China to receive two million barrels of Iranian oil, despite US sanctions

Iran has been cooperating with China, Russia, Venezuela, and Cuba in order to bypass the effects of US economic sanctions

May 19 2022

(Photo credit: Press TV)

ByNews Desk

China is scheduled to receive around two million barrels of Iranian crude oil this week that it will pump into an oil terminal in the Zhanjiang city of Guangdong province, southwest of the country.

The oil will be discharged by the Diona crude oil carrier owned by the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC), according to Vortexa Analytics, an agency that specializes in tanker tracking.

“This would be the third Iranian oil cargo destined for government stockpile following two similar-sized shipments in December and January,” the agency reported.

Despite ongoing economic sanctions imposed on Iran by the US, China has been purchasing large amounts of Iranian oil over the past two years.

Iran plays a crucial role in the Belt and Road Initiative, a mega-infrastructure and economic initiative launched by Beijing to link the economies of Europe, Asia, and Africa, with an eye on expanding to Latin America.

Over recent years, Iran has played an instrumental role in cooperating with other countries to overcome the effects of punitive US sanctions.

On 3 May, Iranian Oil Minister Javad Owji met with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas to discuss energy relations and ways to overcome the repercussions of US sanctions unilaterally imposed on the two countries.

Venezuela and Iran have recently stepped up energy cooperation to overcome sanctions, with Venezuela importing condensate and thinners from Iran.

Back in January, an Iranian supertanker started discharging about two million barrels of Iranian condensate at the main port of Venezuela’s state-run oil company, as part of a bilateral deal that defies the US sanctions imposed on both nations.

On 17 May, UN Special Rapporteur Alena Douhan said the US must lift economic sanctions on Iran due to the harmful impact they have on the Iranian people.

“I call on the United States to abandon unilateral sanctions,” the UN special rapporteur told a press conference in Tehran.

Douhan went further, saying that the application of “extra-territorial sanctions on Iranian companies or companies working with Iran or paying Iran in dollars is illegal under international law.”

The UN official said she would address her concerns over the legality of US sanctions in her final report, to be published at a later date.

A New Order in West Asia: The Case of China’s Strategic Presence in Syria

9 May 2022

Source: Al Mayadeen

Mohamad Zreik 

As the world order shifts into a multipolar world, a new balance of power based on economic ties centered in Asia emerges.

A New Order in West Asia: The Case of China’s Strategic Presence in Syria

Unanimity on a new American century had gone unchecked for a decade. The warhawk John Bolton lambasted Xi’s authoritarianism, claiming the new crackdown has made it practically hard for the CIA to keep agents in China.

Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) has evolved enormously since its inception. Today, multipolarity has developed, promising long-term progress for everyone who follows its norms. And Syria is one among them, had lately returned to world prominence after defeating a decade-long military offensive by the traditional unipolar actors.

In spite of this, unlawful US sanctions continue to harm the hungry, impede the rehabilitation of essential infrastructure and access to clean water, and restrict the livelihood of millions in Syria.

“We welcome Syria’s involvement in the Belt and Road Initiative and the Global Development Initiative,” stated Xi Jinping to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad on November 5.

In July 2021, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with the Arab League’s head to discuss Syria’s return to the fold. A four-point plan to end Syria’s multi-faceted crisis was signed by China at the end of the tour, which coincided with Assad’s re-election.

Surrounded by western-backed separatist movements, Syria reiterated its support for China’s territorial integrity. In 2018, China gave Syria $28 million, and in September 2019, Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi proposed China-Iraq oil for rebuilding and greater BRI integration.

Events orchestrated by foreign forces halted this progress. Protests swiftly overthrew Abdul Mahdi’s administration and the oil-for-reconstruction scheme. In recent months, Iraq has rekindled this endeavor, but progress has been modest.

These projects are currently mostly channeled through the 25-year Comprehensive Strategic Partnership deal between China and Iran in March 2021. This might open the way for future rail and energy lines connecting Iran with Iraq and Syria.

At the first formal BRI meeting in April 2019, President Assad stated: “The Silk Route (Belt and Road Initiative) crossing through Syria is a foregone conclusion when this infrastructure is constructed, since it is not a road you can merely put on a map.”

China and Syria are now staying quiet on specifics. Assad’s wish list may be deduced from his previous strategic vision for Syria. Assad’s Five Seas Strategy, which he pushed from 2004 to 2011, has gone after the US began attacking Syria.

