They say that great myths die hard

They say that great myths die hard …

February 28, 2021

By The Ister for the Saker Blog

They say that great myths die hard, but as it fades into obscurity will anyone really miss the Saudi state?

Because the Kingdom’s cosmopolitan elite longed to be like the West, they imported European sports cars and erected enormous skyrises using slave labor. Riyadh and Jeddah transformed into shopping centers and hubs of oligarchic largesse while the oil-rich sheiks appeased the conservative populace by sanctioning Wahhabist doctrine, public beatings and beheadings, and other backwards symbolic gestures.

Saudi Arabia is essentially based on this great contradiction: posturing itself as the hardline leader of the Islamic world while aligning with America and carrying out a foreign policy that has killed countless Muslims, a contradiction that exists because it is an artificial construct of imperialism.

In the early 1900s, British spies in the Middle East sought to partition off Ottoman claims in the Arab Peninsula with the help of Arab rebels such as Emir Faisal. These spies who included Edmund Allenby and the famous T E Lawrence led the Arab Revolt of 1916 and successfully revoked Ottoman control of the region.

A little-known fact is that Israel and Saudi Arabia share this same point of origin. In December of 1918 after the success of the Arab Revolt, Lord Walter Rothschild held a banquet for Emir Faisal culminating in the signing of the Faisal-Weizmann agreement, used to demonstrate Arab support for the Balfour Declaration: the document that laid the foundation for the state of Israel. The rebels who had been promised a unified Arab state stretching from Aden to Aleppo had been lied to however, as the leaked Sykes Picot agreement revealed a plot by imperial powers to divide and conquer the Middle East along sectarian lines.

Today the pan-Arab doctrine of the government of Bashar al-Assad is the ideological progenitor of those early rebels who fought to unite the Arab world against the wishes of imperialists. The stoking of the Syrian Civil War was just an extension of century-old divide and conquer tactics, as the West sought to enrage Sunnis against the secular Syrian Arab government for the betterment of Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, and Israel. Recall too that neo-Ottoman Turkey is aware of the imperial history and sees Syria as Ottoman territory lost to the West.

If the Syrian revolution ever had a grassroots base it was in the impoverished Sunni Idlib governorate, where Turkey and Saudi Arabia had for decades financed Salafist mosques and imams with the intention of eventually breaking this region off from Syria. Although the remaining terrorists in Idlib have yet to be defeated, Saudi Arabia’s failure to achieve full regime change in the Syrian Civil War marks its waning power: previously both Muammar Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein spoke out in favor of pan-Arabism and denounced the Saudis at the cost of their lives. Unlike the ideological and religious bonds that tie America and Israel, America’s commitment to Saudi Arabia was always strategically contingent and several developments suggest that it is declining.

America has abandoned support for the war in Yemen

The war against the Houthi movement in Yemen has been fought with a threefold strategy: sanctions to starve the Yemeni population, targeted assassinations to kill Shia imams and others tied to the Houthis, and traditional military force by Saudi conscripts. The Kingdom’s force has performed poorly and relied heavily on support from America. In one case in 2019, the Saudis were planning an attack in the disputed town of Najran in retaliation for missile strikes on Riyadh oil facilities. They were baited into a trap and over 2,500 were captured by Houthi forces. In blind retaliation, they struck a Houthi prison in Yemen and killed over 290 of their own prisoners.

It is no surprise in such conditions that morale is low among the Kingdom’s soldiers and that Iran has supported the Houthi side with weapons and intelligence.

Why has America abandoned its ally in the conflict? Simply, we don’t need Saudi oil as much anymore. Shale gas technology completely changed the nature of the global oil and gas industry and broke the Saudi monopoly. Recall my article The Empire is Losing the Energy War. Since then, more confirmation of this thesis has come around as prices have risen – beneficial to Russia, and oil experts have broadly agreed that Russia has won the most recent price war with the Saudis. America’s withdrawal in Yemen is an acknowledgement of their diminishing role and a reason which under Trump’s “Middle East Peace Plan” Saudi Arabia panickedly sought to tie its future not to oil production but to the creation of a joint security bloc against Iran.

Pipeline developments: NordStream 2 and Goreh Jask

By mid-2020, two major new pipelines are expected to be built. The first is the NordStream 2, which will cement Russia’s control of European energy markets. Washington is moving in slow motion to try and stop this pipeline but it is basically already done. Only 100 miles of pipe remain and the Biden admin’s early smackdown of the American energy industry with the Keystone XL cancellation means that there will not be enough American gas to provide an alternative to Russia. The German public retains a dislike for Russia but the industrialists have pushed ahead regardless.

NordStream 2 serves two other geopolitical purposes. First, Ukraine will be deprived of $1-2 billion of energy transit revenue, a big deal for a country with a $150 billion GDP. This also lowers NATO’s interest in Ukraine, which will suddenly have less of an ability to bottleneck Russian energy shipments to Europe. Second, the pipeline also reduces Russia’s exposure to Turkey as an energy transit and will allow Russia to be more “gloves off” in northern Syria without risking economic retaliation.

Iran’s Goreh Jask pipeline is expected to be completed by June 2021, and the development will improve the country’s energy situation by limiting its reliance on the Strait of Hormuz and opening up Southeast Asian markets to Iranian oil. In addition to promoting economic ties with the rest of Asia the move also allows Iran to potentially shut off the Strait of Hormuz in a crisis situation, a hypothetical move which never made sense in the past given that it would kill its own energy exports. Naturally, sanctions have been applied to the project but this has simply been used as an opportunity to develop domestic industrial capacity: over 95% of the parts for the Goreh Jask pipeline have been sourced domestically.

