America’s ‘Suez moment’: Another strategic mistake would be its last

27 December 2021

“The chance of a global conflict involving real armies and real arms has never been higher. Biden should bear this in mind” (Illustration by MEE)
David HearstDavid Hearst is co-founder and editor-in-chief of Middle East Eye. He is a commentator and speaker on the region and analyst on Saudi Arabia. He was The Guardian’s foreign leader writer, and was correspondent in Russia, Europe, and Belfast. He joined the Guardian from The Scotsman, where he was education correspondent.

David Hearst

In 2021, President Joe Biden truly reaped a bitter harvest from the strategic foreign policy errors of four of his predecessors. But Washington would do well to think before it makes its next move

“America has just had its Suez Crisis,” commented a member of the Iranian delegation at the nuclear talks in Vienna about the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban, “but it has yet to see it.”

It’s not just the fall of Kabul.

In 2021, President Joe Biden truly reaped a bitter harvest from the strategic foreign policy errors of four of his predecessors. As he was the vice president for one of them, Barack Obama, he has trouble seeing this as well. The seeds of each of the major global conflict zones post – Afghanistan, Ukraine, Taiwan, and Iran were planted long ago. 

It’s not just the fall of Kabul. What unravelled this year was no less than three decades of bungled US global governance

What unravelled this year was no less than three decades of bungled US global governance.

Each US president in the post-Soviet period shared the belief that he had the file to himself. It was not something to be shared at the UN Security Council. He was the commander-in-chief of the largest, best-equipped and most mobile armed force in the world, one that could stage over the horizon attacks with devastating accuracy. The US president controls 750 military bases in 80 different countries. He also had the biggest pocket, the world’s reserve currency, so, ergo, he could now set the rules.

What could possibly go wrong?

With that belief came two assumptions that proved to be fatally flawed: that the US monopoly on the use of force would last forever – it ended with Russia’s intervention in Syria – and that the US could continue to enforce a “rules-based” world order – so long as it continued to make the rules. Biden has quietly buried both assumptions by admitting that great powers will be forced to “manage” their competition to avoid conflict that no one can win. 

But hang on a moment. There is something not quite right here.

The cause and effect theory

Major conflicts, which have the potential to produce tank battles not seen since World War II, like Ukraine, do not just happen.

There is cause and effect. The cause was the unilateral but at the time uncontroversial decision to expand Nato eastwards in the 1990s, abandoning the model of a largely demilitarised and missile-free Eastern Europe that had been discussed with president Mikhail Gorbachev a decade earlier.Why global conflict is no longer unthinkableJoe Gill Read More »

This was done to give new meaning to Nato, a military pact whose purpose died when its enemy did. Complete rubbish was talked about Nato “cementing” democracy in Eastern Europe by guaranteeing its independence from Moscow. But remember the mood at the time. It was triumphalist. Not only was capitalism the only economic system left, but its neo-liberal brand was the only brand worth promoting. 

For a brief moment, Moscow became an eastern gold rush, a Klondike for venture capitalists, Ikea, Carrefour, Irish pubs, and bible bashers. The Russians, meanwhile, were obsessed with designer labels, not politics.  

The Americans in Moscow – at the time – did not bother much about what their hosts thought or did. Russia became irrelevant on the international stage. US advisers boasted about writing the decrees the Russian president Boris Yeltsin issued. And Yeltsin returned the favour by handing over the designs of the latest Russian tank and the wiring diagram of bugs placed by the KGB in the concrete foundation of an extension being built in the US embassy. 

Then US President George Bush and his Soviet counterpart Mikhail Gorbachev after a two-day US-Soviet Summit dedicated to the disarmament on 31 July, 1991 (AFP)
Then-US president George Bush and his Soviet counterpart Mikhail Gorbachev after a two-day US-Soviet summit dedicated to disarmament, on 31 July 1991 (AFP)

For Russian nationalists, this was nothing less than an act of treason. But doors were open so wide to the West that literally everything that was not nailed down flew through them – nuclear scientists, missile engineers, the cream of the KGB, and suitcases full of cash. Where do you think the Russians who settled in Highgate in North London, or the Hamptons on Long Island, or Cyprus, or Israel got their money from?

For a time, even the word “West” dropped out of Russian political vocabulary because the new Russians thought they had just joined it.

Ukraine, the West’s victim

The first US ambassador to the newly created Russian Federation, Robert Strauss, spent more time defending what happened in the Kremlin than the White House. Western embassies became spokesmen for a Russia they thought they now owned. 

It is now in the US’ strategic interest to staunch any more bloodletting in the battlefields it created this century

Strauss downplayed the first reports of the rise of the Russian mafia state, as a mere bagatelle. “This is what Chicago was like in the 20s,” he told me. This was followed by inanities about the green shoots of democracy and the time it took to mow an English lawn. As if he knew.

Bill Clinton and Tony Blair were similarly blasé about what they did in Russia.

The Russian army was “a joke”. When the Russians sent their armoured columns into Grozny in December 1994, the West thought it could be stopped by small bands of determined Chechens; their pilots had only three hours flying time each month: their frigates sailed in pairs – one to patrol, the second to tow back the first one when it broke down; their submarines sunk.

And so Nato pushed eastwards.

No one at the time bought the argument that all Nato would do was to push the line of confrontation eastwards. Russia’s pleas to negotiate a security architecture for Eastern Europe fell on deaf ears. They are not falling on deaf ears now, with 90,000 Russian troops massed on Ukraine’s borders. 

The victim of this gross act of western stupidity was Ukraine, which for at least the first decade after the fall of the Soviets had survived intact and largely in peace. Civil wars raged all around it, but Ukraine itself maintained its political and social unity despite being comprised of very different communities. With the exception of Western Ukraine, which never forgot that it had been captured by the Bolsheviks from the crumbling Austro-Hungarian empire, Russian and Ukrainian speakers lived in peace.

Now it is divided forever, scared by a civil war from which it will never recover. Ukraine will never regain its lost unity, and for that, Brussels is as much to thank as the bully boys from Moscow.

Ukrainian servicemen take part in the joint Rapid Trident military exercises with the US and other Nato countries not far from Lviv on 24 September 2021 (AFP)
Ukrainian servicemen take part in the joint Rapid Trident military exercises with the US and other Nato countries not far from Lviv, on 24 September 2021 (AFP)

The new cold war

Then there is China. Pivoting eastwards surely did not mean ending one Cold War and starting a new one with China, but that too is inexorably happening. Biden cannot decide whether to calm President Xi down or confront him, but doing each in sequence will not work. 

To get a measure of what mainland China feels when British warships sail through the Taiwan Strait, how would Britain react if Chinese warships appeared in the Irish Sea and sailed between Scotland and Northern Ireland?How to avert a global conflict between China, Russia and the WestMarco Carnelos

Read More »

The game of “managing” competition has human consequences as devastating as the superpower triumphalism of the 1990s, and those can be observed in Afghanistan today. The Afghanistan of the ousted Afghani president Ashraf Ghani truly was a Potemkin village, a facade of independent statehood. 

An astonishing 300,000 troops and soldiers on its government’s books did not exist. “Ghost soldiers” were added to official lists so that generals would pocket their wages, Afghanistan’s former finance minister Khalid Payenda told the BBC. The black hole of the former corrupt regime’s finances was an open secret long before Biden set a date for withdrawal. 

A report for the US special inspector general for Afghanistan (SIGAR) warned in 2016: “Neither the United States nor its Afghan allies know how many Afghan soldiers and police actually exist, how many are in fact available for duty, or, by extension, the true nature of their operational capabilities.”

Now that the tap of US income has been turned off, Afghanistan is on the verge of a nationwide famine. But, incredibly, the US is blaming this situation on the Taliban. It withholds money on the grounds of human rights, the night-time revenge killings on former state employees, or the suppression of education for women.

Much of the Afghan central bank’s $10bn in assets is parked overseas, including $1.3bn in gold reserves in New York. The US Treasury is using this money as a lever to pressure the Taliban on women’s rights and the rule of law. It has granted a licence to the US government and its partners to facilitate humanitarian aid and it gave Western Union permission to resume processing personal remittances from migrants overseas.

But the US does not hold itself to account for having nurtured a state that cannot function without the money that it is now withholding. The US has direct responsibility for the famine that is now taking place in Afghanistan. To withhold money from the Taliban because they took power militarily, rather than negotiate their re-entry with other Afghan warlords, also wears somewhat thin. 

Same story

The Taliban walked into Kabul with barely a shot fired because everything crumbled before them. The speed of the collapse of Afghan forces blindsided everybody – even Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), who are accused by India and western governments of running the Haqqani network of the Taliban. The only country that really knew what was happening was Iran, because officers of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) were with the Taliban as they walked in, according to Iranian sources close to the IRGC.

US President Joe Biden looks at Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) prior to their meeting at the 'Villa la Grange' in Geneva on 16 June, 2021 (AFP)
A child cries on a sidewalk in Kabul, on 27 December 2021 (AFP)

Even the ISI were blindsided by the speed of this collapse. An informed source told me in Islamabad: “We had expected the NDS [National Directorate of Security] to put up a fight in Mazar-i-Sharif, Herat, Kandahar and Kunduz. That would have produced a stalemate and the possibility for negotiation a more inclusive government.”

But we are where we are. “There were some improvements in the last 20 years. There was a middle class in Kabul, women’s education. But if you want to lose everything, this is the way to do it. The Taliban will go hardline if the place runs out of money. If you want to protect the liberal elements, you have to make Afghanistan stable.”

Pivoting eastwards surely did not mean ending one Cold War and starting a new one with China, but that too is inexorably happening

The Pakistani source listed 10 jihadi groups, as opposed to the one jihadi group, al-Qaeda, that was around in 2001. And the ISI do not know what happened to the arms the Americans left behind.

“We simply don’t know in whose hands they have ended up,” he said. When they pressed the Taliban on forming an inclusive government, the Taliban shot back at them: “Do you have an inclusive government? Do you have a government that includes the PML-N? What do you think it would be like in Pakistan if you had to reconcile groups of fighters who had killed each other’s sons and cousins?”

Starved of funds, there is only one way for the breakaway groups to go – into the hands of the jihadists. He ended his analysis with the following thought: is it really in the US interest to stabilise Afghanistan? If they let the money through, it would mean supporting the very axis of China, Russia and Pakistan that they were now determined to push back. The faltering talks in Vienna, the crisis on Ukraine’s border, renewed tension and military posturing in Taiwan, are all part of the same story.

Strategic mistakes

Washington would do well to look at the map of the world and think before it makes its next move. A long period of reflection is needed. Thus far it has obtained the dubious distinction of getting every conflict it has engaged with in this century wrong. 

The US has entered a new era where it can no longer change regimes by force of arms or sanctions

The chance of a global conflict involving real armies and real arms has never been higher and the tripwire to using weapons of mass destruction has never been strung tighter. Nor have all the world’s military powers been better armed, able and willing to start their own inventions.

Biden should bear this in mind.

It is now in the US’ strategic interest to staunch any more bloodletting in the battlefields it created this century. That means the US should come to a deal with Iran by lifting the sanctions it imposed on Tehran since the 2015 JCPOA. If it wants to balance the growing Chinese and Russian influence in the Middle East, that is the surest way to do it.

Iran is not going to give up its missiles any more than Israel is going to ground its air force. But a deal in Vienna could be a precursor to regional Gulf security negotiations. The Emiratis, Qataris, Omanis and Kuwaitis are all ready for it. If Washington wants to apply rules, let it do so first with its allies, who have extraordinary impunity for their brutal actions.

If Washington is the champion of human rights it claims to be, start with Saudi Arabia or Egypt. If it is the enforcer of international law, let’s see Washington make Israel pay a price for its continued settlement policy, which makes a mockery of UN Security Council resolutions, and the US’ own policy for a resolution to the Palestinian conflict. 

The Abraham Accords were devised to establish Israel as America’s declared and open regional surrogate. Had Donald Trump secured a second term, such a policy would have been a disaster for US strategic interests in the Middle East. Already Israel thinks it has a veto on US decision making in the region. With this policy fully in place, it would have been in charge of it, which would have meant permanent conflict created by a military power that always strikes first.

Israel acts with ruthless logic. It will use any opportunity to expand its borders until a Palestinian state becomes an impossibility. It probably has already succeeded in that aim. However, this is not US policy. But this expansion continues, almost week in, week out, because no one in Washington will lift a finger to stop it. Doing nothing about armed lynch mobs of settlers attacking unarmed Palestinian villagers in the West Bank is the same as agreeing to them. 

If you want to be a champion of rules, apply those rules to yourself first.

This is the only way to regain lost global authority. The US has entered a new era where it can no longer change regimes by force of arms or sanctions. It has discovered the uselessness of force. It should drop the stick and start handing out bucket loads of carrots. It should get on with the urgent task of deconfliction.

After the damage done this century by conflicts ordered, created and backed by US presidents – Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya – that is not only a responsibility but a duty. 

Another US strategic mistake would be its, and Western Europe’s, last. 

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Will the Islamic world save Afghanistan?

Between the complex internal dynamics of the Taliban and the western trick of conditional aid, it is the Muslim world that must act to save Afghanistan

December 21 2021

An earlier meeting between Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi and Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood QureishiPhoto Credit: The Cradle

By Pepe Escobar

Afghanistan was at the heart of the 17th Extraordinary Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers representing 57 nations at the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC).

It was up to Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan to deliver the keynote address to the session, held on 19 December at the Parliament House in Islamabad.

And he rose to the occasion: “If the world doesn’t act, this will be the biggest man-made crisis which is unfolding in front of us.”

Imran Khan was addressing not only representatives of the lands of Islam, but also UN officials, the proverbial “global financial institutions,” scores of NGOs, a smattering of US, EU and Japanese bureaucrats and, crucially, Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi.

No nation or organization has yet formally recognized the Taliban as the new, legitimate Afghan government. And quite a few are frankly more interested in engaging in an elaborate kabuki, pretending to deliver some sort of aid to the devastated Afghan economy after 20 years of US/NATO occupation instead of actually coordinating aid packages with Kabul.

The numbers are dire, and barely tell the full extent of the drama.

According to the UNDP, 22.8 million Afghan citizens – over half of Afghanistan – are facing food shortages, and soon, acute hunger; while no less than 97 percent of Afghans could soon fall under the poverty line. In addition, the World Food Programme stresses that 3.2 million Afghan children risk acute malnutrition.

Imran Khan emphasized that the OIC had a “religious duty” to help Afghanistan. As for the ‘hyperpower’ that stunned the world with its humiliating withdrawal show after 20 years of occupation, he was adamant: Washington must “delink” whatever grudges it may hold against the Taliban government from the destiny of 40 million Afghan citizens.

Imran Khan did ruffle a few Afghan feathers – starting with former President Hamid Karzai, when he observed that “the idea of human rights is different in every society,” referring to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which borders Afghanistan.

“The city culture is completely different from the culture in rural areas …,” he said. “We give stipends to the parents of the girls so that they send them to school. But in districts bordering Afghanistan, if we are not sensitive to the cultural norms, then they won’t send them to school despite receiving double the amount. We have to be sensitive about human rights and women rights.”

This was interpreted in a few quarters as Pakistani interference – part of a secret, devious strategic narrative. Not really. The prime minister was stating a fact, as anyone familiar with the tribal areas knows. Even Afghan Foreign Minister Muttaqi said the prime minister’s words were not “insulting”.

Imran Khan also observed that there are already over three million Afghan refugees in Pakistan. Moreover, Islamabad is sheltering more than 200,000 refugees who overstayed their visas. “They can’t go back. We are already suffering from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. We are not in a position to deal with an influx of refugees.”

Would you ever trust NATO?

Then there’s the ultimate nut to crack: internal Taliban dynamics.

Diplomatic sources confirm off the record that it’s a non-stop struggle to convince different layers of the Taliban leadership to allow for some concessions.

Discussions with the NATO block are for, all practical purposes, dead: bluntly, there will be no help without visible concessions on girls’ education, women’s rights and the heart of the matter – on which everyone agrees, including the Russians, the Chinese and the Central Asians – a more inclusive government in Kabul.

So far, Taliban pragmatists – led by the Doha political office – have been on the losing end.

The OIC meeting at least came up with practical suggestions involving Islamic development banks. Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi was keen to emphasize the necessity of getting Kabul to access banking services.

This is the heart of the problem: there are no solid banking channels after NATO departed. So it’s technically impossible to transfer financial aid into the system and then distribute it across hard-hit provinces. Yet, once again, this is ultimately linked to those lofty western humanitarian aid pledges crammed with conditionalities.

In the end, Qureshi, together with the OIC Secretary-General Hissein Brahim Taha, announced that a ‘humanitarian trust fund’ will be established as soon as possible, under the aegis of the Islamic Development Bank. The fund should be able to incorporate international partners, non-politicized westerners included.

Qureshi put out his bravest face, emphasizing that “the need is felt to forge a partnership between the OIC and the UN.”

Taha, for his part, was quite realistic. No funds whatsoever have been pledged so far for this new OIC humanitarian operation.

As Qureshi mentioned, there is one thing which Russia, China, Iran, Pakistan and other actors may decisively help with: investment “in the people of Afghanistan, bilaterally or through the OIC, in areas such as education, health and technical and vocational skills to the Afghan youth.”

So now it comes to the crunch – and fast. It’s up to the OIC to play the leading role in terms of alleviating Afghanistan’s dire humanitarian drama.

The official declaration calling on all OIC member states, Islamic financial institutions, donors, and unnamed ‘international partners’ to announce pledges to the humanitarian trust fund for Afghanistan will have to go way beyond rhetorical flourish.

At least, it’s all but certain that from now on, it will be up to the lands of Islam to decisively help Afghanistan. A bitter, defeated, vengeful, internally corroded NATO simply cannot be trusted.

Nobody today remembers that the Empire had concocted its own version of the New Silk Road over 10 years ago, announced by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Chennai in July 2001.

That was no ‘community of shared future for mankind,’ but a very narrow obsession on capturing energy resources – in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan; ‘stabilizing’ Afghanistan, as in perpetuating the occupation; giving a boost to India; and ‘isolating’ Iran.

The energy supply routes to the west should have gone through the Caspian Sea, and then across Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey – the three actors of the BTC pipeline – thus bypassing Russia, which was already then being depicted in the west as a ‘threat’.

All this is dead and buried – as post-occupation Afghanistan alongside the five Central Asian ‘stans’ are now back as one of the key foci of interest of the Russia–China strategic partnership: the heart of a Greater Eurasia spanning from Shanghai in the east to St. Petersburg in the west.

Yet to make it happen, it’s imperative that the OIC helps Afghanistan as much as the Taliban must help themselves.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.

New trade corridor connecting Iran and Europe

19 Dec 2021

Net Source: Agencies

By Al Mayadeen

The Iranian ambassador to Baku says a new trade corridor will be activated this week linking Iran and Europe via Azerbaijan.

The new corridor comes after the revival of the ECO and the INSTC corridor

Iran’s ambassador to Baku, Abbas Mousavi, announced Saturday that the new corridor linking Iran to Europe via Azerbaijan, Georgia, and the Black Sea will be activated this week.

On Twitter, Mousavi said that the new corridor comes after the revival of the ECO Corridor between Pakistan, Iran and Turkey, and the International North-South Transport Corridor (Finland, Russia, the Republic of Azerbaijan, Iran, the Persian Gulf, and India).

The ECO corridor’s objective is to strengthen economic relations between Tehran, Ankara, and Islamabad and to facilitate trade and investment in the region.

On the other hand, the INSTC corridor is a 7,200-km-long multi-mode network of ship, rail, and road routes to link and increase trade between countries of the region including India, Iran, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Russia, Central Asia and Europe, mentioned Mehr news agency.