The “Five Seas Strategy” includes building rail, roads, and energy systems to connect Syria to the Mediterranean, Persian Gulf, Black, Red, and Caspian Seas. The project is a logical link that connects Mackinder’s world island’s states. This initiative was “the most significant thing” Assad has ever done, he claimed in 2009.

Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon were among the countries Assad led delegations to sign agreements with in 2011. President Qaddafi of Libya and a coalition of nations including Sudan, Ethiopia, and Egypt were building the Great Man-Made River at the time.

We can’t comprehend why Qaddafi was killed, why Sudan was partitioned in 2009, or why the US is presently financing a regime change in Ethiopia until we grasp this tremendous, game-changing strategic paradigm. Diplomatic confidentiality between China and West Asia is so essential in the post-regime transition situation.

Over the last decade, BRI-compliant initiatives throughout West Asia and Africa have been sabotaged in various ways. This has been a pattern. Neither Assad nor the Chinese want to go back to that.

The Arab League re-admitted Syria on November 23, revealing the substance of this hidden diplomacy. They have proved that they are prepared to accept their humiliation, acknowledge Assad’s legitimacy, and adjust to the new Middle Eastern powers of China and Russia: the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Unlike decades of US promises that consider Arab participation as disposable short-term interests, the China-Russia cooperation provides genuine, demonstrable advantages for everybody.

The BRI now includes 17 Arab and 46 African countries, while the US has spent the last decade sanctioning and fining those who do not accept its global hegemony. Faced with a possible solution to its current economic problems and currency fluctuations, Turkey has turned to China for help.

Buying ISIS-controlled oil, sending extremist fighters to the region, and receiving arms from Saudi Arabia and Qatar were all known methods of supporting ISIS and Al Qaeda operations in Iraq and Syria. The CIA’s funding has dwindled in recent months, leaving ISIS with little else to work with.

Though US President Joe Biden reiterated US military backing for the Kurdish-led Syrian Defense Forces (SDF), the Kurds’ hand has been overplayed. Many people now realize that the Kurds have been tricked into acting as ISIS’ counter-gang, and that promises of a Kurdish state are as unreal as Assad’s demise. For a long time, it was evident that Syria’s only hope for survival was Russia’s military assistance and China’s BRI, both of which need Turkey to preserve Syria’s sovereignty.

This new reality and the impending collapse of the old unipolar order in West Asia give reason to believe that the region, or at least a significant portion of it, is already locked in and counting on the upcoming development and connectivity boom.

The opinions mentioned in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Al mayadeen, but rather express the opinion of its writer exclusively.

US ‘coercive diplomacy’ with Saudi Arabia

While a carrot may advance US interests infinitely better than a stick at this sensitive juncture in US-Saudi relations, all indications are that Biden will resort to the stick.

May 07 2022

The US cannot budge oil production and prices with this geopolitical line-up blocking its path. So Washington may strike at the weakest link – in Riyadh. Photo Credit: The Cradle

By MK Bhadrakumar

Some three weeks after the reported meeting of CIA chief William Burns with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MbS), the OPEC+ ministerial held a videoconference on Thursday.

The OPEC+ meeting drew satisfaction that “continuing oil market fundamentals and the consensus on the outlook pointed to a balanced market.” The press release issued in Vienna says the ministerial “further noted the continuing effects of geopolitical factors and issues related to the ongoing pandemic” and decided that OPEC+ should stick to the monthly production adjustment mechanism agreed in July last year “to adjust upward the monthly overall production by 0.432 million barrels/day for the month of June 2022.”

Former Wall Street Journal publisher Karen Elliott House says Burns came to Saudi Arabia for a “mating dance” with MbS — namely, the latter must cooperate on a new oil-for-security strategy to “increase production to save European nations from energy shortages.”

Burns’ visit to the kingdom took place just ahead of the fifth round of Saudi-Iranian normalization talks in Baghdad between the Saudi intelligence chief and the deputy head of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council. Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi who acted as mediator and attended the talks, told state media last week, “Our brothers in Saudi Arabia and Iran approach the dialogue with a big responsibility as demanded by the current regional situation. We are convinced that reconciliation is near.”

In addition, Iranian outlet Nournews, affiliated with the country’s Supreme National Security Council, reported on 24 April that the fifth round of talks on a possible détente was “constructive,” that the negotiators managed “to draw a clearer picture” of how to resume bilateral relations, and that “given the constructive bilateral dialogue so far, there is a possibility of a meeting between the Iranian and Saudi top diplomats in the near future.”

