mean, they, they’re the real reason is really about preserving the USA, Germany, but they, they’re really bending backwards to perform all kinds of mental gymnastics to justify why that’s, that’s a bad thing. And I think he shows how desperate they are. But, as you mentioned the Belt and Road Initiative, there’s another purpose of building a road initiative, it is to bypass the US Navy’s chokehold on the, the world, shipping, trade, because, you know, US Navy, makes no, they do not even disguise the fact that they, they, they always talk about the chokehold on the Malacca Strait, which is where most of the Middle East oil flows to East Asia like two countries like China, Japan and Korea, and, and what China is doing is kind of diversify its energies, by, by building pipelines and building roads and rails through, you know through Central Asia through Pakistan to Iran so they, the oil or gas doesn’t have to go, get on tankers and goes through the Strait of Malacca to China, they can maybe go overland and then the trade can also be carried on overland, not having to route to avoid a possible US Navy blockade, you know like what they’re currently doing right now, sending warships to the Persian Gulf, sending worships to the South China Sea, that’s basically the US demonstrating “look I can, I can, you know choke off your lifeline, anytime”, and the Belt and Road Initiative bypasses that by building alternative routes.

Peking is increasing its influence with Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka which may give India cause for consternation.

https://if-cdn.com/ubIRQ9A?v=1&app=1

Do you think that Delhi may feel left out as the route is not to go through India but through Pakistan or maybe Sri Lanka?

Yeah, I mean, India, feels like the South Asian subcontinent is its own backyard, you know, it feels like you know it feels pressure when China builds a relationship with its neighbors like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal.  But China actually very much want to include India in the Belt and Road Initiative, because India is a huge nation with 1.3 billion people, it’s a large market, and China very much want India to participate in the Belt and Road Initiative, by having deepened economic engagement with India. But the problem with India is that if you wants to keep China at arm’s length, because they see this rather than as an opportunity of cooperation and engagement, they see this as some kind of, you know Chinese influence encroaching on other nations. India is also  participating in the so called plod the, you know the cloud of democracy that’s promoted by the United States that’s the US, Japan, Australia, India to form this circle of containment around China, and that will just increase the kind of the friction between, between India and China, but like I said, you know, like, I think Chinese government will be very happy if India just suddenly says we’re going to be on board with the Belt and Road Initiative, you know we love to trade with China, but that’s not happening right now, India has recently banned all the Chinese apps in their market. So, so they’re, they’re following the kind of the US led initiative to decouple from the Chinese economy, and also India had, you know that Iran and India, they had a deal concerning the port of Chabahar. So, so, like India did have this opportunity to, you know, engage with Iran, engage with China, it’s really up to India to decide what they really want.

I think they had payment issues due to US sanctions and that stopped them from developing further. Iran certainly needed this agreement, for certain reasons that you might be aware of. But do you think that China also needed this agreement to happen?

Oh sure, I mean, you know, the whole point of the Belt and Road initiative is, you know, China was to engage more deeply with the global south countries and Iran is a very important strategic country in the Middle East. It sits right by the Persian Gulf, but you know, it sits right across Hormuz Strait, a very strategic point. And so, you know China very much would like to deepen its engagement with Iran, especially right now, when both China and Iran face heavy diplomatic pressure from the United States it makes even more sense for the two sides to to cooperate and, you know, China also wanted, like, kind of, you know, make more inroads into the broader Middle East market because you know, traditionally China imports its energy from the Middle East, including Iran. But right now, you know, China has, has built up a lot of capacity in the past decades, just building out its own domestic infrastructure. And now, China has acquired all this expertise, and all these capacity but China is is being built out in China are people seeing videos of Chinese high speed rails and bridges. Now, all these Chinese companies they have all these expertise and all this capacity. The whole point of the Belt and Road initiative is to invest abroad, you know, to continue to provide opportunities for these Chinese companies to do business abroad, and to export the excessive Chinese capacity, and Iran is a very important country in the Middle East; traditionally Iran is like the centrepiece of the Middle East. It sits right, square, in the middle of the Silk Road and culturally, politically, economically Iran has always been important. So, so for this (reason), I think it’s a major win for China as well.

How do you think this deal can change the geopolitical alignment in the region, what do you think things will change in the region in the next five years?

Yeah, I think, like you said there has always been a relationship between Iran and China. This just makes it more official, you know, traditionally, China has always traded with Iran buying energy, selling everything including weapons. So, but, but it’s more of an ad hoc basis, because there’s almost never like any kind of formal alliance between the two nations, despite both facing the Western pressures, but not now. I think they, this is like the official blessing of the relationship like, let’s, let’s get together, I think it provides a more supportive network, a framework for them to be engaged in a more productive, cooperation.

Now, maybe this deal can give Iran, another bargaining chip by telling the United States okay you’re not going to buy our oil anymore. No problem. We sold it to China. Do you think this is going to help Iran in it negotiations?

Oh yeah, definitely no doubt I mean what China did in a lot of places was to provide an alternative to the World Bank, in that to all these US dominated international institutions, and, now Iran can play that China card like luck. You know it’s not; we’re not coming to you because you are our only option, you know, you can give us a better deal, or we can walk away.  You are totally right that you give yourself a stronger negotiation position at the table.

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