It is noteworthy that on December 10th, Moscow witnessed the first meeting between deputy foreign ministers of a new regional cooperation titled 3+3, which consists of Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia from the South Caucasus and three neighboring countries, namely Russia, Turkey, and Iran.

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

The US Is Taking Note Of Russia’s Pragmatic Stance Towards The Taliban

18 NOVEMBER 2021

The US Is Taking Note Of Russia’s Pragmatic Stance Towards The Taliban

By Andrew Korybko

Source

Newsweek’s interview with Russian Special Presidential Envoy to Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov was significant because it was the first time that Russia’s pragmatic stance towards the Taliban was given publicity and treated fairly by a major Western media outlet.

Russian Special Presidential Envoy to Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov was recently interviewed by Newsweek about his country’s pragmatic stance towards the Taliban. This high-profile and fairly conducted media appearance speaks to the fact that the US is taking note of Russia’s evolving position. It also signals the incipient progress that’s been achieved in improving bilateral relations since this summer’s Biden-Putin Summit because it shows that Russia and the US are interested in working more closely together on this issue of mutual concern. Prior to summarizing the insight that the envoy shared, the piece will point readers in the direction of the author’s prior analyses on this topic that were published at the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) in case they’re interested in some background briefings:

* 3 June 2020: “Pakistan’s Role In Russia’s Greater Eurasian Partnership

* 24 June 2021: “The Geostrategic Challenges Of Russia’s ‘Ummah Pivot’

* 14 July 2021: “Russia’s ‘Ummah Pivot’: Opportunities & Narrative Engagement

* 25 August 2021: “Russia & The Taliban: From Narrative Challenges To Opportunities

* 27 September 2021: “Comparing The Contours Of Russia’s Ummah Pivot In Syria & Afghanistan

To sum it up for those readers with limited time, Afghanistan forms a crucial component of Russia’s Greater Eurasian Partnership (GEP) because it functions as the irreplaceable transit state for facilitating its overland connectivity with South Asia. Pakistan helped Russia enter into contact with the Taliban due to all sides’ shared anti-ISIS concerns, after which Moscow began to independently cultivate its own relations with the group that it still formally designates as terrorists. That political issue hasn’t hampered their cooperation though since they’re now coordinating on humanitarian, security, and socio-economic issues. Russia’s surprising successes in this respect are entirely attributable to its pragmatic grand strategy of attempting to become Eurasia’s supreme “balancing” force in the 21st century.

———-

Kabulov began the interview by stating Russia’s top two policy goals in Afghanistan: seeing it become a normal state at peace with itself and its neighbors; and containing international terrorist and drug trafficking threats. He then proceeded to explain that the Taliban has evolved from what he claims was its prior “global jihadist agenda” to becoming a “military political opposition” movement in Afghanistan. They beat NATO because they had better morale, he said. Although their post-war vision differs from the socio-political models that Russia and other countries adhere to within their own borders, Moscow nevertheless respects it. Even so, Kabulov insisted that his country wants the Taliban to abide by “basic human rights and international relations rules”.

These include an ethno-politically inclusive government and equal socio-economic opportunities for women. The envoy praised the progress that’s been achieved thus far, especially in terms of retaining a diversity of media outlets in the country and establishing law and order, but he of course also noted that a lot of work still remains to be done. Kabulov lauded the Taliban’s anti-terrorist struggle against ISIS (which is also banned in Russia) and said that they “are actually doing this much better than your and previous administration forces”. Since “they are serving both regional and international interests” in this respect, Russia is against all efforts to weaken its relevant capacities. The envoy also hopes that the US releases Afghanistan’s frozen funds so that the Taliban doesn’t need to rely on the drug trade.

As for the state of cooperation with the US on this issue, Kabulov sounded upbeat but noted that a lot of their discussions concerned dealing with the same financial and security messes that America itself is responsible for creating in Afghanistan. The Troika Plus framework between those two, China, and Pakistan was also presented as an example of their fruitful cooperation thus far. These four countries’ top priority right now is to avert Afghanistan’s impending humanitarian crisis and brainstorming multilateral solutions for sustainably improving its socio-economic situation. Broader cooperation with the Central Asian Republics (CAR), Iran, France, and Germany is possible too.

Kabulov expressed relief that the US hasn’t succeeded in setting up any regional bases, which he said would have provoked attacks against those host states by the Taliban and other terrorist groups. He also revealed how displeased Russia was with the US’ initial attempts to have it and the region shoulder the Afghan burden. A balance must be struck, he implied, between the US and its allies responsibly cleaning up the mess that they made there and other stakeholders assisting these efforts in a fair way that doesn’t ask too much of them or anything else that might be unrealistic. In the worst-case scenario that the situation deteriorates, Kabulov said this country’s CAR allies can count on Russia to defend their national security.  

Russia will not, however, render any anti-terrorist military assistance to the Taliban, nor has such been requested of it from the group. Kabulov then commented on the emerging regional consensus surrounding the need to help stabilize Afghanistan and contain the various threats that might emanate from it. The Moscow and Islamabad Format talks, as well comparatively minor supplementary ones like the latest virtual event in Tehran, are proof of this in practice. The envoy cautioned, however, against needlessly multiplying meetings just for the sake of it without focusing on achieving tangible dividends from each process, the most urgent of which concern humanitarian issues followed by anti-terrorist and drug-related ones.

Russia’s goal is to prevent Afghanistan from ever being exploited by foreign terrorist organizations to carry out another 9/11. About that world-changing event, Kabulov said that it was unfair to punish the Afghan people when none of their compatriots participated in it and only Osama Bin Laden operated from there. Arming Afghans with political and economic instruments can help them prevent this from ever happening again, the envoy advised. Going forward, Russia will continue working with its Troika Plus partners to convince other donors like those in Europe to contribute to averting Afghanistan’s impending humanitarian crisis. In conclusion, Kabulov hopes that the Taliban will continue to make comprehensive progress by having their comparatively moderate elements keep radical ones in check.

———-

This interview was significant because it was the first time that Russia’s pragmatic stance towards the Taliban was given publicity and treated fairly by a major Western media outlet. Kabulov’s interviewer wasn’t aggressive or provocative like Western ones usually are. Rather, they seemed sincerely interested in better understanding his country’s position so that their own and others could potentially learn from it. This further reinforces the earlier mentioned observation that relations between those two countries are improving when it comes to areas of mutual concern. Evidently, both sides have made progress on responsibly regulating their rivalry since their leaders met this summer. Afghanistan can therefore serve as a perfect example of Russian-American cooperation and help build more trust.

Of course, that best-case scenario is still a far way’s off as seen by the US’ reluctance to release Afghanistan’s frozen assets, but there’s still no denying that the present state of affairs could obviously be a lot worse than it is. Russia hopes to lead the international community’s efforts to stabilize the situation in Afghanistan or at the very least avert its impending humanitarian crisis. China and Pakistan are playing major roles in this respect too, but the former is considered by the US to be its top global rival while the latter has limited influence on the global stage. That’s why it falls onto Russia to rally the international community around this shared cause. The US can greatly assist if it encourages its Western allies to follow suit. Until that happens, progress will remain limited and uncertainty will prevail.

New Great Game in the Caucasus and Central Asia (Updated: Maps)

NOVEMBER 12, 2021

New Great Game in the Caucasus and Central Asia - Asia Times
New Great Game in the Caucasus and Central Asia (Updated: Maps)

Players unite and face off so fast Eurasian integration’s chessboard feels like musical chairs prestissimo

by Pepe Escobar for the Saker Blog and cross-posted with Asia Times

The Eurasian chessboard is in non-stop motion at dizzying speed.

After the Afghanistan shock, we’re all aware of the progressive interconnection of the Belt and Road Initiative, the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), and of the preeminent roles played by Russia, China and Iran. These are the pillars of the New Great Game.

Let’s now focus on some relatively overlooked but no less important aspects of the game – ranging from the South Caucasus to Central Asia.

Iran under the new Raisi administration is now on the path of increased trade and economic integration with the EAEU, after its admission as a full member of the SCO. Tehran’s “Go East” pivot implies strengthened political security as well as food security.

That’s where the Caspian Sea plays a key role – as inter-Caspian sea trade routes completely bypass American sanctions or blockade attempts.

An inevitable consequence, medium to long term, is that Iran’s renewed strategic security anchored in the Caspian will also extend to and bring benefits to Afghanistan, which borders two of the five Caspian neighbors: Iran and Turkmenistan.

The ongoing Eurasian integration process features a Trans-Caspian corridor as a key node, from Xinjiang in China across Central Asia, then Turkey, all the way to Eastern Europe. The corridor is a work in progress.

Some of it is being conducted by CAREC (Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation), which strategically includes China, Mongolia, Pakistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, the five Central Asian “stans” and Afghanistan. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) coordinates the secretariat.

CAREC is not a Chinese-driven Belt and Road and Asian Infrastructure Development Bank (AIIB) body. Yet the Chinese do interact constructively with the Western-leaning, Manila-based ADB.

Belt and Road is developing its own corridors via the Central Asian “stans” and especially all the way to Iran, now strategically linked to China via the long-term, $400 billion energy-and-development deal.

Practically, the Trans-Caspian will run in parallel to and will be complementary to the existing BRI corridors – where we have, for instance, German auto industry components loading cargo trains in the Trans-Siberian bound all the way to joint ventures in China while Foxconn and HP’s laptops and printers made in Chongqing travel the other way to Western Europe.

The Caspian Sea is becoming a key Eurasian trade player since its status was finally defined in 2018 in Aktau, in Kazakhstan. After all, the Caspian is a major crossroads simultaneously connecting Central Asia and the South Caucasus, Central Asia and West Asia, and northern and southern Eurasia.

It’s a strategic neighbor to the International North-South Transportation Corridor (INSTC) – which includes Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan and India –while also connecting Belt and Road and the EAEU.

Watch the Turkic Council

All of the above interactions are routinely discussed and planned at the annual St Petersburg Economic Forum and the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia’s top economic meetings alongside the Valdai discussions.

But then there are also interpolations between players – some of them leading to possible partnerships that are not exactly appreciated by the three leading members of Eurasia integration: Russia, China and Iran.

For instance, four months ago Kyrgyzstan’s Foreign Minister Ruslan Kazakbaev visited Baku to propose a strategic partnership – dubbed 5+3 – between Central Asia and South Caucasus states.

Ay, there’s the rub. A specific problem is that both Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan are members of NATO’s Partnership for Peace – which is a military gig – and also of the Turkic Council, which has embarked on a resolute expansion drive. To complicate matters, Russia also has a strategic partnership with Azerbaijan.

The Turkic Council has the potential to act as a monkey wrench dropped into the – Eurasian – works. There are five members: Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.

This is pan-Turkism – or pan-Turanism – in action, with a special emphasis on the Turk-Azeri “one nation, two states.” Ambition is the norm: The Turkic Council has been actively trying to seduce Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Hungary to become members.

Assuming the 5+3 idea gets traction that would lead to the formation of a single entity from the Black Sea all the way to the borders of Xinjiang, in thesis under Turkish preeminence. And that means NATO preeminence.

Russia, China and Iran will not exactly welcome it. All of the 8 members of the 5+3 are members of NATO’s Partnership for Peace, while half (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Armenia) are also members of the counterweight, the Russia-led CSTO.

Eurasian players are very much aware that in early 2021 NATO switched the command of its quite strategic Very High Readiness Joint Task Force to Turkey. Subsequently, Ankara has embarked on a serious diplomatic drive – with Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Aka visiting Libya, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

Translation: That’s Turkey – and not the Europeans – projecting NATO power across Eurasia.

Add to it two recent military exercises, Anatolian 21 and Anatolian Eagle 2021, focused on special ops and air combat. Anatolian 21 was conducted by Turkish special forces. The list of attendants was quite something, in terms of a geopolitical arc. Apart from Turkey, we had Albania, Azerbaijan, Pakistan, Qatar, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan – with Mongolia and Kosovo as observers.

Once again, that was Pan-Turkism – as well as neo-Ottomanism – in action.

Watch the new Intermarium

Speculation by Brzezinski nostalgia denizens that a successful 5+3, plus an expanded Turkic Council, would lead to the isolation of Russia in vast swaths of Eurasia are idle.

There’s no evidence that Ankara would be able to control oil and gas corridors (this is prime Russian and Iran territory) or influence the opening up of the Caspian to Western interests (that’s a matter for the Caspian neighbors, which include, once again, Russia and Iran). Tehran and Moscow are very much aware of the lively Erdogan/Aliyev spy games constantly enacted in Baku.

Pakistan for its part may have close relations with Turkey – and the Turk-Azeri combo. Yet that did not prevent Islamabad from striking a huge military deal with Tehran.

According to the deal, Pakistan will train Iranian fighter pilots and Iran will train Pakistani anti-terrorism special ops. The Pakistani Air Force has a world-class training program – while Tehran has first-class experience in anti-terror ops in Iraq/Syria as well as in its sensitive borders with both Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The Turk-Azeri combo should be aware that Baku’s dream of becoming a trade/transportation corridor hub in the Caucasus may only happen in close coordination with regional players.

The possibility still exists of a trade/connectivity Turk-Azeri corridor to be extended into the Turkic-based heartland of Central Asia. Yet Baku’s recent heavy-handedness after the military victory in Nagorno-Karabakh predictably engineered blowback. Iran and India are developing their own corridor ideas going East and West.

It was up to the chairman of Iran’s Trade Promotion Organization, Alireza Peymanpak, to clarify that “two alternative Iran-Eurasia transit routes will replace Azerbaijan’s route.” The first should open soon, “via Armenia” and the second “via sea by purchasing and renting vessels.”

That was a direct reference, once again, to the inevitable International North-South Transportation Corridor: rail, road and water routes crisscrossing 7,200 kilometers and interlinking  Russia, Iran, Central Asia, the Caucasus, India and Western Europe. The INSTC is at least 30% cheaper and 40% shorter than existing, tortuous routes.

Baku – and Ankara – have to be ultra-savvy diplomatically not to find themselves excluded from the inter-connection, even considering that the original INSTC route linked India, Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia.

Two camps seem to be irreconcilable at this particular juncture: Turkey-Azerbaijan on the one hand and India-Iran on the other, with Pakistan in the uncomfortable middle.

The key development is that New Delhi and Tehran have decided that the INSTC will go through Armenia – and not Azerbaijan – all the way to Russia.

That’s terrible news for Ankara – a wound that even an expanded Turkic Council would not heal. Baku, for its part, may have to deal with the unpleasant consequences of being regarded by top Eurasian players as an unreliable partner.

Anyway, we’re still far from the finality expressed by the legendary casino mantra, “The chips are down.” This is a chessboard in non-stop movement.

We should not forget, for instance, the Bucharest Nine: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia. That concerns a prime NATO wet dream: the latest remix of the Intermarium – as in de facto blocking Russia out of Europe. A dominating team of 5 +3 and Bucharest Nine would be the ultimate pincer in terms of  “isolating” Russia.

Ladies and gentlemen, place your bets.

Central Eurasia Pipelines
Iranian Canal Proposed
Eurasian Transport Corridors

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

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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A commented reading of Putin’s speech at Valdai

October 24, 2021

Note: Below is the full speech made by made by Vladimir Putin, to which I have added red colors to add emphasis and a few comments of my own written in the blue color.  And while I do not have the energy or time to repeat this exercise for the Q&A section which followed his speech, I highly encourage you all to also read it!
Andrei

——-

A commented reading of Putin’s speech at Valdai

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Ladies and gentlemen,

To begin with, I would like to thank you for coming to Russia and taking part in the Valdai Club events.

As always, during these meetings you raise pressing issues and hold comprehensive discussions of these issues that, without exaggeration, matter for people around the world. Once again, the key theme of the forum was put in a straightforward, I would even say, point-blank manner: Global Shake-up in the 21st Century: The Individual, Values and the State.

Here Putin clearly indicated that he is not talking about local or even regional political issues, but that what we are witnessing is a planetary crisis and a planetary shakeup of the international world order.

Indeed, we are living in an era of great change. If I may, by tradition, I will offer my views with regard to the agenda that you have come up with.

In general, this phrase, “to live in an era of great change,” may seem trite since we use it so often. Also, this era of change began quite a long time ago, and changes have become part of everyday life. Hence, the question: are they worth focusing on? I agree with those who made the agenda for these meetings; of course they are.

In recent decades, many people have cited a Chinese proverb. The Chinese people are wise, and they have many thinkers and valuable thoughts that we can still use today. One of them, as you may know, says, “God forbid living in a time of change.” But we are already living in it, whether we like it or not, and these changes are becoming deeper and more fundamental. But let us consider another Chinese wisdom: the word “crisis” consists of two hieroglyphs – there are probably representatives of the People’s Republic of China in the audience, and they will correct me if I have it wrong – but, two hieroglyphs, “danger” and “opportunity.” And as we say here in Russia, “fight difficulties with your mind, and fight dangers with your experience.”

This sentence contains two very important components: first, Putin contrasts difficulties with dangers, hinting at the fact that what Russia considered as primarily as “difficulties” in the past is transitioning into a real danger.  Second, he also indicates how Russia fought dangers in the past.  The single most important collective experience in Russia’s recent history are, of course, the two revolutions in 1917 (February and October) and WWII.  The first two were internal, the other one external.  So this could be summed up as “no revolution inside Russia and no outside aggression against Russia“.

Of course, we must be aware of the danger and be ready to counter it, and not just one threat but many diverse threats that can arise in this era of change. However, it is no less important to recall a second component of the crisis – opportunities that must not be missed, all the more so since the crisis we are facing is conceptual and even civilisation-related. This is basically a crisis of approaches and principles that determine the very existence of humans on Earth, but we will have to seriously revise them in any event. The question is where to move, what to give up, what to revise or adjust. In saying this, I am convinced that it is necessary to fight for real values, upholding them in every way.

As I have been repeating it on this blog for more than a decade, the current crisis is not (just) about resources, it is a civilizational crisis and, here is the crucial factor, while in 2010 Putin still talked about Russia being European, the tone has now changed, he is clearly opposing two civilizational models: the Western one and the Russian one.  That, by the way, clearly implies that Russia is not part of the West, at least not civilizationally.

Humanity entered into a new era about three decades ago when the main conditions were created for ending military-political and ideological confrontation. I am sure you have talked a lot about this in this discussion club. Our Foreign Minister also talked about it, but nevertheless I would like to repeat several things.

A search for a new balance, sustainable relations in the social, political, economic, cultural and military areas and support for the world system was launched at that time. We were looking for this support but must say that we did not find it, at least so far. Meanwhile, those who felt like the winners after the end of the Cold War (we have also spoken about this many times) and thought they climbed Mount Olympus soon discovered that the ground was falling away underneath even there, and this time it was their turn, and nobody could “stop this fleeting moment” no matter how fair it seemed.

This is a direct dig at those narcissistic people in the West who thought that they had “defeated Communism” while, in reality, the CPSU defeated itself, and who thought that from now on, the West would rule the world forever and unchallenged.  Some even got medals for “winning the Cold War” while, in reality, the USSR and the CPSU just committed suicide.

In general, it must have seemed that we adjusted to this continuous inconstancy, unpredictability and permanent state of transition, but this did not happen either.

I would like to add that the transformation that we are seeing and are part of is of a different calibre than the changes that repeatedly occurred in human history, at least those we know about. This is not simply a shift in the balance of forces or scientific and technological breakthroughs, though both are also taking place. Today, we are facing systemic changes in all directions – from the increasingly complicated geophysical condition of our planet to a more paradoxical interpretation of what a human is and what the reasons for his existence are.