Burns’ mission couldn’t have been indifferent toward the Saudi reconciliation track with Tehran. With the outcome of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) talks in Vienna still uncertain, Iran’s close ties with Russia and China remains a major worry for Washington. And with Tehran’s stubborn refusal to trim its regional policies to suit US regional strategies, Washington has fallen back on its usual default option to resuscitate an anti-Iran front of its regional allies. The US hopes that Saudi Arabia will come on board the Abraham Accords.

Soaring energy prices

Meanwhile, the issue of energy pricing has returned to centre stage. Indeed, high oil prices mean increased income for Russia. Russia’s sales of oil and natural gas far exceeded initial forecasts for 2021 as a result of skyrocketing prices, accounting for 36 percent of the country’s total budget. The revenues exceeded initial plans by 51.3 percent, totaling a whopping $119 billion. The Biden administration’s best-laid plans to cripple the Russian economy are unravelling. Equally, high energy prices is also a domestic issue for Biden who faces daunting elections this Autumn. Above all, unless Europe finds other oil sources, it will continue buying Russian oil.

The Saudi crown price, however, has a different agenda. After ascending to power, he is likely to rule the kingdom for many decades — half a century if he lives to 86, his father’s age. And MbS has been remarkably successful in creating his own Saudi ‘power base’ without US help. His lifestyle changes have been a smashing hit with Saudis 35 and under — 70 percent of the kingdom’s citizens — and his ambition to transform Saudi Arabia into a modern technological leader ignites the imagination of the youth.

Clearly, his refusal to punish Russia and his $2 billion ‘gesture’ toward a new, untested investment fund started by former US president Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, speak for themselves. MbS has his own reasons for these actions, starting with Biden’s contemptuous reference to Saudi Arabia as a “pariah” state and his refusal to deal with the crown prince in person.

MbS hit back recently by declining to take a call from Joe Biden. Besides the petty stuff, the US restrictions on arms sales to the kingdom; insufficient response assistance to attacks on Saudi Arabia by Yemeni forces; publication of a report into the 2018 murder of Jamal Khashoggi — all these are in play here.

Even if the administration is able to obtain congressional approval for new security guarantees for Saudi Arabia (which is rather problematic), MbS might very well refuse to be swayed, since at the end of the day, high oil prices boost the ailing Saudi budget too.

The paradox is, both Saudi Arabia and Russia are stakeholders in OPEC+ as is evident from the explicit warning to the EU by OPEC Secretary General Mohammad Barkindo last month that it would be impossible to replace more than 7 million barrels per day of Russian oil and other liquids exports potentially lost due to current or future sanctions or voluntary actions.

Given the torrential geopolitical and economic crosscurrents at play here, what possibly unnerves the Biden Administration most is talk of an upcoming visit to Saudi Arabia by Chinese President Xi Jinping. There are persisting recent reports that Riyadh and Beijing are in discussions to price some of the kingdom’s oil sales in yuan rather than dollars, which would indeed mark a profound shift for global oil markets, and help advance China’s efforts to convince more countries and international investors to transact in its currency.

The Saudi explanation for the shift to the yuan is that the kingdom could use part of new currency revenues to pay Chinese contractors involved in domestic mega projects within Saudi Arabia, which would reduce the risks associated with the capital controls Beijing imposes on its currency. But, for Washington, that means certain sensitive Saudi-China transactions in yuan do not appear in the rearview mirror of the western-controlled SWIFT messaging infrastructure, making transaction monitoring unviable.

There are persistent US reports that with Chinese support, Saudi Arabia may be constructing a new uranium processing facility near Al Ula to enhance its pursuit of nuclear technology. Riyadh’s generous $8 billion in financial support for Pakistan, unveiled this week, will almost certainly raise hiccups in Washington.

Saudi Arabia is a central pillar of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and ranks in the top three countries globally for Chinese construction projects, according to the China Global Investment Tracker, run by the American Enterprise Institute. Suffice to say, the CIA chief’s call could not have been for a friendly chat with the Saudi crown prince.

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

The Removal Of Imran Khan and the Popular Push Back. How Pakistan Helped Foster “The War on Terrorism”

May 07, 2022

Global Research,

By Michael WelchJunaid S. Ahmad, and Prof Michel Chossudovsky

All Global Research articles can be read in 51 languages by activating the Translate Website” drop down menu on the top banner of our home page (Desktop version).

Visit and follow us on Instagram at @crg_globalresearch.

***

“I am saying to you today, that for the first time, Pakistan’s policies won’t be for the few rich people, it will be for the poor, for our women, for our minorities, whose rights are not respected. My whole aim will be to protect our lower classes and to bring them up.”