Iran is increasing its influence in Iraq and Syria

The increased Iranian influence on Iraq suggests that supporting the overthrow of Saddam Hussein may have been a miscalculation by the Western bloc. The government of Hussein was aggressive on Iran-Iraq border issues and had a large and powerful military. With Iraq’s expensive military infrastructure largely destroyed and a diminished American presence, Iran has grown its soft power both through religious and economic outreach.

In southeastern Iraq, Iran is massively expanding and developing Shia shrines at sites like Kerbala as a method of promoting its influence. Some of these developments are enormous, for example the $600 million expansion of the Imam Hussein shrine, which was mostly constructed with Iranian funds and parts. These developments also give economic opportunity to both Shia and Sunni Iraqis who are paid to work in construction and benefit from increased tourism. Conducting business in eastern Iraq also gives Iran an opportunity to transact in a region unaffected by sanctions.

Political power is another way that Iran has expanded its reach. The prime minister of Iraq is aligned with the Saudis and Americans but outnumbered in parliament by pro-Iranian MPs, and has been able to do little to diminish the Iranian presence.

As far as Syria, the Iranian angle must be considered. In July of 2015, Quds force General Qasem Soleimani visited Moscow to work out the details of the Russian intervention with Vladimir Putin. Although Moscow denies this likely to maintain good relations with Israel, Hassan Nasrallah of Hezbollah recently stated that it was Soleimani that convinced Putin to enter the conflict. What was exchanged during that conversation in July of 2015? It is impossible to know but it can be reasonably assumed based on how things unfolded that the Russian intervention was largely a cover for Iranian movement into Syria.

The majority of the leg work performed in the Syrian Civil War was done by Syrians and Iranians. While Russia provided crucial air support and logistics, the on-the-ground troop counts have remained small. What Russian intervention did however was to provide the stamp of legitimacy of a powerful, nuclear armed nation to the Syrian/Iranian side, to prevent any major invasion, and to quickly soften the tones on the Assad government. By clearing ISIS out of central Syria, Iran has now created a contiguous path through Syria and Lebanon and upheld its Syrian ally at the expense of the Saudis.

Pakistan is drifting to Iran

In recent history Pakistan has been heavily dependent on Saudi Arabia, in part due to a Sunni majority and a large amount of outstanding loans financed by the Kingdom. As Sheikh Imran Hosein put it unflatteringly, Pakistan has served as “a shoeshine boy for the Saudis.” Several wedges are growing between this strong historical relationship.

First, Pakistan is warming to its neighbor Iran and the new prime minister of Pakistan has accelerated ties with its western neighbor in many areas. One is the accelerated development of a massive Istanbul-Tehran-Islamabad railway which highlights an emerging challenge to Saudi supremacy: the nascent Turkey/Iran/Malaysia/Qatar bloc in the Muslim world could potentially expand to include Pakistan. Keeping Pakistan away from Iran has long been an intention of the Saudis, who sought to fuel tensions with their neighbor by financing anti-Shia terrorism in Pakistan in the 80s and 90s. Nevertheless, the two countries seem to be getting over it and the populations of both nations rate each other positively in opinion polling.

Another sign of nervousness in the West about Pakistan-Iranian integration is the failed attempt to stop the construction of the new Iran-Pakistan oil pipeline with threats of sanctions. This will further pull Pakistan into the Iranian orbit.

A new major straining factor on the relationship with Saudi Arabia is Riyadh’s unwillingness to defend Pakistan’s claims to the disputed Kashmir border region. Pakistan has hoped that the Kingdom would defend its claim, but Saudi Arabia has been unwilling to do so.

Finally, there is the issue of Israel. Saudi Arabia would like to recognize Israel as soon as possible but doing so would cause massive protests in Pakistan and ruin the Saudi reputation there. Therefore it is trying to pressure Pakistan to first recognize Israel, something which would be unpopular and put the Pakistani government in a precarious situation domestically.

The Saudis are losing their status as the head of the Muslim world

Consider the Iranian ambassador to Pakistan’s recent comments while promoting the D-8 organization of Islamic nations:

“Countries like Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, Russia and China have the potential to form a new alliance for better future of the region”

None of this economic integration would be occurring if not for the US sanctions policy. The impact of sanctions has been to lay the groundwork for creation of a “Zone B” which circumvents the Empire entirely. A model that replaces proxy wars, regime change, and terrorist funding with peaceful economic integration and diplomacy. If Iran had full access to international markets it would have been content to sell its exports to the highest bidder and would not be forced to expand its influence regionally as it is currently doing.

What does this emerging “Zone B” look like? Well, let’s start with the Muslim countries labeled an “Axis of Evil” by George Bush and John Bolton:

Syria, Iraq, Iran. And of course we can add in Lebanon, Yemen, and Palestine right off the bat to this anti-imperial bloc. The growing ties between Sunni Pakistan, heterogeneous Syria, and Shia Iran foreshadow a geographically contiguous model of peaceful relations between Islamic nations untainted by the Takifirism of Saudi Arabia, with Syria and Lebanon serving as a tolerant bridge between the Sunni and Shia regions of the Arab world.

This bloc could then be combined with the D-8 Muslim countries: Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey. D-8 alone represents one billion people and over 60% of the Islamic world. Iran, as a major advocate of inter-Islamic integration through organizations such as D-8 would be the lynchpin connecting the resistance nations of the Arab world with the larger emerging Islamic economies in a new trade network to bypass sanctions. (It is worth adding that all D-8 nations other than Turkey supported Syria’s side against Saudi in the civil war, so such an alliance is not much of a stretch by any means.)

Add in China, Russia, Mongolia, Myanmar, and the ‘stans and this new Asian empire would come to span a lion’s share of the planet’s population, GDP, energy resources, and habitable surface area. Moscow and Berlin would emerge as gates between East and West while the sprawling trading network of China would provide an alternative to the overregulated and strings-attached commerce and financing available in the West. China has already replaced America as the major trading partner for most nations.