Here, again, Putin is trying to wake up his audience, especially the delusional folks in the West, about the nature and magnitude of the changes taking place before our eyes: a series systemic changes in all directions.

Let us look around. And I will say this again: I will allow myself to express a few thoughts that I sign on to.

Firstly, climate change and environmental degradation are so obvious that even the most careless people can no longer dismiss them. One can continue to engage in scientific debates about the mechanisms behind the ongoing processes, but it is impossible to deny that these processes are getting worse, and something needs to be done. Natural disasters such as droughts, floods, hurricanes, and tsunamis have almost become the new normal, and we are getting used to them. Suffice it to recall the devastating, tragic floods in Europe last summer, the fires in Siberia – there are a lot of examples. Not only in Siberia – our neighbours in Turkey have also had wildfires, and the United States, and other places on the American continent. It sometimes seems that any geopolitical, scientific and technical, or ideological rivalry becomes pointless in this context, if the winners will have not enough air to breathe or nothing to drink.

The coronavirus pandemic has become another reminder of how fragile our community is, how vulnerable it is, and our most important task is to ensure humanity a safe existence and resilience. To increase our chance of survival in the face of cataclysms, we absolutely need to rethink how we go about our lives, how we run our households, how cities develop or how they should develop; we need to reconsider economic development priorities of entire states. I repeat, safety is one of our main imperatives, in any case it has become obvious now, and anyone who tries to deny this will have to later explain why they were wrong and why they were unprepared for the crises and shocks whole nations are facing.

This is very important.  Whatever one thinks of the virus and the pandemic, the total chaos in which each country did its own thing has shown that even a major crisis does NOT unite humanity, due to many objective reasons.  Furthermore, the capitalist societies, far from being solid, are all barely surviving, by a very thin thread, mostly by printing money, lying to the people and by creating bubbles.  The western unsinkable Titanic is sinking, but the orchestra is still playing, very loudly.

Second. The socioeconomic problems facing humankind have worsened to the point where, in the past, they would trigger worldwide shocks, such as world wars or bloody social cataclysms. Everyone is saying that the current model of capitalism which underlies the social structure in the overwhelming majority of countries, has run its course and no longer offers a solution to a host of increasingly tangled differences.

Marx saw the internal contradictions of capitalism, as did many many others, but nobody reads him anymore and the others are forgotten.  Personally, I will never forget the speech of a Pakistani delegate to the UN in Geneva saying “the internal contradictions of Communism have caught up with the Soviet Union before the internal contradictions of capitalism will catch up with the West“.  How right he was, and now this is hard to deny!  Capitalism, being parasitical in nature, could only live off the plundering of the planet (hence Lenin’s remark about “imperialism being the latest stage of capitalism”).  The West “survived” the USSR by 3 decades only because these decades were decades of plunder of defenseless countries: now that there is nobody else to plunder and rob (what is left is either too poor or too strong), the crisis of capitalism explodes for all to see.

Everywhere, even in the richest countries and regions, the uneven distribution of material wealth has exacerbated inequality, primarily, inequality of opportunities both within individual societies and at the international level. I mentioned this formidable challenge in my remarks at the Davos Forum earlier this year. No doubt, these problems threaten us with major and deep social divisions.

This especially for those who hate Putin for going to Davos: not only does his presence there not prove at all that he is “in cahoots with the western capitalists”, it proves that when Putin meets them (as he should, they are the real powers ruling the Empire), he warns them about their own future and indicates to them how Russia will act when the crisis comes.  This is something that the people in the West seem to have a mental block over: the Russians always talk to everybody, even their worst enemies.  One thousand years of existential warfare as taught them the wisdom of this approach: there is a time for everything, including a time to talk and a time to kill, and Russians are very expert at both!  This is why Russia talks to Israel, Iran and the KSA, and this is why Russia talks to the Taliban (which under Russian law are still terrorists, though Putin hinted that this might change in the future, depending on what the Taliban do).  Russians will never refuse to talk to any entity, no matter how evil or dangerous it is, as long as it/he has real agency!  Do the folks in Davos have real agency?  Hell yes!  So OF COURSE the Russians will talk to them.  Finally, talking to a dangerous enemy is simply not seen as bad thing, Russian princes did that with the Tatars for several centuries.  Then the Russians won, militarily.

Furthermore, a number of countries and even entire regions are regularly hit by food crises. We will probably discuss this later, but there is every reason to believe that this crisis will become worse in the near future and may reach extreme forms. There are also shortages of water and electricity (we will probably cover this today as well), not to mention poverty, high unemployment rates or lack of adequate healthcare.

Here Putin is being very specific: he warns about a future food crisis which will reach an extreme form.  You can be pretty sure that this warning is based on SVR analyses about the very real risk of violent riots, including food riots, happening in the West.  As for Russia, she has the largest freshwater reserves on the planet, is amongst the top agricultural powers on the planet, and has enough energy to keep her going for centuries.  Last but not least, Russia now has the most powerful military on the planet and she will not allow the West, even a hungry West, to come a simply rob her of her own riches.

Lagging countries are fully aware of that and are losing faith in the prospects of ever catching up with the leaders. Disappointment spurs aggression and pushes people to join the ranks of extremists. People in these countries have a growing sense of unfulfilled and failed expectations and the lack of any opportunities not only for themselves, but for their children, as well. This is what makes them look for better lives and results in uncontrolled migration, which, in turn, creates fertile ground for social discontent in more prosperous countries. I do not need to explain anything to you, since you can see everything with your own eyes and are, probably, versed on these matters even better than I.

As I noted earlier, prosperous leading powers have other pressing social problems, challenges and risks in ample supply, and many among them are no longer interested in fighting for influence since, as they say, they already have enough on their plates. The fact that society and young people in many countries have overreacted in a harsh and even aggressive manner to measures to combat the coronavirus showed – and I want to emphasise this, I hope someone has already mentioned this before me at other venues – so, I think that this reaction showed that the pandemic was just a pretext: the causes for social irritation and frustration run much deeper.

The issue of the need to never conflate or confuse cause and pretext is something Putin often mentions.  In this case, what he is saying is that the lockdowns were not the cause of the protests, but rather the spark that set off the social explosion whose true causes are in the unsustainable and, frankly, inhuman nature of the hypocritical, immoral, and unsustainable western capitalist order and worldview (capitalism is both).

I have another important point to make. The pandemic, which, in theory, was supposed to rally the people in the fight against this massive common threat, has instead become a divisive rather than a unifying factor. There are many reasons for that, but one of the main ones is that they started looking for solutions to problems among the usual approaches – a variety of them, but still the old ones, but they just do not work. Or, to be more precise, they do work, but often and oddly enough, they worsen the existing state of affairs.

Western capitalism is all about individualism.  It is based on the notion that the sum of our greeds will result in the best human society possible.  Of course, this is a lie, and while it does force people to work hard motivated either by greed (the rich) or survival (the poor), it cannot generate a society, a civilization, which can act together against a common threat: everybody pulls the blanket to himself, that is all there is to the so-called “western civilizational values”: the rest is just ideological prolefeed for the deceived masses.

By the way, Russia has repeatedly called for, and I will repeat this, stopping these inappropriate ambitions and for working together. We will probably talk about this later but it is clear what I have in mind. We are talking about the need to counter the coronavirus infection together. But nothing changes; everything remains the same despite the humanitarian considerations. I am not referring to Russia now, let’s leave the sanctions against Russia for now; I mean the sanctions that remain in place against those states that badly need international assistance. Where are the humanitarian fundamentals of Western political thought? It appears there is nothing there, just idle talk. Do you understand? This is what seems to be on the surface.

Here Putin even spells out the self-evident truth which is not impossible to conceal: Where are the humanitarian fundamentals of Western political thought? It appears there is nothing there, just idle talk.  The fact that he said it twice, so publicly, is one of the most important statements in his entire career and one of the key reasons why the western ruling classes are now going into deep hysterics: they feel like the proverbial naked king.

Furthermore, the technological revolution, impressive achievements in artificial intelligence, electronics, communications, genetics, bioengineering, and medicine open up enormous opportunities, but at the same time, in practical terms, they raise philosophical, moral and spiritual questions that were until recently the exclusive domain of science fiction writers. What will happen if machines surpass humans in the ability to think? Where is the limit of interference in the human body beyond which a person ceases being himself and turns into some other entity? What are the general ethical limits in the world where the potential of science and machines are becoming almost boundless? What will this mean for each of us, for our descendants, our nearest descendants – our children and grandchildren?

These changes are gaining momentum, and they certainly cannot be stopped because they are objective as a rule. All of us will have to deal with the consequences regardless of our political systems, economic condition or prevailing ideology.

Verbally, all states talk about their commitment to the ideals of cooperation and a willingness to work together for resolving common problems but, unfortunately, these are just words. In reality, the opposite is happening, and the pandemic has served to fuel the negative trends that emerged long ago and are now only getting worse. The approach based on the proverb, “your own shirt is closer to the body,” has finally become common and is now no longer even concealed. Moreover, this is often even a matter of boasting and brandishing. Egotistic interests prevail over the notion of the common good.

There are too many examples to list them here, so I will pick one: the “molecules of freedom” which Uncle Shmuel promised to its European vassals are now in Asia.  QED.

Of course, the problem is not just the ill will of certain states and notorious elites. It is more complicated than that, in my opinion. In general, life is seldom divided into black and white. Every government, every leader is primarily responsible to his own compatriots, obviously. The main goal is to ensure their security, peace and prosperity. So, international, transnational issues will never be as important for a national leadership as domestic stability. In general, this is normal and correct.

We need to face the fact the global governance institutions are not always effective and their capabilities are not always up to the challenge posed by the dynamics of global processes. In this sense, the pandemic could help – it clearly showed which institutions have what it takes and which need fine-tuning.

The re-alignment of the balance of power presupposes a redistribution of shares in favour of rising and developing countries that until now felt left out. To put it bluntly, the Western domination of international affairs, which began several centuries ago and, for a short period, was almost absolute in the late 20th century, is giving way to a much more diverse system.

Okay, but here allow me to point out that I said the same thing, much more directly and in detail, before Putin did :-).  See this article, where I even gave dates: “the Empire died on January 8th 2020, and the US died almost an exact year later, on January 6th 2021“.  To see the non-moderated and, therefore, quite spontaneous reaction these words elicited, please check out the comments section under the Unz version of the same article.  I fully expect the reaction to these words by Putin to mimic the hysterics in the Unz comments section: impotent rage, personal hatred, hysterical flagwaving, and a barrage of unoriginal insults.  None of that noise will affect the outcome, not in the least.  Uncle Shmuel and his Empire are dead, they only appear alive due to momentum (and superb brainwashing in Zone A) and another world order, one in which the West will play a secondary role, at best, is being formed before our eyes.

This transformation is not a mechanical process and, in its own way, one might even say, is unparalleled. Arguably, political history has no examples of a stable world order being established without a big war and its outcomes as the basis, as was the case after World War II. So, we have a chance to create an extremely favourable precedent. The attempt to create it after the end of the Cold War on the basis of Western domination failed, as we see. The current state of international affairs is a product of that very failure, and we must learn from this.

This is a topic which a lot of Russian historians and analysts talk about: in the past, all the vast reorganizations of the international order resulted in wars which then defined the final shape of that order, until the next crisis, that is.  Plainly, this is the issue the Russians are raising: can the West collapse and merge into the new international order without triggering a major war, especially since such a major war will probably be nuclear and threaten the survival of the human race?  Russia did all she can do to deter the West: she built a military capable of matching and even surpassing the united armies of the imperial West on all levels, from the tactical to the operational to the strategic, and if the West decided to go down in its own Götterdämmerung, Russia will make sure that nobody survives her (as Putin said “what need do we have of a world without Russia?” and “at least we will die like martyrs, they will just croak“).  But at the end of the day, whether the leaders of the AngloZionist Empire will trigger the final holocaust of mankind or not is in their hands.  There is nothing more Russia can do to avert that outcome.

Some may wonder, what have we arrived at? We have arrived somewhere paradoxical. Just an example: for two decades, the most powerful nation in the world has been conducting military campaigns in two countries that it cannot be compared to by any standard. But in the end, it had to wind down operations without achieving a single goal that it had set for itself going in 20 years ago, and to withdraw from these countries causing considerable damage to others and itself. In fact, the situation has worsened dramatically.

But that is not the point. Previously, a war lost by one side meant victory for the other side, which took responsibility for what was happening. For example, the defeat of the United States in the Vietnam War, for example, did not make Vietnam a “black hole.” On the contrary, a successfully developing state arose there, which, admittedly, relied on the support of a strong ally. Things are different now: no matter who takes the upper hand, the war does not stop, but just changes form. As a rule, the hypothetical winner is reluctant or unable to ensure peaceful post-war recovery, and only worsens the chaos and the vacuum posing a danger to the world.

Colleagues,

What do you think are the starting points of this complex realignment process? Let me try to summarise the talking points.

First, the coronavirus pandemic has clearly shown that the international order is structured around nation states. By the way, recent developments have shown that global digital platforms – with all their might, which we could see from the internal political processes in the United States – have failed to usurp political or state functions. These attempts proved ephemeral. The US authorities, as I said, have immediately put the owners of these platforms in their place, which is exactly what is being done in Europe, if you just look at the size of the fines imposed on them and the demonopolisation measures being taken. You are aware of that.

There was no coordinated international response to the pandemic, each country did what it thought it should do.  The same will happen with future threats, such is the nature of our current planetary (dis)organization and international institutions made no difference.

In recent decades, many have tossed around fancy concepts claiming that the role of the state was outdated and outgoing. Globalisation supposedly made national borders an anachronism, and sovereignty an obstacle to prosperity. You know, I said it before and I will say it again. This is also what was said by those who attempted to open up other countries’ borders for the benefit of their own competitive advantages. This is what actually happened. And as soon as it transpired that someone somewhere is achieving great results, they immediately returned to closing borders in general and, first of all, their own customs borders and what have you, and started building walls. Well, were we supposed to not notice, or what? Everyone sees everything and everyone understands everything perfectly well. Of course, they do.

That is a dig at the western libertarians: Putin is most definitely a “statist”, and he believes, like most Russians, that the state is not only useful, it is vital.

There is no point in disputing it anymore. It is obvious. But events, when we spoke about the need to open up borders, events, as I said, went in the opposite direction. Only sovereign states can effectively respond to the challenges of the times and the demands of the citizens. Accordingly, any effective international order should take into account the interests and capabilities of the state and proceed on that basis, and not try to prove that they should not exist. Furthermore, it is impossible to impose anything on anyone, be it the principles underlying the sociopolitical structure or values that someone, for their own reasons, has called universal. After all, it is clear that when a real crisis strikes, there is only one universal value left and that is human life, which each state decides for itself how best to protect based on its abilities, culture and traditions.

Here, again, Putin is not being ideological at all, he brings it all down to a basic issue of survival.  And the key to survival is the existence of a truly sovereign and strong state, with real, actual, agency.

In this regard, I will again note how severe and dangerous the coronavirus pandemic has become. As we know, more than 4.9 million have died of it. These terrifying figures are comparable and even exceed the military losses of the main participants in World War I.

That’s for those who still bought into the entire “there is no pandemic” nonsense and implies a question: what would it take for you to wake up to reality? 5 million? 10 million? 20?

The second point I would like to draw your attention to is the scale of change that forces us to act extremely cautiously, if only for reasons of self-preservation. The state and society must not respond radically to qualitative shifts in technology, dramatic environmental changes or the destruction of traditional systems. It is easier to destroy than to create, as we all know. We in Russia know this very well, regrettably, from our own experience, which we have had several times.

Putin here refers to all the terrible revolutions Russia went through during the 20th century: twice in 1917, then 1991 and 1993.  Putin is strongly opposed to ideologically motivated and violent revolutions.  That does not mean that he believes that whatever preceded these revolutions was good or should have been kept, only that changes must be made very gradually and carefully, and never under the hysterical screams and slogans of crazies drunk on ideological certainties.

Just over a century ago, Russia objectively faced serious problems, including because of the ongoing World War I, but its problems were not bigger and possibly even smaller or not as acute as the problems the other countries faced, and Russia could have dealt with its problems gradually and in a civilised manner. But revolutionary shocks led to the collapse and disintegration of a great power. The second time this happened 30 years ago, when a potentially very powerful nation failed to enter the path of urgently needed, flexible but thoroughly substantiated reforms at the right time, and as a result it fell victim to all kinds of dogmatists, both reactionary ones and the so-called progressives – all of them did their bit, all sides did.

These examples from our history allow us to say that revolutions are not a way to settle a crisis but a way to aggravate it. No revolution was worth the damage it did to the human potential.

Quick reminder: even revolutions which are announced as “bloodless” end up spilling more blood than anybody could imagine.  Here I would like to quote Gandhi “I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent“.  Okay, maybe not really permanent, but certainly it lasts much MUCH longer that whatever “good” violence was supposed to achieve.

Third. The importance of a solid support in the sphere of morals, ethics and values is increasing dramatically in the modern fragile world. In point of fact, values are a product, a unique product of cultural and historical development of any nation. The mutual interlacing of nations definitely enriches them, openness expands their horizons and allows them to take a fresh look at their own traditions. But the process must be organic, and it can never be rapid. Any alien elements will be rejected anyway, possibly bluntly. Any attempts to force one’s values on others with an uncertain and unpredictable outcome can only further complicate a dramatic situation and usually produce the opposite reaction and an opposite from the intended result.

That is a direct dig at the Woke-inspired pseudo-Wakanda the crazies in the West are now advocating for, there will be much more about this below.

We look in amazement at the processes underway in the countries which have been traditionally looked at as the standard-bearers of progress. Of course, the social and cultural shocks that are taking place in the United States and Western Europe are none of our business; we are keeping out of this. Some people in the West believe that an aggressive elimination of entire pages from their own history, “reverse discrimination” against the majority in the interests of a minority, and the demand to give up the traditional notions of mother, father, family and even gender, they believe that all of these are the mileposts on the path towards social renewal.

This is about the USA and how it committed suicide.  What Putin is saying is this: you want to commit suicide, by all means, do it, but do not try to get us to follow you, because we never ever will.

Listen, I would like to point out once again that they have a right to do this, we are keeping out of this. But we would like to ask them to keep out of our business as well. We have a different viewpoint, at least the overwhelming majority of Russian society – it would be more correct to put it this way – has a different opinion on this matter. We believe that we must rely on our own spiritual values, our historical tradition and the culture of our multiethnic nation.

It’s all true.  Most Russians, irrespective of their ethnicity, religion or political ideas like gender differentiated couples, with a father and a mother, each in his/her role.  If the USA wants to transform itself into a “Trannystan” run by gender fluid creatures of an undetermined nature and function, no problem.  But Russia openly and categorically rejects such a model no matter how loud the protest of “human rights” (or tranny rights) organization in the West will protest.

The advocates of so-called ‘social progress’ believe they are introducing humanity to some kind of a new and better consciousness. Godspeed, hoist the flags as we say, go right ahead. The only thing that I want to say now is that their prescriptions are not new at all. It may come as a surprise to some people, but Russia has been there already. After the 1917 revolution, the Bolsheviks, relying on the dogmas of Marx and Engels, also said that they would change existing ways and customs and not just political and economic ones, but the very notion of human morality and the foundations of a healthy society. The destruction of age-old values, religion and relations between people, up to and including the total rejection of family (we had that, too), encouragement to inform on loved ones – all this was proclaimed progress and, by the way, was widely supported around the world back then and was quite fashionable, same as today. By the way, the Bolsheviks were absolutely intolerant of opinions other than theirs.