–  Imran Khan, 2018 election campaign speech [1]

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In the early hours of April 9, the Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Imran Ahmed Khan Niazi, faced a no-confidence motion in the country’s National Assembly resulting in his removal from power. This was the first time ever that an official of his stature was removed in such a manner. [2]

What makes this move so geopolitically significant was the unique significance of this state as a square on the tabletop of the grand chessboard between the United States, and Russia and China.

On the one hand, Pakistan has traditionally used the country’s military and the intelligence services, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), as partners. Over the course of the last twenty years, the Islamic State was a leading local site from which to launch air and ground operations in favor of America’s War on Terrorism. And as Michel Chossudovsky wrote back at the time of the infamous September 11th terrorist attacks, the ISI played a key role in acting as a “go-between” between the CIA and the Islamic jihadists in Afghanistan going back to 1979. This would in large part lead to the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union. [3][4]

On the other hand, Pakistan has gained partners both in Russia and in China. There was a vital 1100km gas pipeline project between Lahore and Karachi in which the goods would be provided from Russia. And in November of 2014, Russia and Pakistan signed a defense cooperation pact followed by a military-technical cooperation agreement all of which would serve toward “Strengthening of mutual trust and international security, counter-terrorist and arms control activities.” [5][6][7]

And then there was China’s “One Belt One Road” initiative, which would ultimately help undermine dependence on the Strait of Malacca and building a conduit between China and West Asia and the Middle East. [8]

These alliances have been tightening under the new leader Khan. On the same night Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized the Ukraine intervention, Khan had been meeting with him to discuss a wide variety of subjects including economic and energy cooperation. He did not announce a formal disapproval of the intervention in Ukraine then, nor did he do it when he returned home. [9][10]

Did Khan then cross the rubicon and slot himself in the bad books of Washington? Maybe it’s a coincidence, but in the lead-up to the National Assembly vote of no confidence, Prime Minister Khan cited the following quote of U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Donald Lu as evidence the U.S. was behind this move:

“If Prime Minister Imran Khan remained in office, then Pakistan will be isolated from the United States and we will take the issue head on; but if the vote of no-confidence succeeds, all will be forgiven.” [11]

Was this yet another plot of regime change by the United States? And how would the people coming out in unprecedented number in support of their removed Prime Minister prevail in his return to power? We will examine these questions on this edition of the Global Research News Hour.

In Part One of our series, we will talk to Professor Junaid Ahmad, who has a background in Pakistan about the details of the coup, the reasons for Khan to go, and the resulting push back from the people of Pakistan. And in our second half hour, we present a repeat broadcast from October of 2012 of an interview with Professor Michel Chossudovsky, founder/director of the Centre for Research on Globalization. His talk mostly deals with Afghanistan and 9/11, although he touches also on Pakistan’s then pivotal role in the military-intelligent quagmire surrounding the whole affair.

Junaid S. Ahmad teaches Religion, Law, and Politics and is the Director of the Center for the Study of Islam and Decoloniality. He is a regular contributor to Global Research.

Michel Chossudovsky is the author of thirteen books including The Globalization of War: America’s Long War Against Humanity (2015), and the international best America’s “War on Terrorism”  Second Edition (2005). He is Professor of Economics at the University of Ottawa and Director of the Center for Research on Globalization. 

(Global Research News Hour Episode 354)

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The Global Research News Hour airs every Friday at 1pm CT on CKUW 95.9FM out of the University of Winnipeg. The programme is also podcast at globalresearch.ca .

Other stations airing the show:

CIXX 106.9 FM, broadcasting from Fanshawe College in London, Ontario. It airs Sundays at 6am.

WZBC 90.3 FM in Newton Massachusetts is Boston College Radio and broadcasts to the greater Boston area. The Global Research News Hour airs during Truth and Justice Radio which starts Sunday at 6am.

Campus and community radio CFMH 107.3fm in  Saint John, N.B. airs the Global Research News Hour Fridays at 7pm.

CJMP 90.1 FM, Powell River Community Radio, airs the Global Research News Hour every Saturday at 8am. 

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Cowichan Valley Community Radio CICV 98.7 FM serving the Cowichan Lake area of Vancouver Island, BC airs the program Thursdays at 9am pacific time.