Though there are other concurrent factors at play, the state of Saudi Arabia which once served as the lynchpin for dividing the Islamic world is diminishing, as Eurasian integration progresses naturally. No color revolutions or regime change are required for this process to continue because:

Zone A’s claims to upholding human rights and other civil liberties increasingly appear like a bad joke: undermined by lockdowns, tech censorship, and politically correct speech codes

Zone B is working past historic rivalries in the pursuit of development while Zone A embraces legally enshrined racism and creates complex taxonomies of privilege to delineate tiers of citizenship

Zone B’s population is growing while Zone A’s is declining

Zone B’s share of global wealth is growing while Zone A’s is declining

Zone B has a burgeoning middle class while Zone A’s middle class is disappearing

Zone B is doing away with extreme politics while Zone A is swept by cultural revolution


The Ister is a researcher of financial markets and geopolitics. Author of The Ister: Escape America

Will Joe Biden Push Iran and Pakistan Closer Together?

Political ties between Iran and Pakistan are warm, but their relationship has grossly underperformed in the economic and security domains.

by Rupert Stone

Shortly after Joe Biden’s win in the U.S. presidential election, Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif traveled to Islamabad for two days of talks. Political ties between Iran and Pakistan are warm, but their relationship has grossly underperformed in the economic and security domains.

That is partly owing to Donald Trump, who withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), in 2018 and reimposed draconian sanctions, while adding a raft of new penalties relating to terrorism and human rights. But Trump will soon be gone, and his replacement, Joe Biden, has vowed to re-enter the JCPOA.

Zarif and his Pakistani counterpart discussed ways to expand trade and economic cooperation. In theory, sanctions relief resulting from a revived JCPOA could help to realize their goals. But there is reason to doubt that Iran-Pakistan relations will significantly improve during Biden’s presidency.

First of all, it is far from guaranteed that Biden will be able to re-join the JCPOA. The current Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, is a political moderate who negotiated the Iran deal from 2013-15 but is due to leave office next year. Iran’s reformers have been losing popularity, and it is likely Rouhani will be replaced by an anti-American hardliner.

Moreover, the Iran deal is now quite unpopular with Iranians, who have not seen the sort of economic benefits that they expected. And trust in the United States is low, given that Trump abrogated the JCPOA unilaterally, even though Iran was complying with its terms, and proceeded to cripple the Iranian economy amid an escalating pandemic.

There is also the risk that Trump will pile on more pressure and provoke retaliation from Iran before he leaves office. He reportedly considered a strike on Iranian nuclear facilities soon after the election. Such tactics could trigger a military confrontation, greatly complicating a U.S. return to the JCPOA.

Added to that, Trump is apparently planning a “flood” of lame-duck sanctions before January. Iran might respond by dialing up its nuclear activities in further violation of the JCPOA. Tehran started breaching the agreement in 2019 when the United States revoked oil waivers. While those steps are currently reversible, continued infringements could ruin the deal.

Even if the JCPOA does survive, resuscitating it will be a fraught and drawn-out process. Biden has vowed to pursue a follow-on agreement that addresses Iran’s ballistic missile program, use of regional proxies (such as Hezbollah), and sunsets in the original deal which see limitations on Iranian nuclear activity expire.

Any attempt to rein in Iran’s defensive capabilities by constraining its missile program or use of proxies, while addressing nuclear sunsets, may well be rejected by Tehran. Iran might also demand compensation from the United States for re-imposing sanctions, which would likely be a non-starter in Washington.

Then there is the tricky issue of the United States’ regional partners, principally Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, who were very uncomfortable with the initial nuclear deal and would surely be displeased with an attempt to revive it. Added to that, Iran will not be a priority for the Biden administration as it tries to grapple with the coronavirus health and economic crises.

On the plus side, the Democratic Party is more united behind the JCPOA than it was in 2015. Almost all of the party’s presidential candidates pledged to return to the deal. However, the Senate will likely remain in Republican hands, potentially throwing congressional obstacles in Biden’s way.

To help the next president navigate through this minefield, analysts have proposed a sequenced approach to resuscitating the agreement. The United States and Iran would gradually return to compliance with the JCPOA by 2021, when Rouhani leaves office. Then they could proceed to broader talks about missiles and regional security.

But restoring the JCPOA is no panacea. The deal only lifts ‘secondary sanctions’ that prohibit third parties from doing business with Iran. It does not remove ‘primary sanctions,’ which apply to American companies but also affect non-U.S. entities by restricting their ability to trade in dollars.

This helps explain why commerce between Iran and Pakistan remained low even after the nuclear deal was implemented. In 2015 the two countries pledged to boost trade to $5 billion by 2021, but they never got close to achieving that goal. If history is any guide, Pakistan would only see meager economic benefits from JCPOA sanctions relief.

Of course, there are other factors constraining trade, including high tariff barriers in Iran and woefully inadequate transport connectivity between the two countries. Moreover, years of economic mismanagement have left Pakistan with a chronic trade deficit. Efforts to boost exports have been further hampered by the coronavirus economic slump.

Another obstacle may come from Iran’s nemesis, Saudi Arabia, which has close economic and security ties with Pakistan and exerts considerable influence there. Saudi pressure apparently blocked the progress of a long-delayed and now-defunct gas pipeline between Pakistan and Iran. While Saudi-Pakistan ties are waning, somewhat, they remain strong.

Worse still, for Islamabad, its arch-enemy India would likely benefit more from a revival of the JCPOA than Pakistan would. Before Trump withdrew from the deal, India imported significant amounts of oil from Iran and also moved forward with gas and infrastructure deals, such as the Chabahar port project. Those deals have stalled but might be revamped.