That is also something I have said many times: many of the so-called “minorities” in the West are every bit as intolerant and even violent as the Trotskysts in Soviet Russia.  While they wrap themselves in the mantles of “acceptance”, “positivity” or “diversity” the truth is you better agree with them, or else.  I can personally attest that this blog has lost a few readers (not nearly as many as they wish to believe!) and even authors over my refusal to consider homosexuality as a “normal and natural variation of human sexuality”.  Some of these folks even wrote me long letters of insults in the apparent belief this that would impress me.  There are many minorities in the West and the world and the rulers of the Empire use them to great effectiveness to first, distract from the real issues and, second, to destroy the western civilization (I reposted one recently here).  In my experience, the single most intolerant and ideologically-wired group are homosexuals, leaving militant feminists far behind.  But the BLM or Antifa types are also display a typically Trotskyst mindset.  As for the Alt-Right, Q-anon and the rest of the “don’t tread on me” folks (who have been trodded upon since birth and never had be brains or reality awareness realize this!), they dream about “Evropa”, drive around on Harleys, stock on ammo and guns and sometimes even seem to believe that Putin or Russia is on their side.  And yes, while they are rather pathetic, they are much LESS ideological intolerant and, therefore, less potentially violent, than their “progressive” counterparts.  The US ruling classes use them ALL for the sole purpose of staying in power.

This, I believe, should call to mind some of what we are witnessing now. Looking at what is happening in a number of Western countries, we are amazed to see the domestic practices, which we, fortunately, have left, I hope, in the distant past. The fight for equality and against discrimination has turned into aggressive dogmatism bordering on absurdity, when the works of the great authors of the past – such as Shakespeare – are no longer taught at schools or universities, because their ideas are believed to be backward. The classics are declared backward and ignorant of the importance of gender or race. In Hollywood memos are distributed about proper storytelling and how many characters of what colour or gender should be in a movie. This is even worse than the agitprop department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

He said is plainly here: “aggressive dogmatism bordering on absurdity”.  And, believe me, after 70 years of Bolshevik rule, Russians know all they need to know about “aggressive dogmatism bordering on absurdity”.  Then want NO part of it.

Countering acts of racism is a necessary and noble cause, but the new ‘cancel culture’ has turned it into ‘reverse discrimination’ that is, reverse racism. The obsessive emphasis on race is further dividing people, when the real fighters for civil rights dreamed precisely about erasing differences and refusing to divide people by skin colour. I specifically asked my colleagues to find the following quote from Martin Luther King: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by their character.” This is the true value. However, things are turning out differently there. By the way, the absolute majority of Russian people do not think that the colour of a person’s skin or their gender is an important matter. Each of us is a human being. This is what matters.

That’s one for those ignorant idiots who believe that Russia cares about the “White race”, including, alas, a few folks who consider themselves Russian, or say so, but whose worldview is categorically opposed to the traditional Russian one: Russians don’t think or use categories such as skin color or ethnicity (the last Czar was more German than Russian for example, and his wife was German).  Unlike the West, which was born in the 12th century and who has been imperialist ever since the First Crusade, Russia, like the East Roman Empire (aka Byzantium) or, before that, the Roman and Alexandrian empires, was always multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious and western notions such as “the White race” have no meaning whatsoever in the traditional Russian worldview (even the Bolsheviks officially were internationalists, albeit mostly russophobic ones, but that is another topic).

In a number of Western countries, the debate over men’s and women’s rights has turned into a perfect phantasmagoria. Look, beware of going where the Bolsheviks once planned to go – not only communalising chickens, but also communalising women. One more step and you will be there.

Yup, he dared to say it:  “the debate over men’s and women’s rights has turned into a perfect phantasmagoria”.  I can just imagine the rage these words will trigger.

Also, about “communilizing” chicken or women.  He is referring to the various ideologies, from Plato to Marx, who wanted to subvert the traditional family and make women “communal”.  For those who have no idea what I am referring to, I can only recommend the following book by Igor Shafarevich “The Socialist Phenomenon“.

Zealots of these new approaches even go so far as to want to abolish these concepts altogether. Anyone who dares mention that men and women actually exist, which is a biological fact, risk being ostracised. “Parent number one” and “parent number two,” “’birthing parent” instead of “mother,” and “human milk” replacing “breastmilk” because it might upset the people who are unsure about their own gender. I repeat, this is nothing new; in the 1920s, the so-called Soviet Kulturtraegers also invented some newspeak believing they were creating a new consciousness and changing values that way. And, as I have already said, they made such a mess it still makes one shudder at times.

Here again, Putin OPENLY denounces the entire “Woke” ideology, which he compares to the Nazi ideology (hence his use of the term Kulturtraeger), its ideologues and its CRIMES, see next

Not to mention some truly monstrous things when children are taught from an early age that a boy can easily become a girl and vice versa. That is, the teachers actually impose on them a choice we all supposedly have. They do so while shutting the parents out of the process and forcing the child to make decisions that can upend their entire life. They do not even bother to consult with child psychologists – is a child at this age even capable of making a decision of this kind? Calling a spade a spade, this verges on a crime against humanity, and it is being done in the name and under the banner of progress.

What the US ideologues are doing to children is a crime against humanity.  It is child abuse of the worst kind.  Putin has the courage to say so openly.  Well, at least the gender-crazies in the West cannot get him fired or otherwise “cancelled”.  Good.

Well, if someone likes this, let them do it. I have already mentioned that, in shaping our approaches, we will be guided by a healthy conservatism. That was a few years ago, when passions on the international arena were not yet running as high as they are now, although, of course, we can say that clouds were gathering even then. Now, when the world is going through a structural disruption, the importance of reasonable conservatism as the foundation for a political course has skyrocketed – precisely because of the multiplying risks and dangers, and the fragility of the reality around us.

Same message: enjoy your wannabe Wakanda but stay away from us, our families, our traditions and our children above all!

This conservative approach is not about an ignorant traditionalism, a fear of change or a restraining game, much less about withdrawing into our own shell. It is primarily about reliance on a time-tested tradition, the preservation and growth of the population, a realistic assessment of oneself and others, a precise alignment of priorities, a correlation of necessity and possibility, a prudent formulation of goals, and a fundamental rejection of extremism as a method. And frankly, in the impending period of global reconstruction, which may take quite long, with its final design being uncertain, moderate conservatism is the most reasonable line of conduct, as far as I see it. It will inevitably change at some point, but so far, do no harm – the guiding principle in medicine – seems to be the most rational one. Noli nocere, as they say.

First, “do no harm” should not be a controversial notion.  But the West and all its ideologies and incarnations has dealt with that basic rule in a very simple way: “when WE do it, it is not harm, axiomatically, by definition”.  This sums of 1000 years of western imperialism, violence and intolerance: “when WE do it, it is good, because we are good” – and that is dogma.

Again, for us in Russia, these are not some speculative postulates, but lessons from our difficult and sometimes tragic history. The cost of ill-conceived social experiments is sometimes beyond estimation. Such actions can destroy not only the material, but also the spiritual foundations of human existence, leaving behind moral wreckage where nothing can be built to replace it for a long time.

That is a last warning: keep going on and you will leave nothing such a moral wreckage where nothing can be built to replace it for a long time.  Who are these words addressed to?  Not the leaders of the Empire.  Not the Woke folks, and not the braindead “Don’t tread on me” either. Not the Greta Tunberg types for sure.  I think that this  is a warning to those who still have something to preserve: Mediterranean countries, the Middle-East, Latin America and much of the entire Asian continent.

Finally, there is one more point I want to make. We understand all too well that resolving many urgent problems the world has been facing would be impossible without close international cooperation. However, we need to be realistic: most of the pretty slogans about coming up with global solutions to global problems that we have been hearing since the late 20th century will never become reality. In order to achieve a global solution, states and people have to transfer their sovereign rights to supra-national structures to an extent that few, if any, would accept. This is primarily attributable to the fact that you have to answer for the outcomes of such policies not to some global public, but to your citizens and voters.

However, this does not mean that exercising some restraint for the sake of bringing about solutions to global challenges is impossible. After all, a global challenge is a challenge for all of us together, and to each of us in particular. If everyone saw a way to benefit from cooperation in overcoming these challenges, this would definitely leave us better equipped to work together.

One of the ways to promote these efforts could be, for example, to draw up, at the UN level, a list of challenges and threats that specific countries face, with details of how they could affect other countries. This effort could involve experts from various countries and academic fields, including you, my colleagues. We believe that developing a roadmap of this kind could inspire many countries to see global issues in a new light and understand how cooperation could be beneficial for them.

I have already mentioned the challenges international institutions are facing. Unfortunately, this is an obvious fact: it is now a question of reforming or closing some of them. However, the United Nations as the central international institution retains its enduring value, at least for now. I believe that in our turbulent world it is the UN that brings a touch of reasonable conservatism into international relations, something that is so important for normalising the situation.

The leaders of the West have tried to subvert and discredit the UN for many decades already.  Why?  Simple: they don’t have a superior status there, and the P5 can veto anything.  Hence all the tall by various US Presidents about a new “rules-based international order” or a “alliance of democracies”.  That is just nonsense whose sole purpose to subvert the UN because of Russia and China.  The leaders of the West want a total monopoly on power, and when they can’t get it, they simply ignore the rules they themselves agreed to after WWII.

Many criticise the UN for failing to adapt to a rapidly changing world. In part, this is true, but it is not the UN, but primarily its members who are to blame for this. In addition, this international body promotes not only international norms, but also the rule-making spirit, which is based on the principles of equality and maximum consideration for everyone’s opinions. Our mission is to preserve this heritage while reforming the organisation. However, in doing so we need to make sure that we do not throw the baby out with the bathwater, as the saying goes.

There is much more to this: for example, the West has taken total control of organizations such as the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the ICC or even the IOC.  The list of such totally controlled international organizations is very very long.  They also run Amnesty, WWF, the ICRC etc.  As somebody who worked both at the UN and (very shortly) at the ICRC, I can personally confirm this.  Putin is too diplomatic to say this but, believe me, the Russians are absolutely aware of this, and for good reason.

This is not the first time I am using a high rostrum to make this call for collective action in order to face up to the problems that continue to pile up and become more acute. It is thanks to you, friends and colleagues, that the Valdai Club is emerging or has already established itself as a high-profile forum. It is for this reason that I am turning to this platform to reaffirm our readiness to work together on addressing the most urgent problems that the world is facing today.

Friends,

The changes mentioned here prior to me, as well as by yours truly, are relevant to all countries and peoples. Russia, of course, is not an exception. Just like everyone else, we are searching for answers to the most urgent challenges of our time.

Of course, no one has any ready-made recipes. However, I would venture to say that our country has an advantage. Let me explain what this advantage is. It is to do with our historical experience. You may have noticed that I have referred to it several times in the course of my remarks. Unfortunately, we had to bring back many sad memories, but at least our society has developed what they now refer to as herd immunity to extremism that paves the way to upheavals and socioeconomic cataclysms. People really value stability and being able to live normal lives and to prosper while confident that the irresponsible aspirations of yet another group of revolutionaries will not upend their plans and aspirations. Many have vivid memories of what happened 30 years ago and all the pain it took to climb out of the ditch where our country and our society found themselves after the USSR fell apart.

Our society has developed what they now refer to as herd immunity to extremism that paves the way to upheavals and socioeconomic cataclysms“.  That is absolutely true, thanks to 3 terrible revolutions,  several bloodbaths (including the one in 1993 and Chechnia), the total self-destruction of the post-Maidan Ukraine and now the collective suicide of the West, soemthing which is reported about every day in the Russian media, state, corporate and social.  This is why the talk about a coup against Putin is so silly: not only does he have full and total control of all the “power ministries” and the support of a majority of Russians, but as soon as any wannabe “Maidan” (like what the West tried in Belarus recently) is attempted in Russia, an infinitely larger anti-Maidan will spontaneously happen.

The conservative views we hold are an optimistic conservatism, which is what matters the most. We believe stable, positive development to be possible. It all depends primarily on our own efforts. Of course, we are ready to work with our partners on common noble causes.

I would like to thank all participants once more, for your attention. As the tradition goes, I will gladly answer or at least try to answer your questions.

Thank you for your patience.

Conclusion: this was, by far, the most important speech ever made by Putin and it is a direct, open, challenge to the West.  We all, humans, are now truly entering a most dangerous period.  When Putin came to power, he perfectly understood how weak Russia was.  So he engaged in what appeared to be 2 decades of constant Russian concessions, a retreat on all fronts, and that got a lot of people very frustrated and angry at him.  But now, in 2021, we see that what he did was trade time (and space!) to fundamentally transform Russia from a plundered, humiliated and basically dying country into a power which can finally throw a direct challenge at the consolidated West: the dead AngloZionist Empire, the dying Anglosphere and a Europe gone completely insane.  And there is really nothing much his enemies in the West can do, short of starting a suicidal war they cannot win.   After 2 decades of very careful preparations Russia is now looking directly at the West, with no fear whatsoever and with a firm resolution to not allow the West to pull Russia into its own suicidal direction.

Andrei

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.

The Iran-Azerbaijan standoff is a contest for the region’s transportation corridors

October 05, 2021

Sides are forming around the Iran vs Azerbaijan squabble. But this fight is not about ethnicity, religion or tribe – it is mainly about who gets to forge the region’s new transportation routes.

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

The Iran-Azerbaijan standoff is a contest for the region’s transportation corridors

The last thing the complex, work-in-progress drive towards Eurasian integration needs at this stage is this messy affair between Iran and Azerbaijan in the South Caucasus.

Let’s start with the Conquerors of Khaybar – the largest Iranian military exercise in two decades held on its northwestern border with Azerbaijan.

Among the deployed Iranian military and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) units there are some serious players, such as the 21st Tabriz Infantry Division, the IRGC Ashura 31 battalion, the 65th Airborne Special Forces Brigade and an array of missile systems, including the Fateh-313 and Zulfiqar ballistic missiles with ranges of up to 700 kilometers.

The official explanation is that the drills are a warning to enemies plotting anything against the Islamic Republic.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei pointedly tweeted that “those who are under the illusion of relying on others, think that they can provide their own security, should know that they will soon take a slap, they will regret this.”

The message was unmistakable: this was about Azerbaijan relying on Turkey and especially Israel for its security, and about Tel Aviv instrumentalizing Baku for an intel drive leading to interference in northern Iran.

Further elaboration by Iranian experts went as far as Israel eventually using military bases in Azerbaijan to strike at Iranian nuclear installations.

The reaction to the Iranian military exercise so far is a predictable Turkey–Azerbaijani response: they are conducting a joint drill in Nakhchivan throughout this week.

But were Iran’s concerns off the mark? A close security collaboration between Baku and Tel Aviv has been developing for years now. Azerbaijan today possesses Israeli drones and is cozy with both the CIA and the Turkish military. Throw in the recent trilateral military drills involving Azerbaijan, Turkey and Pakistan – these are developments bound to raise alarm bells in Tehran.

Baku, of course, spins it in a different manner: Our partnerships are not aimed at third countries.

So, essentially, while Tehran accuses Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev of making life easy for Takfiri terrorists and Zionists, Baku accuses Tehran of blindly supporting Armenia. Yes, the ghosts of the recent Karabakh war are all over the place.

As a matter of national security, Tehran simply cannot tolerate Israeli companies involved in the reconstruction of regions won in the war near the Iranian border: Fuzuli, Jabrayil, and Zangilan.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdullahian has tried to play it diplomatically: “Geopolitical issues around our borders are important for us. Azerbaijan is a dear neighbor to Iran and that’s why we don’t want it to be trapped between foreign terrorists who are turning their soil into a hotbed.”

As if this was not complicated enough, the heart of the matter – as with all things in Eurasia – actually revolves around economic connectivity.

An interconnected mess

Baku’s geoeconomic dreams are hefty: the capital city aims to position itself at the key crossroads of two of the most important Eurasian corridors: North-South and East-West.

And that’s where the Zangezur Corridor comes in – arguably essential for Baku to predominate over Iran’s East-West connectivity routes.

The corridor is intended to connect western Azerbaijan to the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic via Armenia, with roads and railways passing through the Zangezur region.

Zangezur is also essential for Iran to connect itself with Armenia, Russia, and further on down the road, to Europe.

China and India will also rely on Zangezur for trade, as the corridor provides a significant shortcut in distance. Considering large Asian cargo ships cannot sail the Caspian Sea, they usually waste precious weeks just to reach Russia.

An extra problem is that Baku has recently started harassing Iranian truckers in transit through these new annexed regions on their way to Armenia.

It didn’t have to be this way. This detailed essay shows how Azerbaijan and Iran are linked by “deep historical, cultural, religious, and ethno-linguistic ties,” and how the four northwestern Iranian provinces – Gilan, Ardabil, East Azerbaijan and West Azerbaijan – have “common geographical borders with both the main part of Azerbaijan and its exclave, the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic; they also have deep and close commonalities based on Islam and Shiism, as well as sharing the Azerbaijani culture and language. All this has provided the ground for closeness between the citizens of the regions on both sides of the border.”

During the Rouhani years, relations with Aliyev were actually quite good, including the Iran‑Azerbaijan‑Russia and Iran‑Azerbaijan‑Turkey trilateral cooperation.

A key connectivity at play ahead is the project of linking the Qazvin‑Rasht‑Astara railway in Iran to Azerbaijan: that’s part of the all-important International North‑South Transport Corridor (INSTC).

Geoeconomically, Azerbaijan is essential for the main railway that will eventually run from India to Russia. No only that; the Iran‑Azerbaijan‑Russia trilateral cooperation opens a direct road for Iran to fully connect with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU).

In an optimal scenario, Baku can even help Iranian ports in the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman to connect to Georgian ports in the Black Sea.

The West is oblivious to the fact that virtually all sections of the INSTC are already working. Take, for instance, the exquisitely named Astara‑Astara railway connecting Iranian and Azerbaijani cities that share the same name. Or the Rasht‑Qazvin railway.

But then one important 130km stretch from Astara to Rasht, which is on the southern shore of the Caspian and is close to the Iranian–Azeri border, has not been built. The reason? Trump-era sanctions. That’s a graphic example of how much, in real-life practical terms, rides on a successful conclusion of the JCPOA talks in Vienna.

Who owns Zangezur?

Iran is positioned in a somewhat tricky patch along the southern periphery of the South Caucasus. The three major players in that hood are of course Iran, Russia, and Turkey. Iran borders the former Armenian – now Azeri – regions adjacent to Karabakh, including Zangilan, Jabrayil and Fuzuli.

It was clear that Iran’s flexibility on its northern border would be tied to the outcome of the Second Karabakh War. The northwestern border was a source of major concern, affecting the provinces of Ardabil and eastern Azerbaijan – which makes Tehran’s official position of supporting Azerbaijani over Armenian claims all the more confusing.

It is essential to remember that even in the Karabakh crisis in the early 1990s, Tehran recognized Nagorno‑Karabakh and the regions surrounding it as integral parts of Azerbaijan.

While both the CIA and Mossad appear oblivious to this recent regional history, it will never deter them from jumping into the fray to play Baku and Tehran against each other.

An extra complicating factor is that Zangezur is also mouth-watering from Ankara’s vantage point.

Arguably, Turkey’s neo-Ottoman President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who never shies away from an opportunity to expands his Turkic-Muslim strategic depth, is looking to use the Azeri connection in Zangezur to reach the Caspian, then Turkmenistan, all the way to Xinjiang, the Uyghur Muslim populated western territory of China. This, in theory, could become a sort of Turkish Silk Road bypassing Iran – with the ominous possibility of also being used as a rat line to export Takfiris from Idlib all the way to Afghanistan.