Notes:

  1. ‘Imran Khan’s speech in full’ (July 26, 2018), Al Jazeera;https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/7/26/imran-khans-speech-in-full
  2. No-Trust Motion: Imran Khan Becomes First Prime Minister To Be Voted Out Of Power (April 10, 2022), The Nation; https://nation.com.pk/2022/04/10/no-trust-motion-imran-khan-becomes-first-prime-minister-to-be-voted-out-of-pow/
  3. https://asiatimes.com/2021/05/pakistan-leans-towards-giving-us-military-bases/
  4. https://www.globalresearch.ca/september-11-2001-the-crimes-of-war-committed-in-the-name-of-911/5311561
  5. https://cscr.pk/explore/themes/trade-economics/pakistan-russia-china-emerging-coalition/
  6. https://www.ilaan.com/news/gas-pipelines-to-be-laid-from-lahore-to-karachi
  7. https://dsm.forecastinternational.com/wordpress/2019/05/03/russia-and-pakistan-a-new-arms-deal-on-the-horizon/
  8. https://cscr.pk/explore/themes/trade-economics/pakistan-russia-china-emerging-coalition/
  9. https://www.gulftoday.ae/news/2022/02/24/pakistan-prime-minister-imran-khan-in-russia-to-meet-putin
  10. https://www.globalresearch.ca/regime-change-islamabad/5776219
  11. https://www.globalresearch.ca/pakistan-pivot-russia-ouster-imran-khan/5777970?utm_campaign=magnet&utm_source=article_page&utm_medium=related_articles

The original source of this article is Global Research

Copyright © Michael WelchJunaid S. Ahmad, and Prof Michel Chossudovsky, Global Research, 2022

Sino-Pakistan relationship: A challenge for the new Pakistani government

6 May 2022

Source: Al Mayadeen English

Ruqiya Anwar 

Perhaps no other country in the region has seen China’s footprint grow more than Pakistan.

Sino-Pakistan Relationship: A challenge for New Pakistani Government

China’s interest in South Asia has grown dramatically in recent years, encompassing geostrategic and security objectives and economic and development projects. Perhaps no other country in the region has seen China’s footprint grow more than Pakistan.

After Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan was dismissed from office by a historic no-confidence motion amid a significant political crisis in the South Asian country, China stressed that relations with Pakistan are unlikely to be harmed. According to the Chinese foreign ministry, China has been keeping a careful eye on the political situation in Pakistan. “As Pakistan’s close neighbor and staunch ally, China hopes that all groups in Pakistan remain together and work together to ensure the country’s general stability and development. Therefore, China would stick to its favorable stance toward Pakistan.” 

At the same time, security concerns in Pakistan will put the partnership’s strength to the test in the coming years. However, if the country’s internal security deteriorates or Chinese concerns about its political direction deepen, it will be a huge missed opportunity. Recently, three Chinese nationals were killed in a suicide attack in Pakistan. The director of the Confucius Institute, a Chinese government-run entity that conducts language and cultural programs worldwide, and two other faculty members in Pakistan were among the deceased, posing a challenge for Pakistan’s new government as it attempts to improve relations with China. On the other hand, the Pakistani government promptly stated that those responsible would be found and punished.

One of Pakistan’s most important military and economic assistance sources is China. This support from a major state is significant for Islamabad, which does not have many powerful allies. Moreover, Pakistan also hopes that Chinese initiatives will assist it in modernizing and transforming its economy while somehow keeping India in check.

Furthermore, as the geopolitical competition with the US increases and alliances form to confront China’s growing assertiveness both in the region and beyond, Islamabad is likely to remain a crucial strategic partner for China. One of the major beneficiaries of China’s rise as a global power should be Pakistan. However, the US has constantly tried to sabotage or disrupt China-Pakistan relations, particularly the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and China’s proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Khan’s government had tight relations with the US, particularly following his February travel to Russia, which the US saw as a clear signal of taking sides in the Ukraine issue between the US and Russia. Khan has previously claimed that the US was behind efforts to depose him because he had visited Moscow in February. China has never intervened like the US in other countries’ internal affairs: China and Pakistan can have an all-weather strategic cooperative partnership because China treats all parties that come to power equally and stays out of their internal affairs.

Relations with Beijing have only grown more significant as China’s investments in Pakistan have increased, particularly since establishing the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which connects Pakistani ports to Chinese transportation networks.

Notably, the new Pakistani prime minister stated that the everlasting Pak-China friendship is firmly ingrained in the hearts of the two countries’ people and that Pakistan sees China as its best friend and values its strong friendship with the Chinese people. Pakistan and China have always stood by one other and worked together for mutual benefit, providing a positive example for international relations.