Closer ties between India and Iran could also mitigate Tehran’s support for the Kashmir cause. In recent years, the Iranian supreme leader and other officials have been more supportive of Pakistan’s stance on Kashmir. But a renewal of Indian trade and investment may force Iran to moderate its tone.

The read-outs from Zarif’s meeting in Islamabad were revealing for what they did not mention. While the Pakistani statement referred to Kashmir, there was no explicit reference in the Iranian text. In previous bilateral visits, the two sides pledged to connect Chabahar with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). But there was no talk of CPEC this time.

With a revival of the JCPOA on the horizon, Iran will not want to antagonize Delhi by courting its main strategic rivals in Beijing and Islamabad. Tehran must tread carefully, as it is currently negotiating a strategic partnership with China at the same time as Chinese and Indian troops are locked in a protracted stand-off on the disputed Himalayan border.

A restoration of the JCPOA could actually inflame tensions between Pakistan and Iran. If India capitalizes on sanctions relief to re-enter the Iranian market and improve its political relations with Tehran, we may see a resurgence of old Pakistani fears that India is using Iran as a launch-pad for intelligence operations inside Pakistan.

Those fears were seemingly confirmed in 2016 when alleged spy Kulbhushan Jadhav was arrested in Pakistan after entering the country via Iran. And, since then, Pakistani concerns about Indian covert operations have only increased. The government recently issued a dossier detailing Delhi’s apparent links to various terrorist groups.

In this feverish environment, sparks could fly on the Iran-Pakistan border. Both countries have long accused the other of harboring militant groups. Terror attacks have sometimes led to cross-border shelling and could result in further violence if Islamabad sees an Indian hand in Iran-based terrorist activity.

Afghanistan is another possible flashpoint. The two countries were on opposing sides in the 1990s, when Pakistan backed the Afghan Taliban and Tehran supported their adversaries, the Northern Alliance. Since then, Iran has cultivated closer ties to the Taliban, while cooperating with Pakistan on the peace process.

But they are not entirely on the same page. Iran is more eager than Pakistan to see a broad, inclusive government in Kabul that is not monopolized by the Taliban. Indeed, Tehran opposed the peace settlement signed in Doha in February 2020 as it excluded the Afghan government.

However, Pakistan and Iran might collaborate more closely if Biden pursues a regional security dialogue as part of his follow-on agreement to the JCPOA. Because Islamabad has good political relations with both Tehran and Riyadh, it has helped mediate between the two rivals to defuse regional crises in recent years and could do so again.

But, while the Biden era might see a modest improvement in Iran-Pakistan ties, major progress is unlikely.

Rupert Stone is a freelance journalist working on issues related to South Asia and the Middle East. He has written for various publications, including Newsweek, VICE News, Al Jazeera, and The Independent.

Image: Reuters.

The Indo-‘Israeli’ Trans-Arabian Corridor Will Push Russia Closer to Pakistan

By Andrew Korybko

Global Research, December 19, 2019

India’s participation in “Israel’s” Trans-Arabian Corridor for connecting the Eastern Mediterranean and Afro-Asian (“Indian”) Ocean will render New Delhi’s North-South Transport Corridor (NSTC) with Iran, Azerbaijan, and Russia economically redundant, consequently pushing Russia closer to Pakistan as Moscow seeks to ensure the viability of its southern connectivity vision through N-CPEC+ instead.

India Slaps Iran Yet Again

Sputnik reported earlier this month that “Israel” and India shared documents pertaining to the former’s Trans-Arabian Corridor for connecting the Eastern Mediterranean and Afro-Asian (“Indian”) Ocean during the meeting between the former’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Katz (who’s also interestingly the Minister of Intelligence) and the latter’s External Affairs Minister Jaishankar during the Mediterranean Dialogues forum. This development is strategically significant because the success of India’s participation in that “Israeli”-led initiative will render New Delhi’s North-South Transport Corridor (NSTC) with Iran, Azerbaijan, and Russia economically redundant since there wouldn’t be much of a reason for the South Asian state to utilize it for exporting goods to Europe if it can reach its destination much quicker through the Trans-Arabian Corridor while transiting through territories much wealthier than Iran such as the GCC and “Israel” which are more capable of buying some of its wares en route.

NSTC Is Dead, Long Live N-CPEC+!

Nobody should be surprised this turn of events since India had already agreed to comply with the US’ unilateral anti-Iranian sanctions regime and cut off the Islamic Republic from what had at one time been among its largest energy customers, further exacerbating its ongoing economic crisis as a result. Moreover, India slashed its budget for the NSTC’s terminal port of Chabahar earlier this summer and even deployed its warships to the Gulf following the Ansaraullah’s attack on Saudi Arabia’s Aramco that the West incredulously blamed on Iran. India isn’t a formal member of the US’ so-called “coalition” but it de-facto behaves as such through these means. Adding some more context to its decision to strengthen its integration with the GCC and “Israel” is the fact that India recently rejected joining the Chinese-led “Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership” (RCEP) last month, which the author analyzed at the time undermined Russia’s “Greater Eurasian Partnership” (GEP) too.

It’s therefore perfectly understandable why India is intensifying its alliance with “Israel”, especially since Prime Minister Modi praised the self-professed “Jewish State” last month for supposedly “sharing and valuing the same principles of democracy”, in spite of this move being aimed against Iranian and even Russian interests. The Islamic Republic is left in the lurch after having naively trusted India to fulfill its NSTC commitments and therefore relieve the country’s increasing US-imposed “isolation”, though Russia is much more strategically resilient because it’s not only interested in constructing the railway portion of the Trans-Arabian Corridor which the author analyzed in two analyses last year on this topic, but is also preparing itself to pioneer what his earlier cited RCEP-GEP analysis described as N-CPEC+. That neologism refers to the expansion of CPEC through post-war Afghanistan for connecting Russia with the Afro-Asian Ocean via the global pivot state of Pakistan.