Tehran, meanwhile, is totally INSTC-driven, focusing on two railway lines to be rehabilitated and upgraded from the Soviet era. One is South-North, from Jolfa connecting to Nakhchivan and then onwards to Yerevan and Tblisi. The other is West-East, again from Jolfa to Nakhchivan, crossing southern Armenia, mainland Azerbaijan, all the way to Baku and then onward to Russia.

And there’s the rub. The Azeris interpret the tripartite document resolving the Karabakh war as giving them the right to establish the Zangezur corridor. The Armenians for their part dispute exactly which ‘corridor’ applies to each particular region. Before they clear up these ambiguities, all those elaborate Iranian and Tukish connectivity plans are effectively suspended.

The fact, though, remains that Azerbaijan is geoeconomically bound to become a key crossroads of trans-regional connectivity as soon as Armenia unblocks the construction of these transport corridors.

So which ‘win-win’ is it?

Will diplomacy win in the South Caucasus? It must. The problem is both Baku and Tehran frame it in terms of exercising their sovereignty – and don’t seem particularly predisposed to offer concessions.

Meanwhile, the usual suspects are having a ball exploiting those differences. War, though, is out of the question, either between Azerbaijan and Armenia or between Azerbaijan and Iran. Tehran is more than aware that in this case both Ankara and Tel Aviv would support Baku. It is easy to see who would profit from it.

As recently as April, in a conference in Baku, Aliyev stressed that “Azerbaijan, Turkey, Russia and Iran share the same approach to regional cooperation. The main area of concentration now is transportation, because it’s a situation which is called ‘win‑win.’ Everybody wins from that.”

And that brings us to the fact that if the current stalemate persists, the top victim will be the INSTC. In fact, everyone loses in terms of Eurasian integration, including India and Russia.

The Pakistan angle, floated by a few in hush-hush mode, is completely far-fetched. There’s no evidence Tehran would be supporting an anti-Taliban drive in Afghanistan just to undermine Pakistan’s ties with Azerbaijan and Turkey.

The Russia–China strategic partnership looks at the current South Caucasus juncture as unnecessary trouble, especially after the recent Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit. This badly hurts their complementary Eurasian integration strategies – the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the Greater Eurasian Partnership.

INSTC could, of course, go the trans-Caspian way and cut off Azerbaijan altogether. This is not likely though. China’s reaction, once again, will be the deciding factor. There could be more emphasis on the Persian corridor – from Xinjiang, via Pakistan and Afghanistan, to Iran. Or Beijing could equally bet on both East-West corridors, that is, bet on both Azerbaijan and Iran.

The bottom line is that neither Moscow nor Beijing wants this to fester. There will be serious diplomatic moves ahead, as they both know the only ones to profit will be the usual NATO-centric suspects, and the losers will be all the players who are seriously invested in Eurasian integration.

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Secretive UK Base Linked to US Assassination of Iran’s Gen. Soleimani

October 4, 2021

Secretive UK Base Linked to US Assassination of Iran’s Gen. Soleimani

By Staff, Agencies

A new research reveals that a secretive UK intelligence base was likely involved in the US military’s drone strike that assassinated Iran’s Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani in early 2020, among its other controversial targeted killings.

According to the research, it “was probable” that the targeted killing of General Soleimani – who headed the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards [IRG] – had been planned using information obtained from the Menwith Hill intelligence base, run by the UK Royal Air Force, in Yorkshire, The Guardian reported on Saturday.

The research, titled ‘Menwith Hill in 3D, Domes, Data and Drone Strikes,’ was presented at a special meeting of the Menwith Hill Accountability Campaign, which works to raise public awareness meant to make the facility accountable for its activities.

Menwith Hill, the report said, “acted as a foreign outpost of the US National Security Agency [NSA].”

The research also raised questions about whether British personnel on the site are involved in assisting deadly US drone strikes – in particular in Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia.

“The involvement of the UK and Menwith Hill in an assassination that threatened to spark a war should be of great concern,” Barnaby Pace, an investigative journalist, wrote in the report in reference to General Soleimani’s assassination. “The UK government’s failure to assure the public that the base was not involved raises deep questions about the accountability for actions at the base.”

He also complained that the US and UK forces at Menwith Hill “operate beyond public scrutiny and accountability,” and that, unless there were change, “Orwellian surveillance systems and extrajudicial executions exposed in recent years will likely continue.”

“Intelligence programs at Menwith Hill have reportedly played a key role in operations to ‘eliminate’ people in Yemen, as part of a deadly drone bombing campaign that has resulted in dozens of civilian deaths in a country that neither the UK nor US has declared war with,” he added.

“Any US military activity or US security agency activity carried out at Menwith Hill [must] be carried out in such a way as to make those responsible fully accountable to the UK.”

Menwith Hill is the largest known overseas site of the NSA, with 600 US personnel and 500 British civilians on site.

The base is part of an eavesdropping network, able to collect data from hundreds of millions of emails and phone calls daily and of pinpointing phones on the ground, according to the files leaked by US whistleblower Edward Snowden. Information obtained can be used in “capture-kill” operations.

Late last year, a senior Iranian Judiciary official said British security services firm GS4 had been linked to General Soleimani’s assassination.

Agents of the company handed the information of General Soleimani and his entourage to the US as soon as they entered the Baghdad International Airport, outside of which the then Quds Force commander was murdered by the US drone raid, Tehran Prosecutor Ali Alqasimehr told Mizan on December 31, 2020.

General Soleimani was visiting Baghdad at the official invitation of the Iraqi government when he was assassinated, along with his Iraqi trenchmate Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy head of the Popular Mobilization Units, and their other companions.

Both commanders were highly popular because of the key role they played in eliminating the Wahhabi Daesh [Arabic acronym for “ISIS” / “ISIL”] terrorist group in the region, particularly in Iraq and Syria.

The latest revelations have prompted calls from human rights campaigners for London to provide explanations on whether Yorkshire’s Menwith Hill base has been directly involved in the carrying out of US drone strikes.

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

September 27, 2021

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Description: 

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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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s news conference to sum up the high-level meetings week at the 76th session of the UN General Assembly, New York, September 25, 2021

SEPTEMBER 27, 2021

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s news conference to sum up the high-level meetings week at the 76th session of the UN General Assembly, New York, September 25, 2021

https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/news/-/asset_publisher/cKNonkJE02Bw/content/id/4867149

Question: Which opportunities and risk factors does the new Taliban’s Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan present? Does Russia fear that the presence of Taliban could somehow feed Islamic extremism in the region? If so, what can be done?

Sergey Lavrov: Of course, Afghanistan is now on everyone’s mind. We believe, and we did believe from the outset, that what has happened there is a reality. Unfortunately, the hasty pull-out, let’s call it this way, by the United States and other NATO countries of their troops was carried out without any consideration of the consequences. As you are aware, many weapons were left behind in Afghanistan. We all need to see to it that these weapons do not serve any unconstructive purposes.

The reality on the ground is based on statements made by the Taliban who proclaimed their commitment to fighting extremism and terrorism, including ISIS and Al-Qaeda, not to project instability on their neighbours. They committed themselves to respecting women’s rights and to creating an inclusive government. You know all this. What matters the most at the moment is that they fulfil their promises.

The first step to form a transitory government structure fails to reflect the whole gamut of the Afghan society in its ethnic, religious and political diversity. We remain engaged with the Taliban, and these contacts have been continuing for several years now. We are doing this, inter alia, within the expanded troika of Russia, the United States, China and Pakistan. Only recently, Russian, Chinese and Pakistani representatives travelled to Doha, and after that they visited Kabul where they engaged with the Taliban, as well as with representatives of the secular authorities. I am referring to former President Hamid Karzai and former Head of the High Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah. These contacts primarily focused on the need to form a genuinely representative government structure. The Taliban claim to be moving in this direction, and the current architecture is only temporary. What matters the most is to make sure that they keep the promises that they made in public. For us, the top priority is precisely what you just mentioned: it is unacceptable that extremism spills over into neighbouring countries, and the terrorist threat must not persist on Afghan soil. We will do everything we can to support the Taliban in their determination, as you have said, to fight ISIS and other terrorist groups, and to try to make sure that this determination paves the way to some practical progress.

Question: Does Russia consider easing or lifting its national sanctions against the Taliban members who become part of the new Afghan government in order to facilitate contacts with them? What position will Russia take during UN talks on easing or lifting sanctions against the Taliban?

Sergey Lavrov: As things stand at the moment, nothing is restraining or hindering our contacts with the Taliban. Moreover, the UN Security Council sanctions, as set forth in the corresponding resolutions, are not preventing us from engaging in such contacts. On the contrary, UN Security Council resolutions stipulate the need to advance a political process, and without working together with the Taliban this is impossible.

We have been engaged in contacts with this movement for some years now, and these contacts have been primarily geared towards ensuring the safety ofr Russian nationals, facilitating intra-Afghan reconciliation and political process. I have not heard any suggestions within the UN Security Council about the need to ease or lift international sanctions at one of the forthcoming meetings. There is no need for this for us to be able to engage with the Taliban movement at this stage.

We all expect the Taliban to honour all the good-minded promises they made. For this reason, we will see whether the terrorist and drug trafficking threats are actually eliminated.

Question: The UN Secretary-General has warned of disastrous consequences of a putative economic collapse in Afghanistan. What do you think about the idea to unfreeze Afghan assets held by international organisations?

It appears from your remarks that your policy is to judge the Taliban by their deeds. In what way does the Taliban ideology differ from that of other Islamic groups in other parts of the world, such as the groups in Syria, which you are opposing and showering with bombs?

Sergey Lavrov: Syria, as you may know, is where the seat of terrorism is located. Practically the entire Syrian territory has been liberated, but the so-called de-escalation zone in Idlib province is under the sway of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, an offspring of Jabhat al-Nusra. All the UN Security Council resolutions point out the nature of these terrorist organisations. I see no problem here from the point of view of destroying the terrorists in Syria.

We are holding talks with our Turkish partners, who signed with us, a couple of years ago now, a special agreement whereby they undertook to fight terrorists in the Idlib de-escalation zone and to separate them from armed groups that are not terrorist ones and to cooperate with the Turkish military. In just a few days from now, President of Russia Vladimir Putin will have yet another meeting with President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The presidents will thoroughly analyse how this commitment is being implemented. It is being implemented at a rather slow pace. This is obvious.

As for the Taliban and comparisons between them and other groups, we cannot divide the terrorists into good guys and bad guys. There is a sufficient number of exemptions from sanctions imposed on the Taliban. This has been made on purpose to enable [the international community] to have a dialogue with them. It means that the UN Security Council recognises the Taliban as an inalienable part of Afghan society, which, for Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham are not. This is what makes the difference.

We will induce those who have seized power in Kabul following the flight of the foreign contingents to behave in a civilised way.

We have mentioned the unfreezing of the assets. We think that this matter should be given a practical consideration from the positions you have mentioned in quoting the UN Secretary-General.

Question: The Taliban Government have decided on the candidacies for their ambassador to Russia. Will Russia be prepared to issue an agreement to people proposed by the Taliban?

Sergey Lavrov: We have no information of anyone applying to us for an agrement. Serving in Moscow today is the ambassador appointed by the previous government. No one is urging an international recognition of the Taliban. We will proceed precisely from this principle if and when we receive a request regarding the appointment of a new ambassador.

Question: We have heard US President Joe Biden’s statement. He said that the period of relentless war has ended, and that the era of relentless diplomacy has been ushered in. Do you believe this?

What about Russia’s diplomatic property? Has there been any progress?

Even some of the members of the delegation had problems with their visas, let alone the fact that there was a danger that the Russian delegation would not be allowed into the UN General Assembly because of the vaccination requirements, with vaccines that were approved in the United States. Are they just trying to annoy us whenever they can?

Sergey Lavrov: I do not think that this is an attempt to annoy us in any way. Most likely they are just a bit at a loss over the resumption of in-person UN General Assembly meetings. I cannot blame the New York authorities for being overly cautious. This is a serious event, and a lot of people come here from all around the world. There are quite a few different variants of the virus already, so safety measures do not hurt.

It is another question, as you have so rightly put it, that we do not accept any attempts to discriminate against vaccines that are not registered in the United States but have proven time and again to be effective. Sputnik V is a case in point. Several EU countries, for example, Hungary and Slovakia, have approved our vaccines, and this should serve as an example for other EU and NATO members.

As for visas for our delegation, apart from the epidemiological situation, the delay in the granting of visas was obviously caused by political considerations. We have seen through this. A number of our employees have yet to obtain their visas, including State Duma members who are part of the delegation. We will see to it that the UN Secretariat leadership fulfils its duties as to ensuring compliance with all the provisions of the agreement between the UN and the United States, the headquarters host country. Instances of flagrant violation of this agreement and repeated failures to comply with the UN headquarters host country commitments have been piling up, including the confiscation of diplomatic property, as you have just mentioned. The UN Committee on Relations with the Host Country has said that this is unacceptable and wrong. The Secretary-General should have launched arbitration proceedings against the actions by the United States several years ago. We had a meeting yesterday, and I reminded him of this fact. I was glad that his Legal Counsel, Miguel de Serpa Soares, was present at this meeting, since it is his duty to initiate these steps. They have been long overdue.

United States President Joe Biden said that the United States will no longer use force to change regimes abroad. “Never say never,” as the saying goes. We have seen how the Donald Trump administration pulled out of the Iranian nuclear deal that was concluded by the Barack Obama administration. Now that talks on fully restoring the JCPOA to settle the situation around the Iranian nuclear programme are underway, one of the questions the Iranians are asking the Americans is whether the agreement to restore this plan can include a clause binding future administrations to respect it? The Americans say that they cannot do this, since this is how their system works. International law is one thing, but their law is a nose of wax, and can be twisted about any way they so desire.

United States President Joe Biden said that an era of “relentless diplomacy” has been ushered in. This means that the Americans will seek to impose on other countries what they deem right for them by other means. This could include colour revolutions. They do not require any use of force, but are equally destructive. Just look at Libya, Iraq, Syria, and Ukraine, our neighbour.

We want the United States to make the next step and move beyond the commitment not to use force for reshaping other countries by actually refraining from doing this altogether. They must recognise that we are all different. We have different cultural, civilisational roots, but we share the same planet and must respect each other.

Question: According to our information, preparations for Under Secretary for Political Affairs Victoria’s Nuland’s visit to Moscow are underway. Where do these talks stand at this point? Can you give us a timeline for the visit? What does Moscow expect to receive in response to the temporary lifting of restrictions from someone who is on Russia’s black list?

Sergey Lavrov: If you have sources of information that let you know about this, I encourage you to ask them this question. The Foreign Ministry and the US State Department are working on a number of contacts. This is not the only matter under discussion.

When both parties decide on a date for contact to take place in order to discuss a specific issue, we will make a corresponding announcement.

Question: I have a question about the JCPOA. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said that swift action is needed, because we are running out of time. Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said yesterday that they were ready for that. They appear to be receiving mixed signals from the United States, but they should come up with an agreement soon. You were involved in making this deal happen. As a negotiator, have you any idea what will happen if the United States does not return to the agreement and Iran continues its nuclear programme? What is the worst-case scenario?

Sergey Lavrov: Iran is not doing anything illegal, because it is complying with the Non-Proliferation Treaty and an additional protocol to a comprehensive safeguards agreement. Iran is not complying with most of its obligations included in the JCPOA which are now not binding, because the Americans have destroyed the agreement.

The issue is about restoring it in full so that Iran has no reason to make exceptions to its commitments. The IAEA, including in the person of its Director General, is in contact with the Iranians. They have a complete picture of what is happening there. They are not being denied access to the work that Iran is doing as part of its nuclear programme. The IAEA has no reason to believe that the 2015 findings to the effect that there were no signs of the nuclear programme being re-oriented towards military needs have become outdated. They have no reason to revise these findings. They speak about this explicitly.

Of course, we want the talks on the full restoration of the JCPOA to resume as soon as possible. But, first, the government in Iran has just been formed. They say they will need a week or two (hopefully not more) to put together their negotiating team. There have been personnel changes. Second, when the United States withdrew from the JCPOA, Iran, for over a year, had been conscientiously complying  with its commitments under this document in hope that the United States would come to its senses and return to the deal. Of all people, our counterparts in Washington are not in a position to say that time is up. Indeed, it was carried out by the administration which is now gone, but this is the legacy of the current administration, especially since the JCPOA is its brainchild. It is only fair that it deliver bold action in addressing all related issues.

There are also sanctions that the US has illegally imposed on Iran, allegedly for violating the JCPOA. But the sanctions concern not just Iran. They have also imposed sanctions on everyone who carry out legal trade with Iran, including the supply of military products, which are no longer subject to a ban. These sanctions must be lifted as part of the reinstatement of the JCPOA. And Iran’s trading partners across all areas of commercial exchange must not be affected by America’s unilateral move.

Question: Will Iran’s economy collapse if the JCPOA is not restored?

Sergey Lavrov: We are not even considering scenarios like that. There is serious hope and cautious optimism that we will be able to achieve a result. At least everyone wants it, including the United States and Iran.

Question: The calm in the northwest of Syria has changed with Russia’s intense airstrikes in recent weeks, particularly ahead of the summit between President Erdogan and President Putin. Why is Russia stepping up its attacks just ahead of this summit?

And another question on Syria as well. Is there an agreement or consensus between Russia and the US following the meeting between the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister and US National Security Council Coordinator Brett McGurk, which took place in Geneva? Thank you.

Sergey Lavrov: We are using force in northwestern Syria in conformity with the requirements contained in UN Security Council Resolution 2254, which provides for an uncompromising struggle against terrorism in Syria.

I have mentioned that there was a special agreement on Idlib between President of Russia Vladimir Putin and President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Our Turkish colleagues have committed themselves to separating the normal and sensible opposition forces from the terrorists. This should have been done long ago. So far, this has not happened. There is slow progress, but the threats of terrorism from the militants in the Idlib de-escalation zone are constantly renewed. These people are attacking the positions of the Syrian army and have repeatedly tried to launch strike drones to attack the Russian Khmeimim Air Base.

Our Turkish friends are well aware that we will not put up with this behaviour and with these militants’ attitude to the role performed by the Turkish military in the Idlib de-escalation zone. We will have detailed discussions as part of preparations for the presidential meeting. The September 29 summit will focus on ways to achieve what we have agreed upon and prevent the terrorists from ruling the roost.

As for contacts with the US regarding the right bank of the Euphrates, they are held periodically. We draw their attention to the fact that the US presence in Syria is illegitimate, to the outrageous situation in the 55-kilometre zone called Al-Tanf, which they have occupied, and to the situation at the Rukban camp located in the US-controlled territory. This is a long story.

The contacts taking place between the foreign ministries and the security councils are mostly about the fact that the Americans are present [in Syria] illegally, illegitimately, but they are there.  This is the reality. Given their tendency to fire all their guns with or without reason, we are negotiating the so-called deconflicting mechanism with them.   It is working. Let me draw your attention to the fact that it is functioning despite the legal bans on contacts between the militaries imposed by the US Congress. Not so long ago, the heads of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff officially announced that this was unreasonable and that the bans on military contacts should be lifted. I think this will do good both to the deconflicting process in Syria and our further arms dialogue as a whole.

Question: Turkey has expressed concerns about the voting in Crimea in the recent State Duma elections. This is despite the fact that Russia has provided humanitarian assistance for COVID-19 to Turkey, as well as military cooperation. My question is: could you address the imbalance, what is your analysis of the imbalance in relations?

Sergey Lavrov: Turkey was not the only one to voice “concerns” or “denounce” the vote in Crimea. I can give you two explanations for this “commotion.” First, five years ago, when the previous State Duma elections were held, no one made any statements of this kind, at least not that strong. Had this been the case, I would have remembered it, but no such thing occurred.