Most importantly, the new Pakistani government is willing to deepen bilateral cooperation in agriculture, science and technology, education, and poverty alleviation and accelerate the CPEC’s construction with more vigor and efficiency to benefit both countries and peoples.

Significantly, cooperation between China and Pakistan in counterterrorism and the fight against the coronavirus is critical for Pakistan to overcome its current challenges. This means China is the country’s most dependable, trustworthy, powerful, and irreplaceable partner. Moreover, China adheres to the concept of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries. Therefore, no matter how the international scene and their respective domestic situations evolve, China-Pakistan relations have always been unshakeable and rock-solid, as history has repeatedly demonstrated.

According to Chinese and Pakistani analysts, China-Pakistan relations will not be influenced by Pakistan’s internal political changes because safeguarding and developing bilateral relationships is a collective consensus of all parties and groups in Pakistan. Experts from both China and Pakistan are optimistic about the future of China-Pakistan relations, believing that the new government will respect the country’s long-standing history of safeguarding the country’s friendship with China and all China-Pakistan cooperation projects. China looks forward to working closely with the new Pakistani government to maintain historic friendships, improve strategic communication, progress the CPEC, and establish a closer China-Pakistan community with a common vision in the 21st century (CGTN, 2020). Pakistan’s current political troubles have nothing to do with the country’s strong connections with China. Thus collaboration between the two countries will be unaffected.

The opinions mentioned in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Al mayadeen, but rather express the opinion of its writer exclusively.

Terror from Balochistan: a menacing tool to disrupt Sino-Pakistani economics

A Baloch suicide bombing targeting Chinese workers in Karachi comes a mere month after the US-backed ousting of PM Imran Khan. Pakistan is a critical BRI hub in Beijing’s vast Eurasian connectivity project, and it looks like CPEC is the ultimate target of this disruption.

May 05 2022

Balochistan can only benefit from Chinese infrastructure investment in the immensely impoverished Pakistani province. But an uptick in attacks on Chinese workers by militant separatists suggests that external agendas may be in play. Photo Credit: The Cradle

By Pepe Escobar

This is the concise story of how a suicide bombing may carry the potential to subvert the whole, ongoing, complex process of Eurasia integration.

Recently, the Balochistan Liberation Movement (BLA) had released an ISIS-influenced video threatening “Chinese officials and installations” in Pakistan’s vast province.

Yet what actually happened in late April was a suicide bombing outside of the University of Karachi’s Confucius Institute – not Balochistan – and targeting Chinese teachers, not “officials and installations.”

The suicide bomber was a woman, Shaari Baloch, alias Bramsh, who detonated her vest just as a van carrying Institute staff members approached the entrance. The attack was claimed by the BLA’s Majeed Brigade, which stressed that this was the first time they used a female suicide bomber.

Shaari Baloch was a schoolteacher with a Zoology degree, enrolled to pursue a second Master’s degree, married to a dentist and professor at Makran Medical College in her hometown of Turbat, in southern Balochistan. Her three brothers include a doctor, a deputy director at a government-funded project, and a civil servant. So Shaari Baloch was far from being a mere destitute online-indoctrinated Salafi-jihadi.

The Pakistani Foreign Office had to stress the obvious: this was a “direct attack on the Pakistan-China friendship and ongoing cooperation,” always qualified, by both sides, as “iron brothers.” Pakistan is an absolutely key node of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to connect the Eurasian landmass.

This was no standard terrorist attack. Its reverberations are immense – not only in one of Pakistan’s provinces and South Asia regionally, but for the whole of Eurasia. It may be a harbinger of serious turbulence ahead.

Shaari Baloch’s act of desperation should be seen, to start with, as the embodiment of a deep-seated Baloch alienation felt by the educated middle classes, from lawyers and traders to students, constantly permeating the complex relationship with a distant Islamabad. A significant part of the puzzle is that 26 Pakistani intel agencies never saw it coming.

Baloch leaders instantly made the point that the best possible reaction would be to call a Grand Jirga – modeled on the Shahi Jirga practiced at the time of the partition of the subcontinent – that would unite all tribal elders to address the most pressing local grievances.

Round up the usual suspects

Balochistan, geostrategically, is as valuable as rare earth minerals: an immense desert positioned east of Iran, south of Afghanistan, and boasting three Arabian Sea ports, including Gwadar, practically at the mouth of the strategic Strait of Hormuz.