The Fast-Moving Russian-Pakistani Rapprochement

This isn’t the author’s “wishful thinking” like some critics have alleged, but a serious project that’s proceeding apace after two extremely important developments in Russian-Pakistani relations in just as many months and possibly even a third one that might manifest itself next week. The Russian Trade Representative in Pakistan publicly announced his country’s intent to establish a “reliable and mutually acceptable” banking system following the resolution of their Soviet-era dispute last month, which the author analyzed represents the prerequisite towards making tangible progress on N-CPEC+. Earlier this month, a massive trade delegation from Russia visited Pakistan and committed to at least several billion dollars’ worth of investments, proving that progress on improving the economic dimension of Russian-Pakistani relations is proceeding faster than even the most optimistic observers expected.

As for the third instance, Iran invited Pakistan to participate in the joint naval drills that it’s hosting next week with Russia and China, which would build upon the growing closeness of the Russian and Pakistani navies in recent years which the author analyzed in his piece late last year about “Russia’s Naval Strategy In The Afro-Asian Ocean” should Islamabad take Tehran up on it. So concerned is India about this possible development that the Observer Research Foundation’s Head of the Maritime Policy Initiative Abhijit Singh wrote in his recent piece for Russia’s top think tank, the Valdai Club, that “many in New Delhi are worried over the prospect of Russia’s involvement in a naval exercise with both Pakistan and China in a sensitive Indian Ocean littoral region” and that “Russia’s engagement in the Indian Ocean has indeed grown but not quite in the way India’s maritime watchers had imagined”, which is exactly what the author predicted in his previously cited analysis a year ago.

Concluding Thoughts

Considering that India has all but officially bowed out of the NSTC by slashing its funding for Chabahar earlier this year and is now exploring the possibility of replacing that trade route with the “Israeli”-led Trans-Arabian Corridor instead (a trend that was obvious enough for any objective observer to discern), it makes perfect sense that Russia would take the necessary steps to ensure the viability its southern connectivity vision through N-CPEC+ in response. After all, its GEP is dependent on pioneering new axes of supercontinental connectivity, and with the NSTC no longer as promising as before, the only realistic recourse for Russia is N-CPEC+, which could also complement NSTC in the unlikely event that it’s revived by serving to diversify Moscow’s access to the Afro-Asian Ocean. India isn’t expected to be too happy about this development, but it was none other than its own decision to join the Trans-Arabian Corridor at the NSTC’s expense that inspired Russia’s N-CPEC+ outreaches to Pakistan.

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This article was originally published on OneWorld.

Andrew Korybko is an American Moscow-based political analyst specializing in the relationship between the US strategy in Afro-Eurasia, China’s One Belt One Road global vision of New Silk Road connectivity, and Hybrid Warfare. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Featured image is from OneWorldRussia’s S-400 Sale to India Won’t Imperil Its Partnership with PakistanThe original source of this article is Global ResearchCopyright © Andrew Korybko, Global Research, 2019

How the current Kashmir crisis presents a strategic opportunity for Iran

Agha Hussain

Posted originally to Eurasia Future on 19 August 2019.

India de facto annexed Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir earlier this month and heightened military tussles at the border with Pakistan have been a constant feature since then. India has sought to impose as much of a blackout in Kashmir as possible, albeit this hasn’t succeeded in stopping videos and testimonies of the repressionreaching global audiences. Awareness of the depth of the repression in Kashmir has been rising incrementally, making it increasingly difficult for anyone to ignore.

The possibly highly strategic dimension of the Kashmir conflict, however, and significance of the escalatory crescendo for Iran in particular is something that deserves special attention.

What’s unfolding in Kashmir and what it means for Iran

Following the martyrdom of iconic freedom fighter Burhan Wani in 2016, the Kashmiri Azaadi struggle entered a new phase altogether, with the amplified vigour driving the…

View original post 1,446 more words

Destabilizing Pakistan: Bookending Washington’s China Policy

Global Research, July 26, 2019

Much is being said of US activities aimed at China. Recent protests in Hong Kong together with a US-led propaganda campaign aimed at Beijing’s attempts to quell a growing terrorist threat in Xinjiang are aimed at pressuring the nation to fall back into line within Washington’s enduring unipolar international order.

The latter of these two campaigns in particular – claims of Chinese authoritarianism as Beijing attempts to neutralize US-backed separatists and terrorists in Xinjiang – has also been spun as China “targeting Muslims.”

This ignores the fact that one of China’s closest and oldest allies in Eurasia is Pakistan – a Muslim-majority nation. It also ignores the fact that in Pakistan, the US is playing the same game aimed at cultivating violent extremism, separatism, violence, division, and even the dissolution of Pakistan’s current borders.

Balochistan – the other Xinjiang 

While all the focus has been directed by the Western media on Xinjiang and a supposed “anti-Muslim crackdown” in the region, Pakistan faces the same problem in its southwestern province of Balochistan. In Pakistan – attempts by the government to root out violent separatists surely is not “anti-Muslim.” 

In Balochistan, the US agencies involved in fanning the flames of separatism and violence instead portray Islamabad and the Pakistani military’s efforts to restore order as simply trampling “human rights.” 

US interference in Balochistan is just as extensive as it is in China’s Xinjiang.

Despite the recent move by Washington to list the armed Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) as a terrorist organization – Islamabad has long accused Washington of funding and arming it along with segments of the Indian government aligned with US interests.

The fact that otherwise ignored activities by Balochistan separatists are covered by certain Indian newspapers even as recently as this year seems to give credence to these accusations. NDTV’s article, “Pro-Balochistan Slogans Raised During Imran Khan’s Address In US,” and India Today’s article, “16 EU Members of Parliament write letter to Trump to intervene in Balochistan,” are just two such examples.