However, now they are pouncing on this issue, including the hectic efforts to convene the so-called Crimea Platform in Kiev, and all the commotion around the election. I think that this is an attempt to divert attention from the fact that Kiev, under President Vladimir Zelensky’s leadership, has shamefully failed to honour its commitments under the Minsk Agreements on overcoming the intra-Ukrainian conflict in the east of the country. It is obvious. The adopted laws have been a de-facto obstacle to granting southeastern Ukraine the status required under the Minsk Agreements.

We drew the attention of our German and French colleagues, as well as the European Union to the fact that their “clients” are negating UN Security Council resolutions, because it was the Security Council that approved the Minsk Agreements. Unfortunately, they are all bashfully looking the other way, while President Vladimir Zelensky understood that all he needed to do was divert attention from his own failures and the fact that the Minsk Agreements were sabotaged. Therefore, they are now playing the Crimean card.

A lack of professionalism in foreign policy is the second reason why they are doing this. Professionals know all too well that the Crimea question is closed once and for all.

Question: My second question is regarding Mali. France has expressed concern about the presence of military contractors from Russia in Mali. They are now being joined by their European allies speaking about this concern. My question is: what is Russia’s position on this?

Sergey Lavrov: I have heard these questions. Foreign Minister of France Jean-Yves Le Drian, and EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, have raised them with me.

Mali currently has a transitional government. Those authorities are undertaking efforts to restore the constitutional order, prepare elections and return to civilian rule. The elections are scheduled to take place in February under the auspices of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union.

Mali’s transitional government has emphasised its commitment to international obligations and is combatting terrorism. It has called upon a private Russian military company because, to my understanding, France intends to substantially reduce its military presence there, and these troops were tasked with fighting terrorists entrenched in the north, in an area called Kidal. But they did not succeed, and terrorist are still in control there.

The Malian authorities considered their own capabilities insufficient without support from abroad, but those who had promised to eliminate terrorism in this country decided to draw down their presence. So they went to a Russian private military company. We have nothing to do with this. This activity is legal and consists of a relationship between the host country, which is a legitimate government recognised by everyone as a legitimate transitional structure, on the one hand, and those offering their services as foreign experts.

Let me emphasise that apart from private military companies, the Russian state has been making its own contribution to ensuring Mali’s defence capability and combat readiness for eliminating the terrorist threat and other threats. We do this by supplying military equipment as part of our assistance. We also work within the UN Security Council to devise the best approaches to further peacebuilding efforts.

I do not see any reason to question this. Yesterday I had a meeting with Mali’s Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister, Abdoulaye Diop, who talked to the press on this matter. There are no questions here. In fact, the problem lies elsewhere. Our colleagues from the European Union, as Josep Borrell told me, are asking us to stop working in Africa altogether, because this is “their place.” It would be better for the EU and the Russian Federation to align their actions in fighting terrorism not only in Mali, but in the Sahara-Sahelian region in general. Claiming that “they were there first, so we must leave” is, first, an insult to the Bamako government that has invited its foreign partners, and second, it is not the way to treat anyone.

Question: Shortly before the Russian parliamentary elections, the European Parliament adopted a resolution calling on the European Commission to refuse to recognise the results of the vote. Did you discuss this with EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell? Will the EU recognise the results of the Russian State Duma elections?

Sergey Lavrov: We have not heard any assessments from the European Union proper because the European Parliament is not a body that determines EU policy. I spoke about this with Josep Borrell; I quoted some of the assessments made during his remarks in the European Parliament, including the absolutely unacceptable statements that the European Union distinguishes between “the regime” in Moscow and the Russian people.

He made some rather awkward and vague excuses. It was quite obvious that he realised the phrasing was lame at the very least. I hope that was just a phrase, not the idea. This happens. Sometimes we let something slip only to regret it later.

We have no information about anyone officially rejecting the results of our elections, which have just been announced.

Question: France calls for a review of the recent nuclear submarine deal between the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom to verify its compliance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). What is your opinion on this matter? What do you generally think of this new triple alliance, which has created such a stir and runs counter to the partnership agreements in NATO and beyond?

Sergey Lavrov: This deal, signed immediately after the flight from Afghanistan, inevitably raises questions from the parties to these alliances. Probably, in addition to a commercial grievance, France is also thinking how reliable these alliances are and how this has increased the relevance of Europe’s strategic autonomy? These are big questions for the Western camp, and they have to address them.

We are not going to interfere in these matters. Yet, we might feel the consequences of what is happening there. This may affect our relations with the European Union, may spur the EU’s interest in cooperating with us, in using the obvious geopolitical and geostrategic advantages of being on one huge continent, especially since the global growth centre is shifting towards Asia.

I have discussed this with many participants here who represent the European Union and who do not like what is happening. Especially when the EU says they should “push back against, constrain, and engage” with Russia. I asked Josep Borrell how they were going to “engage with us,” exactly. Do you know what he answered? “Get out of Mali.” That is all there is to this policy, to this triad. That’s what it is worth. I am being honest. I do not think there is a violation of any ethical norms here because they are also talking about this publicly. I am just giving examples to illustrate their way of thinking.

As regards the Non-Proliferation Treaty, this matter is being discussed a lot on the sidelines in Vienna. The IAEA is responsible for the non-proliferation regime and for ensuring that nuclear research is not diverted to military needs. For a submarine, uranium must be enriched to 90 percent. This is weapons-grade uranium. We will probably have to ask for an IAEA expert review.

A similar attempt to develop such submarines by a non-nuclear country was made a few decades ago. The project was eventually scrapped then, and that settled the whole matter. But now, this deal has been signed. If the IAEA confirms it is in line with nuclear safety and non-diversion to military needs, there will be a queue for such submarines.

Question: In the lead up to the high-level week, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued a warning that the world might be drawn into a new vastly more dangerous cold war if the US and China fail to mend their completely collapsed relations. He called for the avoidance of a new confrontation at any cost, and also warned that it would be more dangerous than the cold war between the Soviet Union and the United States and dealing with its aftereffects would be much more difficult. What does Russia have to say to these statements?

Sergey Lavrov: Make no mistake, we had this issue on our radar screen even before UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres mentioned it. We see that tensions in China-US relations are escalating. We are aware of who is “playing the first violin” in this not too pleasant turn of events. This worries us. Confrontational schemes do not help the people of our planet to live a normal life: be it the recently announced Indo-Pacific Strategy, which explicitly proclaimed containing China, including in the South China Sea, one of its main goals, or QUAD that was formed as part of these strategies, or, by the same token, the purported AUKUS “triple alliance,” the purpose of which is to help Australia contain the “Chinese threat.”

Yesterday and today, I met with a number of ministers representing ASEAN member countries and asked them how things were going. Talks are underway between China and ASEAN to draft a legally binding code of conduct in the South China Sea. Things are not moving fast, but this is the most reliable way to ensure freedom of navigation and everything else that worries our Western partners to the extent that they keep holding provocative and non-provocative naval manoeuvres and creating anti-Chinese geopolitical schemes. We stand for mutually respectful relations between the great powers that never escalate into a nuclear war. The presidents of Russia and the United States, Vladimir Putin and Joseph Biden, confirmed the unacceptability of this at the Geneva summit. Any kind of war between nuclear powers is unacceptable, because the risks of it escalating into a nuclear conflict are enormous. Humanity has not come up with anything new in this regard. We must talk and strive to find a compromise and get along. As President Trump put it, we must “make a deal.” This is the right expression to use not only in business, but in politics as well. Politics is needed to create a proper environment for normal life, rather than for someone to promote their ambitions, so that everyone agrees that they are “the coolest guy on Earth.” This is obvious to normal people. Great powers must act responsibly with regard to their people and the rest of humanity.

President Putin proposed holding a UN Security Council permanent members’ summit. The pandemic has delayed this work. We have resumed it now. We aim to come to an agreement with our partners from China and the three Western permanent members of the UN Security Council on specific issues which will then be included in the agenda, and on the format of discussions (we may start out online). Talks are the only way to resolve the issues at hand. The five permanent members of the UN Security Council must set an example to other countries.

Question: In connection with the withdrawal of foreign contingents – official and informal mercenaries – from Libya, disputes arose about over whether it would be better to withdraw them only after the elections, upon receipt of an official request from a new government. Some say this should take place before December 24 to ensure fair and legitimate elections. The spokesman for the Presidential Council said today that you highlighted two points at a meeting with Mohammed al-Menfi: the need for a settlement between the Libyan parties and the withdrawal of foreign troops. Does Russia think it should be done before or after the elections?

Sergey Lavrov: Before or after the elections is not a critical matter. Most importantly, the final document of the second International Conference on Libya held in Berlin in June reads as follows: all foreign armed people must leave Libya. Our Turkish colleagues made a reservation saying they had been invited there by the legitimate leadership in the person of the Prime Minister of the Government of National Accord, Fayez al-Sarraj. However, the other part of Libyan society – the Tobruk Parliament – is no less legitimate. Both of these bodies were created under the Skhirat Agreement. The legitimate parliament along with the legitimate Libyan national army invited armed personnel, whom they have on their payroll, to come and join them from abroad. Concurrently, there were people who can be referred to as mercenaries. People are being transferred from Syria (to both sides), Chad and other African countries.

From the outset, the moment it came up in our discussions, we said that we were in favour of doing this. Considering that foreign military forces are on both sides of the Libyan confrontation, we must make sure that they move out in small groups and simultaneously, so as not to create a military advantage on one side at any point in time. A ceasefire has been observed in Libya for over a year now. No one should be tempted to think that they can return to military methods and try to use force to resolve that country’s problems.

Question: Is Russia facilitating the withdrawal of troops from Libya?

Sergey Lavrov: They should deal with this in their 5+5 commission. We are ready to help, but if they continue to address non-priority matters, there will be no elections on December 24, 2021. They have just adopted the legislative framework for the elections. Then the Parliament voted on the legitimacy of Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh’s Government of National Unity. They need to be pushed towards an earnest discussion about how to live on. There are already speculations about whether the current leaders can run for office (reportedly, there was an agreement that they would not participate, but they want to). Our colleagues in the Secretariat are trying to create artificial difficulties when it comes to the format of the UN presence in Libya. They had better concentrate on fulfilling what we agreed on a year ago now. Nobody expected this. They should not be trying to change this to promote someone’s interests or advance hidden agendas.

Question: At what stage are the US-Russia strategic stability talks at the moment? As for nuclear weapons, what is Russia’s reaction to the recent missile launches in North and South Korea? What could work as an incentive for Kim Jong-un to return back to the negotiating table?

Sergey Lavrov: I heard that Pyongyang is sending signals about North Korea’s interest in normalising relations with South Korea. We have always stood for a direct dialogue between the North and the South. However, it was not always supported by the previous US administration, which wanted to control the process. I hope that in the new situation, the Biden administration will be ready to make more constructive steps to encourage the resumption of normal contacts between North and South Korea.

Missile launches don’t help. We noticed that this time, Seoul tried not to over-dramatise. I think this is the right thing to do. Once we begin to resort to public condemnation and strong rhetoric, this significantly reduces our incentives for diplomatic, professional, and calm dialogue. The final agreement can only be reached through confidential and quiet negotiations, rather than mutual recriminations through loudspeakers.

As regards the strategic stability talks with the United States, the first round took place in July. The second is due next week.

Question: As the UN General Assembly is meeting in New York, the Southern District Court in New York has again denied Russian citizen Konstantin Yaroshenko’s appeal. He continues to be held in American dungeons, as does Viktor Bout. There have been occasional reports in the media about their possible exchange for Americans. Whose court is the ball in? How realistic is the exchange scenario?

Sergey Lavrov: It is difficult to make any predictions or promises on behalf of the United States. We have tried many times to change our citizens’ situation by invoking the Council of Europe Convention on Transfer of Sentenced Persons. The United States is a party to this Convention, just as we are. They categorically refuse to hear anything, including our arguments that both Yaroshenko and Bout (as well as a number of others) have been actually lured into a trap by provocations. They have been literally kidnapped, which is against the law. In Bout’s case, the Thai laws were violated – not all procedures were followed; with Yaroshenko, it was Liberia’s. There was also a case where they took Roman Seleznev in the Maldives in a gangster manner – they just put him on an aircraft and he was flown away. Nobody knew anything. Such methods of provoked attacks on our people are being used to achieve something. Either to persuade them to cooperate, or for some other reason. This is unacceptable.

About prisoner exchanges – Presidents Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden touched upon this matter in Geneva, among other things. They agreed that the respective Russian and US security services in charge of this matter will try to negotiate some mutually acceptable options. So far, we haven’t come to any agreement. The United States is only interested in getting its citizens back and does not seem to take our interests very seriously. They are interested in Paul Whelan, who is convicted of espionage. He was caught red-handed. This crime cannot be even compared with the reasons Yaroshenko and Bout got their sentences in excess of 20 years in prison. We are ready to talk. There are other American citizens as well. For some reason, they are not of interest to the administration in Washington. But talking is always better than not talking.

Question: On the JCPOA, the United States wants to discuss [inaudible] the Middle East. Will this be included into the JCPOA?  And on Syria, why doesn’t Damascus allow the UN to have humanitarian trips there? I know that there is a compromise made in the UN Security Council, but it does not seem to make sense. Does Syria or Damascus think that UN workers are Trojan horses?

Sergey Lavrov: Regarding the JCPOA, all we want is for it to resume without any preconditions. Attempts to add them as a requirement to expand the talks to include the Iranian missile programme or to discuss Iran’s “behaviour” in the region, as our Western colleagues say, have no future. This is like comparing apples and oranges. The agreement on the nuclear programme is a separate subject. If there are any concerns as to someone’s behaviour, Iran’s regional partners are not the only ones to have such concerns. Teheran has its own misgivings regarding them, which is totally normal for any region of the world.

The Persian Gulf countries engage in far-reaching foreign policy activities far beyond their regions. This must be taken into consideration. In this connection, we noted that many years ago Russia drafted a Collective Security Concept for the Persian Gulf region suggesting a dialogue inspired to some degree by the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. This included discussing confidence-building measures, military transparency and attending each other’s exercises, as well as engaging in positive joint projects. Political scientists from the region and other countries have already discussed this topic. In August 2021, we updated our collective security approach for the Persian Gulf region and released it as an official UN General Assembly and Security Council document. We believe that it is at a forum of this kind, and we hope that we will succeed in convening it, that we need to discuss concerns over the presence of missiles in this region, since Iran is not alone in this regard, and what kind of policies various parties follow. The conflict in Yemen is a case in point in terms of exposing the interests of Arab countries and Iran. There is a need to reach agreements. We believe that this forum should reach beyond the Gulf region. You cannot separate Iraq, Egypt and Jordan in terms of their engagement in shaping a new common platform for constructive dialogue. The Arab League, and the five permanent members of the UN Security must all be involved. Probably, the European Union will also be interested. We believe this approach to be concrete and realistic, at least I had the impression that our colleagues were interested in it. Yesterday, I met with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), and they are interested in this topic. We agreed to make it a priority as we resume our ministerial contacts.

As for humanitarian aid to Syria, yesterday I had a lengthy conversation on this topic with Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. We cannot be satisfied with a situation where double standards are being used in the most flagrant and blatant manner. There are six million refugees in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, or maybe even more. In November 2020, Russia and 20 other countries helped Damascus hold a conference on refugees. It focused on creating conditions that would enable refugees to return home, which is what most of them want. The fact that the United States did everything to intimidate those who were expected to attend this conference in Damascus, and the fact that the UN did not take part in the conference was a real shock for us. In fact, the UN representative in Damascus was the only person representing the UN as an observer. At the time, I wrote a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres saying that this amounted to a failure to comply with UN Security Council Resolution 2254 that provides a framework for the UN’s activity on the Syrian track. It clearly stipulates efforts to facilitate humanitarian deliveries and creating conditions that would enable refugees to return to Syria.

Early in 2021, the European Union held an annual conference on Syrian refugees in Brussels, without the Syrian Arab Republic, but co-chaired by the EU and the UN Secretary-General. How perplexing. Not only was Syria not present, which is already a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law, but the funds collected at the conference went towards paying for the accommodation of refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, instead of being used to restore infrastructure in Syria. For this reason, I ask those of our friends from the media who worry about ordinary people in conflict zones, to note that initiatives of this kind make a mockery of international humanitarian law.

We adopted the compromise resolution in July. It is true that it extends the so-called cross-border humanitarian aid mechanism for another six months, with deliveries primarily coming from Turkey to the Idlib de-escalation zone. However, considering that the West clings to this mechanism that has not been agreed with Damascus and runs counter to the international humanitarian law, we have every reason to believe that there is some kind of hidden agenda there. We do not get any information on what is in the lorries heading to the Idlib de-escalation zone. The UN swears that they inspect every lorry, but there is no way this can be verified. Even more so, no one knows how this aid or whatever these boxes contain is distributed in the Idlib de-escalation zone, or whether terrorists from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and other unacceptable structures benefit from this aid.

Unless specific measures are taken to unblock humanitarian aid deliveries through Damascus, as required under international humanitarian law, we will put an end to this untransparent cross-border activity. Moreover, since the adoption of the resolution requiring that aid be sent into Syria through Damascus as well, there was only one convoy, and even it was far from complete. About half of the supplies that had been waiting to be delivered for almost a year could not reach their destination. The convoy organised by the International Committee of the Red Cross together with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent back in April 2020 remained where it was. Those who care about the starving population must, first, appeal to the Western countries that can influence this situation, and second, reach out to the UN leadership so that it complies with the relevant resolution. Apart from purely the humanitarian aspects, on assisting Syria and humanitarian deliveries, this resolution calls for the so-called early recovery projects, including water supply, electricity, housing, schools and healthcare. This must be done, and the UN Secretariat knows this. Syrians currently face so much hardship. Throughout the Syrian crisis the UN Secretariat did little to create conditions facilitating the return of refugees. However, the UN Security Council Resolution is there. It has been adopted unanimously, and has to be carried out.

Question: Yesterday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared that the Palestinians would withdraw their recognition of the State of Israel, if Israel did not cease its occupation within one year.  This will lead to chaos in the Middle East. What can the Russian Federation as a friend of the Palestinians and a country maintaining good relations with Israel do to avoid this scenario? After the Palestinians lost faith in the efficacy of the peace process, do they have the right to defend themselves and resist the occupation?

Sergey Lavrov: All right, let’s talk about the Palestinian-Israeli problems. These problems are certainly grave ones. They were not helped by the “casting about” we observed during the previous US administration. I am referring to both their recognition of the Golan Heights and the attempts to promote what was actually an annexation inscribed in the context of the efforts to create a quasi Palestinian state. What is important here is that the Biden administration has confirmed its commitment to the two-state approach. But the Israeli prime minister is not confirming this commitment, although there are politicians in Israel and in the Israeli parliament, who have different views on how to ensure security of the Jewish State without living under constant strain and hitting targets threatening Israel. [According to them], the alternative is to come to an agreement and build a stable and peaceful life through a two-state safe and prosperous coexistence in keeping with the principles of a settlement endorsed by the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly. The current Israeli leaders are maintaining contacts that mostly boil down to keeping security in the Palestinian territories.

We believe that it would be a major mistake if the processes in the region – Libya, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, etc. – make us forget about the Palestinian question. After all, it is the outgrowth of this planet’s longest-lasting modern conflict, a conflict that other powers sought to settle through the creation of two states. One state was established in no time, but the other state is still to be created.