Comprising nearly 48 percent of Pakistan’s area, Balochistan is rich in uranium and copper, potentially very rich in oil, produces more than one-third of Pakistan’s natural gas, and sparsely populated. The Baloch account for the majority of the population, followed by Pashtuns. Quetta, the large provincial capital, for years was considered Taliban Central by the Pentagon.

Gwadar, the port built by China on the southwestern Balochistan coast of the Arabian Sea – directly across from Oman – is the absolute key node of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), and doubles as the essential link in a never-ending pipeline saga. The Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline, previously known as the “peace pipeline,” with plans to cross from Iranian to Pakistani Balochistan (India still has not made up its mind) is absolute anathema to Washington since the George W. Bush era.

CPEC remains an endless source of controversy even inside Pakistan. Beyond all the links planned between Gwadar and Xinjiang by the year 2030, most of this ambitious connectivity corridor deals with energy, industrial zones and road and rail projects in different parts of the country – an overall improvement of its lagging infrastructure. The Chinese, for years, have quipped that in fact “all of Pakistan is a corridor.”

The US security establishment, predictably, has been planning for years to instrumentalize an insurgency in Balochistan to – what else – “disrupt” first the possibility of an energy pipeline from Gwadar to Xinjiang, and then the overall CPEC project. Usual suspects like the US’s National Endowment for Democracy (NED) are very much present in Balochistan. WikiLeaks had revealed a great deal of the game back in 2015.

A Carnegie Institute report noted how “many Baloch nationalist leaders now come from the urbanized districts of Kech, Panjgur, and Gwadar (and to a lesser extent from Quetta, Khuzdar, Turbat, Kharan, and Lasbela). They are well connected to Karachi and Gulf cities, where tribal structures are non-existent. In fact, while there is violence all over the province, the insurgency seems to concentrate mainly in these urbanized areas.”

Suicide bomber Shaari Baloch came from Turbat, the province’s second largest city, where the BLA is very much active. From the point of view of the usual suspects, these are choice assets, especially after the death of important tribal leaders such as Akbar Bugti. The report duly noted how “the educated and middle-class Baloch youth are in the forefront” of the insurgency.

The anti-China instrumentalization of the BLA also ties in with the regime-change parliament operation in Islamabad that recently deposed former prime minister Imran Khan, who was always a fierce adversary of the American “Forever War” in Afghanistan. Khan resolutely denied Pakistan’s use in “over the horizon” US military ops: that was one of the key reasons for him to be ousted.

Now, with a pliant, Washington-approved, new regime in town, a miracle has just happened: the Pentagon is about to clinch a formal agreement with Islamabad to use Pakistani airspace to – what else – keep interfering in Afghanistan.

Beijing, as well as other members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), won’t be amused. Only weeks before the white coup, Khan had met with Chinese President Xi Jinping and once again underscored how Pakistan and China are “iron brothers.”

Imran Khan was a serious thorn in the side of the west because he kept impressing on Pakistanis that the Forever War in Afghanistan was militarily unwinnable. He knew how all the proxies – including the BLA – that destabilized both Afghanistan and Pakistan for decades were, and continue to be, part of US covert operations.

Not an Iran-India plot

Balochistan is as deeply tribal as the Pashtun tribal areas. Local tribal chiefs can be as ultra-conservative as Islamabad is neglectful (and they are not exactly paragons of human rights either). Most tribes though bow to Islamabad’s authority – except, first and foremost, the Bugti.

And then there’s the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), which both Washington and London used to brand as a terrorist group, and then forgot about it. The BLA operated for years out of Kandahar in Afghanistan (only two hours away from Quetta), and already in the previous decade – simultaneous to the announcement of the New Silk Roads and CPEC – stressed it was getting ready to attack non-Balochis (code for the government in Islamabad as well as Chinese foreigners).

Balochis are inclined to consider the BLA as a resistance group. But Islamabad has always denied it, saying their support is not beyond 10 percent of the provincial population.

An ample controversy has raged in Pakistan for years on whether the BLA was totally hijacked by the CIA, the MI6 and the Mossad. During a 2006 visit to Iran, I was prevented from going to the Sistan-Balochistan province in southeast Iran because, according to Tehran’s version, infiltrated CIA from Pakistani Balochistan were involved in covert, cross-border attacks. It was no secret to anyone in the region that since 9/11 the US virtually controlled the Baloch air bases in Dalbandin and Panjgur.

In October 2001, while waiting for an opening to cross to Kandahar from Quetta, I spent quite some time with a number of BLA associates and sympathizers. They described themselves as “progressive, nationalist, anti-imperialist” (and that would make them difficult to be co-opted by the US). They were heavily critical of “Punjabi chauvinism,” and always insisted the region’s resources belong to Balochis first; that was their rationale for attacks on gas pipelines.