US support is much easier to track down.

US-based Stanford University’s Mapping Militant Organizations project admits that the BLA receives much of its financial aid from the Balochi diaspora. The project’s profile on the Balochistan Liberation Army notes:

Due to high community support for autonomy and independence from people of the Balochistan, many analysts suspect that a large amount of the BLA’s income and weapons supply come from donations from the Balochi people. Balochi leaders have also claimed that financial contributions from the Balochi diaspora make it possible to procure arms and ammunition through the black market.

Thus, even if the US is not directly arming and funding the BLA, it is openly supporting pro-separatists among the Balochi diaspora who even Stanford University experts admit are – in turn – funding the BLA’s terrorism.

The US move to designate the BLA as a foreign terrorist organization holds little meaning. The BLA will find itself beside organizations like Jabhat Al Nusra in Syria which is all but openly funded and armed by the United States and a large cross-section of Washington’s closest European and Arab allies.

Arming militants is only half of the overall strategy seeking to destabilize Pakistan. Subverting national institutions and replacing them with those interlocking with US special interests is the other half.

US NED Working Hard in – and Against – Pakistan  

The US State Department-funded National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and its various subsidiaries are busy at work in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province as well as China’s Xinjiang.

NED has been directly funding and supporting the work of the “Balochistan Institute for Development” (BIFD) which claims to be:

“…the leading resource on democracy, development and human rights in Balochistan, Pakistan.”

In addition to organizing the annual NED-BFID “Workshop on Media, Democracy & Human Rights” BFID reports that USAID had provided funding for a “media-center” for the Baluchistan Assembly to “provide better facilities to reporters who cover the proceedings of the Balochistan Assembly.” It can be assumed that BFID meant reporters are “trained” at NED-BFID workshops and at its USAID-funded center.

There is also Voice of Balochistan whose every top-story is US-funded propaganda, including op-eds by US representatives promoting Balochi separatism, foundation-funded Reporters Without Borders, Soros-funded Human Rights Watch, and a direct message from the US State Department.

Like other US State Department funded propaganda outfits around the world – such as Thailand’s Prachatai – funding is generally obfuscated in order to main “credibility” even when the front’s constant torrent of obvious propaganda more than exposes the game.

The “Free Baluchistan” movement is a US and London-based organizations. The “Baloch Society of North America” serves as a useful aggregate and bellwether regarding US meddling in Pakistan’s Balochistan province. The group’s founder, Dr. Wahid Baloch, openly admits he has met with US politicians in regards to Balochistan independence. This includes Neo-Conservative corporate-lobbyist and National Endowment for Democracy board member, Zalmay Khalilzad.

Dr. Wahid Baloch considers Balochistan province “occupied” by both the Iranian and Pakistani governments – he and his movement’s humanitarian hand-wringing gives Washington the perfect pretext to create an armed conflagration against either Iran or Pakistan, or both, as planned in detail by various US policy think-tanks.

There is also the Baloch Students Organisation-Azad, or BSO. While it maintains a presence in Pakistan, it has coordinators based in London. London-based BSO members include “information secretaries” that propagate their message via social media, just as US and British-funded youth organizations did during the West’s operations against other targeted nations during the US-engineered “Arab Spring” in 2011.

And just as US-funded agitators in China’s Xinjiang region coordinate their activities with other US-backed groups across the rest of China – such as in Hong Kong and Tibet – other US NED-funded fronts in Pakistan also contribute to a wider campaign of dividing and undermining Pakistan.The US State Department funds Voice of America Deewa focused on Pakistan’s Pashtuns who inhabit Pakistan’s northwest region along its border with Afghanistan.

Despite VOA Deewa’s supposed area of focus, it is actually based in Washington DC. While many of the organizations it provides support for do not admit their US funding, organizations like “AdvoPak” are regularly promoted by VOA Deewa. US NED’s online publication, “Democracy Digest,” also promotes, interviews, and defends groups who appear to be funded by Washington and undoubtedly serve US interests in Pakistan.

This includes the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) which was featured by the Digest earlier this year in an article titled, “Pakistan’s military targets protest movement, stifles dissent.” While PTM doesn’t disclose its funding, it is regularly accused of receiving support from and working for both India and the US.The Democracy Digest article featured a video interview with a PTM member – Gulalai Ismail – who is in fact an NED Fellow. There is also NED’s “Tribute to Gulalai Ismail at the 2013 Democracy Award.”And all of this is just scratching the surface of US meddling in Pakistan’s internal politics and of organizations committed to creating synergies with US-backed separatists in Balochistan.

What Does Pakistan’s Balochistan and China’s Xinjiang Have in Common? 

Balochistan and Xinjiang both appear to be suffering from separatist movements, terrorism, and political destabilization. The common factor is clearly US backing behind both separatist movements – but what is the common denominator that has attracted US attention in the first place?Both Xinjiang and Balochistan are settings for massive Chinese-led infrastructure and trade initiatives. Western publications like the Business Insider note the importance Xinjiang holds in terms of China’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative.

Many of the routes that lead out of China, across Central Asia, and eventually into the Middle East and Western Europe pass through Xinjiang. US attempts to destabilize the region in turn directly impact the viability of Beijing’s OBOR initiative and the economic wealth and influence it stands to grant Beijing.

Likewise, a significant leg of the OBOR initiative extends from China and across Pakistan from north to south, through Balochistan until reaching Gwadar Port. Thus, by destabilizing Balochistan, this essential corridor’s full potential is inhibited.