I believe that the decision approved by the Arab League at the initiative of the King of Saudi Arabia almost 20 years ago now was a wise decision. I am referring to the Arab Peace Initiative, which said that the Arab countries would normalise their relations with Israel immediately after the creation of a viable Palestinian state conforming to all the UN-defined criteria. That was quite a specimen of statecraft. But the Trump administration attempted to turn everything upside down. The Abraham Accords promoted by a number of Arab countries were based on the logic that the first thing to do was to normalise relations between the Arabs and Israel, with the Palestinian problem to be considered afterwards. We welcome any kind of normalisation between any states. Not at the expense of Palestine in this case. It is gratifying that all the signatories of the Abraham Accords, including Bahrain, the UAE, the Sudan, and Morocco stressed that they were fully committed to the UN decisions on the Palestinian problem. This is where we should stand.

You asked whether they have the right to fight. They will not ask [for anyone’s permission]. The unregulated state of the Palestinian problem is the gravest factor feeding radical sentiments on the Arab “street.”  The extremist preachers are saying that their people have been wronged, that they were promised a state of their own 80 years ago but it was a deception. Young people, particularly uneducated ones, are highly sensitive to this sort of propaganda. But my Israeli colleagues get offended when I explain to them this aspect of the Middle East situation and the impact of the lack of a settlement of the Palestinian problem is exerting on stability in the whole of the region. They say I am wrong and that the problem is not very serious. But this is a shortsighted approach.

This is the reason why we are supporting Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas’ proposal to convene an international conference. But we are confident that it must be thoroughly prepared, for which purpose we would like to resume the activities of the Quartet of international intermediaries consisting of Russia, the United States, the European Union and the United Nations and to recruit for joint work, for example, the foursome of Arab countries – Egypt, Jordan, the UAE, and Bahrain – that have relations with Israel.   Probably Saudi Arabia, the author of the Arab Peace Initiative, should be invited as well. This makes 4+4+1+2 (Israel and Palestine). If some parties believe that it is still too early to meet in this format, we are ready to offer our territory as a venue and support any other invitation for Israel and Palestine to meet for direct talks. The important thing is to avoid procrastination. We will seek to support this approach in every way we can.

Most importantly, while what we have just discussed depends on many factors (some depend on Israel, some on other members of regional organisations), there is one matter that depends on no one but the Palestinians themselves. I am referring to Palestinian unity. Attempts were being made to restore it a couple of years ago now. Certain agreements seemed to be reached and a circle of elections was announced. But eventually nothing came of it.  The lack of rapport between Ramallah and Gaza carries a negative charge. If the Palestinians restored their unity, it would be easier and more effective for them to talk to Israel at future negotiations.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once said that he did not know who to hold talks with, when it was unclear whom Mr Abbas was representing.  It looked like he had Ramallah alone, while Gaza was controlled by other people. These matters have a strong influence on any attempts to achieve major political results. The Palestinians are unwilling to restore unity. But we are actively working with all the Palestinian factions. I repeatedly invited them to Moscow. During the discussions they agree they should reunite, but later it all somehow goes amiss.

Question (retranslated from English): This week, the European Commission accused Russia of engaging in hacker attacks against European politicians and media representatives, in particular, German politicians and officials, in the run-up to tomorrow’s election in which they are participating. What is your response to these accusations? Do you have any expectations regarding the outcome of elections in Germany?

Trevor Reed’s family believes he was unjustly indicted and sentenced to an unreasonably long term. Could you comment on these statements as well?

Sergey Lavrov: I have already covered Trevor Reed and Paul Whelan, for that matter. Paul Whelan was arrested on espionage charges. He was caught red-handed. Trevor Reed was arrested for attacking and hitting a police officer several times. I am not sure how many years in prison people in the United States would get for violent attacks against a police officer. I think, many. Konstantin Yaroshenko and Viktor Bout were simply lured by deception into a deal where they used an aircraft for some purpose, which got them implicated into a case of arms and drug smuggling. They were sentenced to over 20 years in prison without having hurt anyone or having any intention to violate international rules for trading in particular types of goods. So, our US colleagues need to be consistent, if they are offended over someone being arrested here. The same standards should be applied to all situations. In the case of an attack on police officers, see what is happening at the trial on the “Capitol attack.”

With regard to the accusations advanced by the European Commission, we are willing to review the facts, but they simply will not give us any. We are being unfoundedly charged with the alleged poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko with polonium in London in 2007. They have not yet provided a single piece of evidence, but closed the process to the public and made it “official,” meaning that the judges can now consider secret materials behind closed doors. Now, they want to do the same with the process regarding the woman who died in Salisbury in the context of the Skripal case. They also want closed hearings on the causes of her death in order to avoid disclosing some secret documents. Nobody is making them available to us, but they blame us for everything. As with the Skripal case, they are also blaming us for the Malaysian Boeing case. The court in The Hague ruled that they had reason to believe the United States, which stated it had satellite images to prove that Russia had done it. But they did not show these images to anyone. The Dutch court considers this normal. They believe whatever the Americans say. Arnold Schwarzenegger famously said “trust me” in one of his films, and Ronald Reagan added “but verify.” So, we want to conduct verification. In the case of the MH17 flight, we provided the data from the radars and much more. The Ukrainians refused to share the data from their radars. Allegedly, they “went dead” during the crash. They refuse to provide the exchange between the air traffic controller and the pilots. This speaks volumes. And much more.

We’re being accused of interfering  in the US elections. I discussed this matter with my colleagues on many occasions, in particular, with former US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. He once said they had irrefutable evidence of Russia’s interference in the 2016 US elections, and I asked him to show it to me. He said they would not let us see it and that we should contact our special services for they would know what it was all about. That was all that was said. Is that okay?

The same goes for cyber attacks. The US authorities accused us (President Biden brought this issue up at a meeting with President Putin) or, rather our ransomware hackers, of attacking a meat processor and a fuel pipeline in the United States demanding them to pay ransom. Nobody showed us any evidence. President Biden, however, said their data show it is not the Russian Government that is doing this, but some people who are based in  Russia.

We let them know that most (about half) of the hacker attacks on our resources over the past year were carried out from the United States. Some originated in Germany and other countries. We have sent 45 official inquiries to our US colleagues indicating concrete facts that needed investigation. We received nine replies. We have received about 10 official inquiries and answered every one of them. I am heartened to know that the Americans agreed to move away from sporadic accusations and complaints and to begin systematic work on this matter after President Putin discussed this issue with President Biden in Geneva. The services that deal with cyber security have established dedicated communication channels. We hope that things will get going now.

With regard to the election in Germany, we wish every success to all its participants.

Question: Last week, the preliminary results of an investigation conducted by Justice Department special counsel John Durham into “Russiagate” were made public in the United States. The indictment mentioned one of the probe’s initiators. It is not the first paradoxical situation reported in the United States. American officials are overturning the US accusations against Russia.

The paradox is that the sanctions adopted against Russia have not been lifted despite the refutation. What is Moscow’s position on this score and what are its American partners saying?

Sergey Lavrov: You have answered your own question. It was unreasonable to do this before pondering the matter or investigating the situation. And it is a pity that after the situation was clarified they have not retraced their steps so as not to harm our bilateral relations. This is what American manners are all about. We have become accustomed to this. We will never ask for the sanctions to be lifted. The “limit” has been exhausted by neighbouring Ukraine, which continues making requests, unable to get its bearings of what is happening.  We are not going to act in this manner.

We do not have any other partners [in the US]. However, dialogue is gradually taking shape in some spheres, such as strategic stability and cybersecurity, which gives hope that we will bit by bit develop dialogue based on mutual respect at least in some spheres of international relations.

Question (retranslated from English): My question concerns Palestine. Many people say that Palestinian settlements are occupying too much land, that there are already half a million settlers. Do you think it’s time for the international community to settle the problem by creating one state for two peoples? Could you comment on this please?

As you are aware, WFP Executive Director David Beasley said just two days ago now that at least 50,000 Yemenis are starving and millions need humanitarian aid and food. Do you think that the international community, which includes Russia, has let the Yemeni people down by failing to put sufficient pressure on all the conflicting parties, including Saudi Arabia?

Sergey Lavrov: I would not say that the international community is not doing enough to convince the conflicting parties to sit down at the negotiating table not only to exchange accusations but also to come to some agreements.  There are a number of factors involved here, which are, regrettably, absolutely subjective and have to do with the desire of certain individuals to remain in power as long as possible, which is having a negative effect on the negotiating process and the possibility of compromise. I will not go into any details right now, but Yemen is indeed a country with the world’s largest humanitarian disaster, which was pointed out long ago, when the conflict had only just started and was in the hot phase.

We are involved through our Embassy. Our ambassador to Yemen is currently working from Riyadh, where a group of ambassadors are acting together to support the process and the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Yemen. I hope that everyone will gradually come to see the futility of trying to put off the necessary agreements.

As for the [Palestinian] settlements, we have always condemned the settlement policy, saying, just as you have so rightly pointed out, that this would create facts on the ground that will prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state. I have heard about the one state solution where all people would have equal rights. I believe that this is unrealistic. Many academics say that this, if this should happen, will undermine the Jewish nature of the State of Israel. But if equal rights are not granted to everyone in Israel, it might become an apartheid state.

I am quite sure that the two-state solution is the only option. I would just like to point out that many people in the Israeli political elite share this same view and believe that this option must be promoted more actively.

Eurasian consolidation ends the US unipolar moment – Part 2 of 2

SEPTEMBER 24, 2021

Eurasian consolidation ends the US unipolar moment – Part 2 of 2

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

Part 1 is here

The 20th anniversary summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, enshrined no less than a new geopolitical paradigm.

Iran, now a full SCO member, was restored to its traditionally prominent Eurasian role, following the recent $400 billion-worth trade and development deal struck with China. Afghanistan was the main topic – with all players agreeing on the path ahead, as detailed in the Dushanbe Declaration. And all Eurasian integration paths are now converging, in unison, towards the new geopolitical – and geoeconomic – paradigm.

Call it a multipolar development dynamic in synergy with the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

The Dushanbe Declaration was quite explicit on what Eurasian players are aiming at: “a more representative, democratic, just and multipolar world order based on universally recognized principles of international law, cultural and civilizational diversity, mutually beneficial and equal cooperation of states under the central coordinating role of the UN.”

For all the immense challenges inherent to the Afghan jigsaw puzzle, hopeful signs emerged this Tuesday, when Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah met in Kabul with the Russian presidential envoy Zamir Kabulov, China’s special envoy Yue Xiaoyong, and Pakistan’s special envoy Mohammad Sadiq Khan.

This troika – Russia, China, Pakistan – is at the diplomatic forefront. The SCO reached a consensus that Islamabad will be coordinating with the Taliban the formation of a government also including Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras.

The most glaring, immediate consequence of the SCO not only incorporating Iran but also taking the Afghan bull by the horns, fully supported by the Central Asian “stans”, is that the Empire of Chaos has been completely marginalized.

From Southwest Asia to Central Asia, a real reset has as protagonists the SCO, the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU), BRI and the Russia-China strategic partnership. The missing links so far, for different reasons – Iran and Afghanistan – are now fully incorporated to the chessboard.

In my frequent conversations with Alastair Crooke, one of the world’s foremost political analysts, he evoked once again Lampedusa’s The Leopard: everything must change so everything must remain the same. In this case, imperial hegemony, as interpreted by Washington: “In its growing confrontation with China, a ruthless Washington has demonstrated that what matters to it now is not Europe, but the Indo-Pacific region.” That’s Cold War 2.0 prime terrain.

With very little potential to contain China now that it’s been all but expelled from the Eurasia heartland, the fallback position had to be a classic maritime power play: the “free and open Indo-Pacific”, complete with Quad and AUKUS, the whole set up spun to death as an “effort” attempting to preserve dwindling American supremacy.

The sharp contrast between the SCO continental integration drive and the “we all live in an Aussie submarine” gambit (my excuses to Lennon-McCartney) speaks for itself. A toxic mix of hubris and desperation is in the air, with not even a whiff of pathos to alleviate the downfall.

The Global South is not impressed. Addressing the forum in Dushanbe, President Putin remarked that the portfolio of nations knocking on the SCO’s door was huge, and that was not surprising at all. Egypt, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are now SCO dialogue partners, on the same level with Afghanistan and Turkey. It’s quite feasible they may be joined next year by Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Serbia and a cast of dozens.

And it doesn’t stop in Eurasia. In his meticulously timed address to CELAC, Xi Jinping no less than invited 33 Latin American nations to be part of the Eurasia-Africa-Americas New Silk Roads.

Remember the Scythians

Iran as a SCO protagonist and at the center of the New Silk Roads restores it to a rightful historic role. By the middle of the first millennium B.C., Northern Iranians ruled the core of the steppes in Central Eurasia. By that time the Scythians had migrated into the Western steppe, while other steppe Iranians made inroads as far away as China.

Scythians – a Northern (or “East”) Iranian people – were not necessarily just fierce warriors. That’s a crude stereotype. Very few in the West know that the Scythians developed a sophisticated trade system, as described by Herodotus among others, linking Greece, Persia and China.

And why’s that? Because trade was an essential means to support their sociopolitical infrastructure. Herodotus got the picture because he actually visited the city of Olbia and other places in Scythia.

The Scythians were called Saka by the Persians – and that leads us to another fascinating territory: the Sakas may have been one of the prime ancestors of the Pashtun in Afghanistan.

What’s in a name – Scythian? Well, multitudes. The Greek form Scytha meant Northern Iranian “archer”. So that was the denomination of all the Northern Iranian peoples living between Greece in the West and China in the East.

Now imagine a very busy international commerce network developed across the heartland, with the focus on Central Eurasia, by the Scythians, the Sogdians, and even the Xiongnu – who kept battling the Chinese on and off, as detailed by early Greek and Chinese historical sources.

These Central Eurasians traded with all the peoples living on their borders: that meant Europeans, Southwest Asians, South Asians and East Asians. They were the precursors of the multiple Ancient Silk Roads.

The Sogdians followed the Scythians; Sogdiana was an independent Greco-Bactrian state in the 3rd century B.C. – encompassing areas of northern Afghanistan – before it was conquered by nomads from the east that ended up establishing the Kushan empire, which soon expanded south into India.

Zoroaster was born in Sogdiana; Zoroastrianism was huge in Central Asia for centuries. The Kushans for their part adopted Buddhism: and that’s how Buddhism eventually arrived in China.

By the fist century A.D. all these Central Asian empires were linked – via long-distance trade – to Iran, India and China. That was the historical basis of the multiple, Ancient Silk Roads – which linked China to the West for several centuries until the Age of Discovery configured the fateful Western maritime trade dominance.

Arguably, even more than a series of interlinked historical phenomena, the denomination “Silk Road” works best as a metaphor of cross-cultural connectivity. That’s what is at the heart of the Chinese concept of New Silk Roads. And average people across the heartland feel it, because that’s imprinted in the collective unconscious in Iran, China and all Central Asian “stans”.

The Revenge of the Heartland

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 the process of Eurasia integration in depth.

His latest book practically spells out the whole story in its title: Europe as the Western Peninsula of Greater Eurasia: Geoeconomic Regions in a Multipolar World.

Diesen shows, in detail, how a “Greater Eurasia region, that integrates Asia and Europe, is currently being negotiated and organized with a Chinese-Russian partnership at the center. Eurasian geoeconomic instruments of power are gradually forming the foundation of a super-region with new strategic industries, transportation corridors and financial instruments. Across the Eurasian continent, states as different as South Korea, India, Kazakhstan and Iran are all advancing various formats for Eurasia integration.”

The Greater Eurasia Partnership has been at the center of Russian foreign policy at least since the St. Petersburg forum in 2016. Diesen duly notes that, “while Beijing and Moscow share the ambition to construct a larger Eurasian region, their formats differ. The common denominator of both formats is the necessity of a Sino-Russian partnership to integrate Eurasia.” That’s what was made very clear at the SCO summit.

It’s no wonder the process irks the Empire immensely, because Greater Eurasia, led by Russia-China, is a mortal attack against the geoeconomic architecture of Atlanticism. And that leads us to the nest of vipers debate around the EU concept of “strategic autonomy” from the US; that would be essential to establish true European sovereignty – and eventually, closer integration within Eurasia.

European sovereignty is simply non-existent when its foreign policy means submission to dominatrix NATO. The humiliating, unilateral withdrawal of Afghanistan coupled with Anglo-only AUKUS was a graphic illustration that the Empire doesn’t give a damn about its European vassals.

Throughout the book Diesen shows, in detail, how the concept of Eurasia unifying Europe and Asia “has through history been an alternative to the dominance of maritime powers in the oceanic-centric world economy”, and how “British and American strategies have been deeply influenced” by the ghost of an emerging Eurasia, “a direct threat to their advantageous position in the oceanic world order”.

Now, the crucial factor seems to be the fragmentation of Atlanticism. Diesen identifies three levels: the de facto decoupling of Europe and the US propelled by Chinese ascendancy; the mind-boggling internal divisions in the EU, enhanced by the parallel universe inhabited by Brussels eurocrats; and last but not least, “polarization within Western states” caused by the excesses of neoliberalism.

Well, just as we think we’re out, Mackinder and Spykman pull us back in. It’s always the same story: the Anglo-American obsession in preventing the rise of a “peer competitor” (Brzezinski) in Eurasia, or an alliance (Russia-Germany in the Mackinder era, now the Russia-China strategic partnership) capable, as Diesen puts it, “of wrestling geoeconomic control away from the oceanic powers.”

As much as imperial strategists remain hostages of Spykman – who ruled that the US must control the maritime periphery of Eurasia – definitely it’s not AUKUS/Quad that is going to pull it off.

Very few people, East and West, may remember that Washington had developed its own Silk Road concept during the Bill Clinton years – later co-opted by Dick Cheney with a Pipelineistan twist, and then circling all back to Hillary Clinton, announcing her own Silk Road dream in India in 2011.

Diesen reminds us how Hillary sounded remarkably like a proto-Xi: “Let’s work together to create a new Silk Road. Not a single thoroughfare like its namesake, but an international web and network of economic and transit connections. That means building more rail lines, highways, energy infrastructure, like the proposed pipeline to run from Turkmenistan, through Afghanistan, through Pakistan and India.”

Hillary does Pipelineistan! Well, in the end, she didn’t. Reality dictates that Russia is connecting its European and Pacific regions, while China connects its developed east coast with Xinjiang, and both connect Central Asia. Diesen interprets it as Russia “completing its historical conversion from a European/Slavic empire to a Eurasian civilizational state.”

So in the end we’re back to…the Scythians. The prevailing neo-Eurasia concept revives the mobility of nomadic civilizations – via top transportation infrastructure – to connect everything between Europe and Asia. We could call it the Revenge of the Heartland: they are the powers building this new, interconnected Eurasia. Say goodbye to the ephemeral, post-Cold War US unipolar moment.

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.

Another Look at 9/11: Ask Not ‘What Happened?’ but ‘Who Did It?’

See the source image

Philip Giraldi

September 16, 202

The evidence of Israeli involvement is substantial, based on the level of the Jewish state’s espionage operations in the U.S., Phil Giraldi writes.

The twentieth anniversary of 9/11 last Saturday has raised many of the usual issues about what actually happened on that day. Were hijacked airliners actually crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon or was the damage in New York City attributable to explosives or even some kind of nuclear device? These are fundamental questions and the so-called “Truthers” who raise them have been inspired by their reading of the 585 page 9/11 Report, which is most charitably described as incomplete, though many would reasonably call it a government cover-up.

I have long believed that unless one actually sees or experiences something first hand the description of any event is no better than hearsay. The closest I came to “seeing” 9/11 was the panicked evacuation of a CIA office building, where I was working at the time. Another related bit of 9/11 narrative also came from two close friends who were driving into work at the Pentagon when they each independently observed what appeared to be a large plane passing over their cars and striking the building. I consider the sources credible but was it an airplane or a missile? And I was not there to see it with my own eyes, so I am reluctant to claim that my friends actually saw something that in retrospect might have been misconstrued.