This is a truth US special interests and the media interests they own will never admit to. This is why – instead – diverse tales of China’s “anti-Muslim” crackdown and Pakistan’s “distain for human rights” in Balochistan are used to sell two different US-backed conflicts fuelled for a singular agenda – impeding China’s rise and that of its allies – including Pakistan.

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Tony Cartalucci is a Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine New Eastern Outlook” where this article was originally published. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Featured image is from NEO

Iran’s Relations with India and Pakistan. Couldn’t Be More Different — Astute News

Iran is becoming increasingly desperate after the US intensified the economic component of its Hybrid War on the country, and while Indian Prime Minister Modi snubbed the Islamic Republic’s top diplomat during his visit to the country earlier this month and humiliatingly sent him back to his homeland empty-handed, his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan warmly […]

via Iran’s Relations with India and Pakistan. Couldn’t Be More Different — Astute News

Trump And PM Khan Might Have Just Ruined Iranian-Indian Relations

By Andrew Korybko
Source

The American and Pakistani leaders independently took two very important and uncoordinated moves at almost the exact same time that might coincidentally have the same effect of ruining Iranian-Indian relations.

Iranian-Indian relations might be about to enter their worst-ever period in modern history as a result of two very important and uncoordinated moves undertaken at almost the exact same time by the American and Pakistani leaders. PM Khan just paid his first visit to Iran where he and his hosts announced that they’ll enter into a new era of anti-terrorist cooperation that geopolitical analyst Adam Garrie comprehensively analyzed in his recent piece on this breaking news event. The ball was indeed in Iran’s court to stop India’s anti-Pakistani Baloch terrorism like I wrote the other day, and to Tehran’s credit, its leadership finally understood this and decided to expand its military partnership with the global pivot state of Pakistan. This will greatly complicate India’s Hybrid War capabilities in clandestinely using Iranian territory to carry out terrorist attacks against Pakistan by proxy as it obsessively seeks to sabotage CPEC, meaning that PM Khan’s visit will have far-reaching and long-term geostrategic security consequences in the New Cold War.

In parallel with this, Trump decided that the US won’t renew its Iranian oil sanctions waivers and that Washington’s GCC partners of Saudi Arabia and the UAE will help the Islamic Republic’s energy customers replace their imports with Gulf resources instead. India was very vocal last year about its intent to defy the US’ unilateral sanctions against Iran, but as I wrote in my piece at the time about the “Indian Illusion“, all of this was just rhetoric to hide the fact that New Delhi was quietly implementing its new American patron’s will. Trump just put Modi on the spot, however, and it might augur negatively for the Indian leader during the ongoing month-long electoral process if he publicly capitulates to the US’ demands and replaces Iranian resources with Gulf ones like I suspected he’s been planning to do since late last year after his summit in Argentina with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. As such, this American move might also be yet another “bad cop” tactic against Modi to get more strategic concessions out of India.

It therefore wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that Trump and PM Khan might have just ruined Iranian-Indian relations for good when considering the combined effect of their latest moves to that relationship. The Pakistani leader exposed India’s Hybrid War terrorist plot during his talks with the Iranian leadership which probably explains why the two neighboring nations decided to take their military cooperation with one another to the next level, while the American leader is forcing India to stop importing Iranian oil under the threat of potentially crippling “secondary sanctions” and to replace its resources with those from the Islamic Republic’s hated GCC foes. Although Iran and India still have shared strategic interests in the Chabahar Corridor and North-South Transport Corridor, the trust that formerly defined their relations is broken and their ties will never be the same. The end result is beneficial to the US and Pakistan for different reasons and might even interestingly be a tangential outcome of their recent diplomatic cooperationin Afghanistan.

Pakistan And Iran Enter New Era of Anti-Terror Cooperation

By Adam Garrie
Source

Just as the PKK and its sister organisation PJAK are a mutual threat to both Turkey and Iran’s western frontier, so too are terror groups active on the Iran-Pakistan border a mutual threat to both countries that are best neutralised through joint efforts. This was proved beyond a shadow of a doubt when in February of this year a suicide bomber from Pakistan’s Balochistan frontier with Iran took the lives of 27 Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) soldiers and likewise the message was made doubly clear when last week, terrorists based in the neighbouring Iranian province of Sistan and Baluchestan crossed into Pakistan disguised as soldiers and martyred 14 innocent people at point blank range after boarding a bus on the Makran Coastal Highway.

As the Makran Coastal Highway attack came days before Pakistani Prime Minister’s first visit to Iran, it may well have been a calculated provocation designed to inflame Pakistan’s relations with Iran during a season when both countries had already experienced a degradation in relations due to Iran’s hyperbolic reaction to the 13 February attack. Mohammad Ali Jafari, at the time the commander-in-chief of the IRGC made inflammatory remarks about seeking “revenge” on Pakistan for an atrocity committed by a non-state terror group proscribed as an enemy of Pakistan. Jafari’s unambiguous comments which blamed Pakistani state institutions for the attack on the IRGC cast a new narrative over the region which lead one to logically conclude that India’s investments in the Iranian port at Chabahar combined with a misunderstanding of Pakistan’s partnership with Saudi Arabia, led Iranian officials into saying things that should not have been said about a potentially strategically important neighbour.

By contrast, after the Makran Coastal Highway attack, Pakistan launched a formal diplomatic complaint to Iran and the Foreign Minister stated that the issue would be a top priority during Imran Khan’s meeting with the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

News has now broken that a breakthrough has in fact been reached as Pakistan and Iran have agreed to form a joint border patrol “reaction force” that will see Pakistani and Iranian soldiers police an erstwhile porous border that has led to deeply unfortunate attacks on both countries from terrorists who have no regard for either Pakistani nor Iranian national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Even before the announcement of the joint reaction force, there were indications that Iran’s top leadership had realised the errors that were made in February in respect of blaming Pakistan for an attack that should have been a clear indicator of the fact the further cooperation was urgently needed. Yesterday, Iran’s Supreme Leader Sayyid Ali Hosseini Khamenei relieved Mohammad Ali Jafari of his duties as the IRGC commander-in-chief and replaced him with Brigadier General Hossein Salami. It is likely that the change of the guard in this respect was motivated by internal factors but the timing of the announcement has the optics of a good will gesture to Pakistan as Jafari was among the most unhinged when it came to slandering Pakistani state institutions in February. As geopolitical expert Andrew Korybko wrote last week, “the ball is in Iran’s court” and it seems that this time Tehran did in fact make the proper decision to favour win-win cooperation over totally unnecessary lose-lose antagonism and suspicion.

Overall, Iran and Pakistan have the potential to be important strategic partners in areas beyond the all-important matter of cross-border security and counter-terrorism cooperation. In the long term, Iran could form an important part of a wider CPEC+. Such a Belt and Road based trading structure could potentially see goods originating from China before travelling across CPEC to Gwadar, then being shipped to Iran where they could then either travel to north-west Eurasia via the Caucasus or otherwise into the Mediterranean via Iran’s Turkish neighbour, thus bypassing the Suez region in which Israel and other enemies of Iran hold a great deal of influence.

In terms of energy cooperation, the long anticipated pipeline from Iran into south Asia is a project that has been stalled but nevertheless holds great potential for new win-win energy exchange in the region.

Finally, as geopolitical expert Agha Hussain recently pointed out, if Iran is to bolster its pan-Islamic credentials at a time when the country is facing unique challenges from the west, Israel and parts of the Arab world, it would behove Tehran to embrace the cause of Kashmiri justice just as the country has since its inception as an Islamic Republic, embraced the cause of Palestinian justice. Not only would this help demonstrate that Iran’s Islamic Revolution is more than just a single issue geopolitical development but it would help to eliminate many of the false stereotypes that some Pakistanis have about Iran and that some Iranians have about Pakistan.

The task now for both countries is to make sure that the reaction force is well-equipped and that cooperation along the border can help to create a new era of win-win relations for both neighbours.

The Ball’s In Iran’s Court To Stop Anti-Pakistani Baloch Terrorism

By Andrew Korybko
Source

Pakistan filed an official complaint against Iran just two days before Prime Minister Khan’s first visit to the Islamic Republic for its unwillingness to take action against Baloch terrorist groups like the one that claimed credit for the recent terror attack along the Makran Coastal Highway despite being informed by Islamabad about training camps and logistics bases within its borders, which therefore puts the ball in Iran’s court to stop this resurgent trend of transnational terrorism in the region and will obviously figure very high on the agenda during the Pakistani leader’s upcoming two-day visit.

An umbrella group of three Baloch terrorist organizations claimed credit for the recent killing of 14 Pakistanis who were pulled off of a bus traveling along the Makran Coastal Highway by fighters disguised as legitimate members of the security services and martyred in front of the other passengers. Pakistan filed an official complaint against Iran just two days before Prime Minister Khan’s first visit to the Islamic Republic for its unwillingness to take action against Baloch terrorist groups such as the one that was responsible for the latest attack, claiming that Tehran had previously been informed by Islamabad of training camps and logistics bases within its borders but hadn’t done anything to address this resurgent trend of transnational terrorism in the region. Although it’s not directly stated, the complaint heavily implies a high degree of hypocrisy on the side of the Iranian government which had previously resorted to over-the-top rhetoric back in February after a Baloch terrorist attack along the Pakistani frontier, even ridiculously hinting that an Indian-like “surgical strike” against Pakistan was one of the options on the table.

I wrote about that incident in a previous piece about how “Iran’s Being Tricked Into Making Balochistan The New Kurdistan” by India, but Tehran apparently doesn’t care all that much because it’s too obsessed with the carrot of potential “sanctions relief” that “Israel’s” new ally in New Delhi is dangling in front of it through the Chabahar Corridor even though “Iran Just Fell Victim To Blowback From The US-Indian Hybrid War On CPEC” back in December. I explained how India’s RAW (its version of the Mossad) is responsible for this upsurge in regional terrorism, which the whole world is already aware of after Pakistan provided evidence of this to the United Nations’ International Court of Justice following the capture of Hybrid Waragent Kulbushan Jadhav and his admission to operating out of Iran’s nearby Indian-owned Chabahar port. My analysis at the time mentioned that Iran had the chance to use that tragedy to strengthen anti-terrorist cooperation with Pakistan along their shared border and possibly establish an Iranian version of the “Overseas Pakistani Baloch Unity” initiative (OPBU, recently rebranded to PBU after dropping the first prefix) for reintegrating wayward Baloch into society.

It now looks as though Iran ignored that opportunity and is therefore indirectly responsible for the latest terrorist attack in Pakistan as a result of its negligence. It’s important to point out that the incident was probably timed to coincide with Prime Minister Khan’s first two-day visit to Iran just like the February one against the Islamic Republic was likely inended to provoke a crisis in bilateral relations precisely at the moment that India was planning its Bollywood-like “surgical strike” against Pakistan. Islamabad wisely isn’t biting the bait but it surely isn’t going to leave Iran’s irresponsibility to its neighbor unaddressed during the Prime Minister’s trip either, especially since last week’s terrorist attack was obviously meant to diminish international confidence in CPEC after targeting one of the global pivot state’s main transit routes connecting to the terminal port of Gwadar. As such, Iran’s IRGC are compelled to take decisive action against the Indian-backed terrorist groups on their soil if they themselves truly aren’t the “terrorists” that Trump claims that they are, thus putting the ball in their court and making Prime Minister Khan’s upcoming visit a defining moment in bilateral relations.

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