Critics of the physical and engineering aspects of the accepted narrative certainly have a great deal of expert evidence that supports their case. The way the towers fell as well as the collapse of Building 7 nearby are suggestive of something other than the impact of an airliner near the top of the structure, but I am no expert in the science of the matter and have avoided expressing a view regarding it.

Apart from what happened, I have always been more intrigued by “Who done it?” I found the 9/11 Report to be conspicuously lacking in its failure to cover possible foreign involvement, to include the Saudis, Pakistanis and the Israelis. Indeed, President Joe Biden has taken steps that have resulted in the declassification and release of 16 pages of the notorious 28-page redaction of documents relating to any possible Saudi role. The document consists of interviews with Saudi student Omar al-Bayoumi, who reportedly helped support several hijackers.

The Saudis are being sued by 9/11 survivors, but it is unlikely that anything really sensitive will ever be exposed, as explained by investigative journalist Jim Bovard. Indeed, the documents released last Saturday did not demonstrate that the Saudi government itself played any direct role in 9/11, though it is clear that wealthy Saudis and even members of the Royal Family had been supporting and funding al-Qaeda. It is also known that that Saudi Embassy and Consulate employees in the U.S. had funded the alleged hijackers.

Friends who were in CIA’s Counterterrorism Center at the time of 9/11 tend to believe that the Saudis were indeed supporting their fellow citizens while in the U.S. but were likely not knowledgeable regarding any terrorist plot. They observed, however, that there was considerable evidence that Israel knew in advance about what was impending and may have even been instrumental in making sure that it succeeded.

The evidence of Israeli involvement is substantial, based on the level of the Jewish state’s espionage operations in the U.S. and also its track record on so-called covert actions simulating terrorist attacks designed to influence political decision making in foreign countries. But, of course, in reporting on the 9/11 tragedy no one in the mainstream media did pick up on the connection, inhibited no doubt by the understanding that there are some things that one just does not write about Israel if one hopes to remain employed. That is true in spite of the fact that the Israeli angle to 9/11 is without a doubt a good story, consigned to the alternative media, where it can be marginalized by critics as a conspiracy theory or the product of anti-Semitism.

In the year 2001 Israel was running a massive spying operation directed against Muslims either resident or traveling in the United States. The operation included the creation of a number of cover companies in New Jersey, Florida and also on the west coast that served as spying mechanisms for Mossad officers. The effort was supported by the Mossad Station in Washington DC and included a large number of volunteers, the so-called “art students” who traveled around the U.S. selling various products at malls and outdoor markets. The FBI was aware of the numerous Israeli students who were routinely overstaying their visas but they were regarded as a minor nuisance and were normally left to the tender mercies of the inspectors at the Bureau of Customs and Immigration.

The Israelis were also running more sophisticated intelligence operations inside the United States, many of which were focused on Washington’s military capabilities and intentions. Some specialized intelligence units concentrated on obtaining military and dual use technology. It was also known that Israeli spies had penetrated the phone systems of the U.S. government, to include those at the White House.

All of that came into focus on September 11, 2001, when a New Jersey housewife saw something from the window of her apartment building, which overlooked the World Trade Center. She watched as the buildings burned and crumbled but also noted something strange. Three young men were kneeling on the roof of a white transit van parked by the water’s edge, making a movie in which they featured themselves high fiving and laughing in front of the catastrophic scene unfolding behind them. The woman wrote down the license plate number of the van and called the police, who responded quickly and soon both the local force and the FBI began looking for the vehicle, which was subsequently seen by other witnesses in various locations along the New Jersey waterfront, its occupants “celebrating and filming.”

The license plate number revealed that the van belonged to a New Jersey registered company called Urban Moving Systems. The van was identified and pulled over. Five men between the ages of 22 and 27 years old emerged to be detained at gunpoint and handcuffed. They were all Israelis. One of them had $4,700 in cash hidden in his sock and another had two foreign passports. Bomb sniffing dogs reacted to the smell of explosives in the van.

According to the initial police report, the driver identified as Sivan Kurzberg, stated “We are Israeli. We are not your problem. Your problems are our problems. The Palestinians are the problem.” The five men were detained at the Bergen County jail in New Jersey before being transferred the FBI’s Foreign Counterintelligence Section, which handles allegations of spying.

After the arrest, the FBI obtained a warrant to search Urban Moving System’s Weehawken, NJ, offices. Papers and computers were seized. The company owner Dominick Suter, also an Israeli, answered FBI questions but when a follow-up interview was set up a few days later it was learned that he had fled the country for Israel, putting both his business and home up for sale. It was later learned that Suter has been associated with at least fourteen businesses in the United States, mostly in New Jersey and New York but also in Florida.

The five Israelis were held in Brooklyn, initially on charges relating to visa fraud. FBI interrogators questioned them for more than two months. Several were held in solitary confinement so they could not communicate with each other and two of them were given repeated polygraph exams, which they failed when claiming that they were nothing more than students working summer jobs. The two men that the FBI focused on most intensively were believed to be Mossad staff officers and the other three were volunteers helping with surveillance. Interestingly, photo evidence demonstrated that they had been seen “casing” the area where they were seen celebrating on the day before, indicating that they had prior knowledge of the attack.

The Israelis were not exactly cooperative, but the FBI concluded from documents obtained at their office in Weehawken that they had been targeting Arabs in New York and New Jersey. The FBI concluded that there was a distinct possibility that the Israelis had actually monitored the activities of at least two of the alleged 9/11 hijackers while the cover companies and intelligence personnel often intersected with locations frequented by the Saudis.

The dots were apparently never connected by investigators. Police records in New Jersey and New York where the men were held have disappeared and FBI interrogation reports are inaccessible. Media coverage of the case also died, though the five were referred to in the press as the “dancing Israelis” and by some, more disparagingly, as the “dancing Shlomos.”

Inevitably, the George W. Bush White House intervened. After 71 days in detention, the five Israelis were inexplicably released from prison, put on a plane, and deported. One should also recall that when the news of 9/11 reached Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was pleased, saying that “It’s very good. Well, not very good, but it will generate immediate sympathy.” It will “strengthen the bond between our two peoples, because we’ve experienced terror over so many decades, but the United States has now experienced a massive hemorrhaging of terror.” And, of course, it was conveniently attributable to Israel’s enemies.

The possible role of Israel in 9/11 was first explored in book form in 2003 by Antiwar.com editorial director Justin Raimondo in his The Terror Enigma, a short book focusing on Israeli spying and inconsistencies in the narrative that bore the provocative subtitle “9/11 and the Israeli Connection.”

Currently, the twentieth anniversary of 9/11 has inspired some others to take another look at the possible Israeli role. Ron Unz has recently completed an exhaustive examination of the evidence. He observes that 9/11 and its aftermath have shaped “the last two decades, greatly changing the daily lives and liberties of most ordinary Americans.” He asks “What organized group would have been sufficiently powerful and daring to carry off an attack of such vast scale against the central heart of the world’s sole superpower? And how were they possibly able to orchestrate such a massively effective media and political cover-up, even enlisting the participation of the U.S. government itself?”

Ron Unz answers his question, concluding that there is “a strong, perhaps even overwhelming case that the Israeli Mossad together with its American collaborators played the central role” in the attack. His argument is based on the noted inconsistencies in the standard narrative, plus an examination of the history of Israeli false flag and mass terrorism attacks. It also includes new information gleaned from Israeli journalist Ronen Bergman’s recent book Rise and Kill First: the Secret History of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations.

To a certain extent, Unz relies on a detailed investigative article written by French journalist Laurent Guyenot in 2018 as well as on an argument made by an ex-Marine and former instructor at the U.S. Army War College Alan Sabrosky in an article where he records how “Many years ago I read a fascinating discussion of the ‘tactics of mistake.’ This essentially entailed using a target’s prejudices and preconceptions to mislead them as to the origin and intent of the attack, entrapping them in a tactical situation that later worked to the attacker’s strategic advantage. This is what unfolded in the 9/11 attacks that led us into the matrix of wars and conflicts, present (Afghanistan and Iraq), planned (Iran and Syria) and projected (Jordan and Egypt), that benefit Israel and no other country — although I concede that many private contractors and politicians are doing very well for themselves out of the death and misery of others. I am also absolutely certain as a strategic analyst that 9/11 itself, from which all else flows, was a classic Mossad-orchestrated operation. But Mossad did not do it alone. They needed local help within America (and perhaps elsewhere) and they had it, principally from some alumni of PNAC (the misnamed Project for a New American Century) and their affiliates within and outside of the U.S. Government (USG), who in the 9/11 attacks got the ‘catalytic event’ they needed and craved to take the U.S. to war on Israel’s behalf…”

Economist and author Paul Craig Roberts has also been motivated by the anniversary to review the evidence and concludes “Circumstantial evidence suggests that 9/11 was a scheme of George W. Bush regime neoconservative officials allied with vice president Dick Cheney and Israel to create a ‘new Pearl Harbor’ that would generate support on the part of the American people and Washington’s European allies for a Middle Eastern ‘war on terror’ whose real purpose was to destroy Israel’s enemies in the interest of Greater Israel… This is the most plausible explanation, but, if true, it is not one that the U.S. and Israeli governments would ever acknowledge. Consequently, we are stuck with an official explanation long championed by the presstitutes that no one believes.”

Yes, an implausible explanation that no one really believes for the greatest national security disaster in America’s twenty-first century. And Israel gets yet another pass.

Taliban danger

SEPTEMBER 12, 2021

Taliban danger

by Batko Milacic for the Saker Blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Afghan Protests: Foreign-Financed Color Revolution Or Genuine Grievances?

9 SEPTEMBER 2021

By Andrew Korybko

Source

Afghan Protests: Foreign-Financed Color Revolution Or Genuine Grievances?

Regardless of whether one sympathizes with those protesters’ causes or not, it should be acknowledged that these disturbances could greatly destabilize Afghanistan at one of its most sensitive moments in modern history amid its historic political transition back to de facto Taliban rule following the West’s withdrawal last month after nearly twenty years of occupation.

Taliban vs. Protesters

The Taliban claimed that the latest protests against its de facto rule are financed from abroad, but the case can also be made that they’re at the very least partially driven by genuine grievances, even if some of the latter are being externally manipulated through information warfare means. Those participating in the recent unrest are concerned about women’s rights and Pakistan’s alleged role in their country. The Taliban, which is still recognized as a terrorist group by many countries including Russia even though the Kremlin also pragmatically engages with it in the interests of peace and security, dispersed their demonstrations and then decreed that anyone protesting must first have prior authorization. Even so, the protests continue in some cities.

A “Culture Shock” For Liberal Women

Addressing these two protest motivations in the order that they were introduced, the first arises from the precedent established the last time that the Taliban was in power from 1996-2001. Unlike then, however, the group nowadays allows women to study (albeit in gender-segregated classrooms though they intend to eventually introduce separate classrooms and even facilities), work in certain professions, and leave the house without being accompanied by a male family member. It only wants them to wear the hijab the whole time they’re outside their homes and no longer participate in sports due to the group’s interpretation of Sharia. Nevertheless, this is a “culture shock” for some women who were used to living under more liberal standards.

The Two Dimensions To Anti-Pakistani Protests

Regarding the second one about Pakistan, this narrative is the result of two factors. Firstly, Islamabad has close ties with the Taliban, though the Pakistani Ambassador to Russia recently clarified that this doesn’t mean that his country controls them. There are consultations on various issues such as the ones that Director-General of Inter-Services Intelligence Faiz Hameed held during his latest visit to Kabul, but the Ambassador said that they didn’t concern the acting government’s composition. This, however, didn’t stop some from speculating that Pakistan pulls the Taliban’s strings, which provoked anti-Pakistani hostility among some Afghans.

The second factor has no factual basis whatsoever unlike Mr. Hameed’s public visit to Kabul that was exploited for provoking anti-Pakistani protests through information warfare means, and that’s the claims that Pakistan militarily participated in the Taliban’s Panjshir operation. Indian media shared fake news footage and images purporting to be proof of this claim, which regrettably succeeded in misleading the Iranian Foreign Ministry into later giving credence to these false accusations. The impact on Afghan society was to push those who already disliked Pakistan for whatever reason into taking to the streets to protest against it and the Taliban.

No Foreign Actor Wants To Stop The Taliban

These dual demonstrations are especially dangerous at this sensitive moment in the country’s political transition. The Taliban has zero-tolerance for what it deems to be illegal protests so those who are participating in them know very well the harsh response that they’re destined to receive irrespective of however much some outside observers might feel that these consequences are morally unjustified. The fact of the matter is that no foreign actor has the capabilities or political will to stop the Taliban from suppressing these demonstrations, though the media’s coverage of this can still be taken advantage of to promote ulterior agendas.

Ulterior Agendas

Firstly, the external encouragement (whether through foreign financing or simply political support) of these protests is intended to provoke a self-sustaining cycle of unrest whereby the Taliban’s suppression leads to more demonstrations and so on and so forth until the situation becomes more destabilized. This could especially be the case if some of those who are on the receiving end of the Taliban’s harsh anti-protest responses are representative of ethnic, regional, and/or religious minorities whose fellows might then intensify their anti-Taliban activities in response up to the point of once again taking up arms against them.

The second agenda is to delegitimize the presently unrecognized though de facto acknowledged Taliban-appointed interim authorities. This serves the purpose of justifying unilateral sanctions against it such as the formal ones that the US has as well as the informal ones recently imposed by the IMF and World Bank. It could also discourage the US’ Western allies in Europe from more pragmatically engaging with the group if their decision makers are flooded with images (however possibly decontextualized) of it violently dispersing female-led protests and/or those organized by ethnic/regional/religious minorities against Pakistan.

Clarifying The Uncomfortable Optics

These observations lead to a deeper analysis of the complex dynamics that are being discussed, specifically the reason why Western countries might react that way in response to such optics (whether accurately reported or misleadingly so) as well as the role that foreign fake news has in generating socio-political unrest. About the first, for as painful as it is for Westerners to see women being beaten by the Taliban for protesting against the group, it must be acknowledged (though not necessarily approved of) that Afghanistan has different cultural and legal traditions. Still, it’s inaccurate at this moment in time at least to believe that women are being beaten for not wearing hijabs or because of their gender.

They’re on the receiving end of the de facto authorities’ force because they’re participating in illegal protests that they didn’t voluntarily disperse after first being warned to do so by the Taliban. Men who participate in other illegal protests are also beaten for the same reasons too. At the risk of being accused of so-called “whatabouttism”, this actually isn’t much different from what happens in practically every country across the world, including Western ones. Regardless of how strongly one might feel about their personal interpretation of whatever they believe to be fundamental human rights, there objectively exist different such standards whether one supports them or not and they aren’t always compatible with others’ no matter what liberals say.

Exploiting “Proselytizing” Tendencies

Westerners tend to be more “proselytizing” of their worldview than others, though that’s not to deny that some Islamists for example also feel the same way about their own interpretation of everything. The point being made is that the repeated expose to footage and images of someone on the receiving end of the (in this case de facto) authorities’ use of force for what the civilizationally dissimilar foreign audience is made to believe is their expression of fundamental human rights (e.g. to protest and/or not wear a hijab in Western eyes, or to agitate for more mosques in a secular country and/or wear the hijab where it’s banned in Islamist eyes) is going to provoke a negative reaction from them that can be manipulated for strategic purposes.

The aforesaid could include imposing/prolonging sanctions like in the Western case or boycotting a certain countries’ companies in the Islamist one. It’s up to each individual on a personal level to decide whether these responses are justified, but it’s nevertheless important to acknowledge the cause-effect relationship and how that could be taken advantage of by others for certain strategic ends that the sincerely passionate participants might not even consciously aware of. In the Afghan case, these relate to isolating the Taliban-appointed acting authorities by refusing to recognize them and/or imposing/prolonging sanctions, the latter of which can actually worsen socio-economic tensions if this leads to a cutoff of much-needed humanitarian aid for instance.

Fake News Can Provoke Real Violence

Regarding the role that foreign fake news has in generating socio-political unrest, this exploits the targeted audience’s preexisting political triggers in order to provoke a more intensified round of identity conflict per the basics of Hybrid War theory that could easily lead to kinetic conflict as was earlier explained. Anyone anywhere can believe whatever they want about Mr. Hameed’s public visit to Kabul, but holding the Pakistani intelligence chief to a different standard than the American one who traveled there late last month to also meet with the Taliban by only speculating that the former played an allegedly pernicious role with regard to the acting government’s composition very strongly suggests an ulterior motive behind pushing such a narrative.

There’s also no denying that Indian media propagated fake news purporting to prove that Pakistan militarily supported the Taliban’s Panjshir operation, which whether intended or not served to reaffirm the weaponized narrative that Islamabad allegedly backs the Pashtun-majority Taliban at the expense of Afghanistan’s other groups such as the influential Tajik minority that the “Panjshir Resistance” claimed to represent. Targeted infowar audiences in long-running conflict zones such as Afghanistan’s usually already have very deeply held convictions about the wars that they’ve suffered from so sometimes it only takes a minor spark, including from fake news, to provoke them into taking tangible action against their opponents, both real and perceived.

From A Color Revolution To An Unconventional War

This could take the form of protesting and/or picking up arms against them. While only the first of these two has thus far taken place vis-a-vis Pakistan inside Afghanistan in the post-withdrawal context, it might very well turn out to be the case that the self-sustaining cycle of destabilization provoked by weaponized protests such as these triggering forceful reactions from the Taliban could lead to those on the receiving end undergoing the transition from Color Revolution protesters to Unconventional Warfare fighters exactly like Hybrid War theory predicts. The result could be that they’d then once again fight against the Taliban or possibly even consider carrying out acts of terrorism against neighboring Pakistan, both of which would further destabilize the region.

Conceptual Review

Reflecting on the insight that was shared in this analysis, which might realistically necessitate the reader reviewing the article one or more times in order to more effectively absorb it all if they weren’t earlier familiar with some of these complex socio-political dynamics, the Afghan protests as a whole are a blend of genuine grievances and Color Revolution plots. The first motivation is relevant to most of those women who are participating in protests under that banner while the second relates to those who are participating in anti-Pakistani protests triggered by foreign fake news reports. This combination severely complicates everything and deserves some further elaboration before concluding in order to remind readers of the analysis’ main points.

Female and anti-Pakistani activists can be genuine and have no direct or conscious connection to foreign forces, but their respective protests are being given positive coverage from abroad by those who have an interest in propagating certain narratives. These are that the Taliban are uncivilized thugs who brutally beat women that don’t want to wear the hijab and that Afghans are supposedly rising up against their allegedly Pakistani-controlled de facto authorities. Both protest movements run the risk of catalyzing self-sustaining cycles of destabilization by continuing to be carried out illegally in contravention of the Taliban’s recent decree. The first can also be exploited to impose/prolong sanctions while the second could lead to intensified identity conflict.

Concluding Thoughts

To wrap it all up, everything isn’t as it seems to most of the protests’ participants and foreign observers alike. Regardless of whether one sympathizes with those protesters’ causes or not, it should be acknowledged that these disturbances could greatly destabilize Afghanistan at one of its most sensitive moments in modern history amid its historic political transition back to de facto Taliban rule following the West’s withdrawal last month after nearly twenty years of occupation. There’s also undeniable evidence of positive media coverage being given by some countries to these disturbances, which could be intended to advance their respective strategic interests as earlier explained. Ultimately, it’s one’s individual choice who to support, why, and to what extent.

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