Stressing an atrocious, provincial literacy rate of only 16 percent (“It’s government policy to keep Balochistan backward”), they resented the fact that most people still lacked drinking water. They claimed support from at least 70 percent of the Baloch population (“Whenever the BLA fires a rocket, it’s the talk of the bazaars”). They also claimed to be united, and in coordination with Iranian Balochis. And they insisted that “Pakistan had turned Balochistan into a US cantonment, which affected a lot the relationship between the Afghan and Baloch peoples.”

Two decades later, and after the whole ISIS saga in Syria and Iraq, it’s a completely different story. BLA sympathizers may still be prepared to remain within a Pakistani confederation, although with infinitely more autonomy. But now they seem to be willing to use western imperial help to strike not only at the central government in Islamabad, but also at the “near abroad” foreign profiteer (China).

After the Karachi suicide bombing, a narrative started to emerge in some Pakistani circles that Iran and India were in cahoots to destabilize Balochistan.

That makes absolutely no sense. Both Tehran and Islamabad are tightly linked to Beijing through several nodes of the New Silk Roads. Iran would draw less than zero benefit to collude with India to destabilize an area that borders Afghanistan, especially when the SCO is fully engaged in incorporating Kabul into the Eurasia integration process. Moreover, the IPI has its best chances ever to come to fruition in the near future, consolidating an umbilical cord from Southwest Asia to South Asia.

During the late years of Barack Obama’s administration, the BLA, though still a fringe group with a political wing and a military wing, was regrouping and rearming, while the chief minister of Balochistan, Nawab Raisani, was suspected of being a CIA asset (there was no conclusive proof).

Already at the time, the fear in Islamabad was that the government had taken its eye off the Balochistan ball – and that the BLA was about to be effectively used by the US for balkanization purposes. That seems to be the picture right now. Yet the heart of the matter – glaringly expressed by the Karachi suicide bombing – is that Islamabad still remains impervious to the key Baloch grievance: we want to profit from our natural wealth, and we want autonomy.

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

Pepe Escobar and Danny Haiphong; Russia, China, and the Post-Dollar World

April 28, 2022

Deconstructing the Islamic Republic of Iran’s position regarding Russia-Ukraine Crisis

April 09, 2022

Source

by Mansoureh Tajik 

At the outset of Russia’s military operations in Ukraine, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s position and views were clearly spelled out by the Leader, Ayatullah Khamenei, and by the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The crux of Iran’s stance is that the Islamic Republic of Iran does not condone foreign military advancements into any sovereign country by any power due to the fact that death of innocent civilians, destruction of critical civil infrastructures, regional instability, and unpredictable adverse outcomes become inevitable. At the same time, Iran considers the United States to be the main instigator and culprit of the crises in Ukraine. In an earlier article posted on the Saker blog (see here), I quoted Ayatullah Khamenei pointing to some of these concerns:

 “[United States of] America is a mafia regime and Ukraine, too, is a victim of this policy of crisis creation. [United States of] America brought Ukraine to this point by infiltrating into the internal affairs of that country, inciting uprisings against its governments by velvet movements or color revolutions, by presence of US senators in the gatherings of oppositional groups and by creating, toppling this government and replacing it with that government. Naturally, they led to this point. We, of course, are against wars and destruction anywhere. This is our fixed policy.”

This official and transparent stance is clearly devised with full awareness of geopolitical developments and events (both overt and covert) of the past few decades. It is quite evident that key decision makers in Iran neither condone Russia’s military advancement into Ukraine nor do they consider Ukraine to be a genuinely sovereign country free from foreign meddling and interventions.

In fact, we could imagine Ukraine to be just as independent as many other countries in Europe and Asia and the likes of United Arab Emirates, Saudi kingdom, Japan, South Korea, and more. These countries have allowed their respective lands to become stumping grounds for arrogant powers to set up shops to export crime and mischief to their neighbors and beyond. In the shortcomings of their rulers, people cannot be absolved of responsibility.

The Iranians have years of empirical evidence and first-hand field experience as proof that most of the above named countries and nations lack independent decision-making capacity. In private conversations, too, many of their [official] people make embarrassingly heart-felt confessions to our official people about their lack of core endoskeleton when it comes to reneging on their obligations to Iran due to incessant pressure from the United States.

It is not difficult to deduct, therefore, that officials in Iran consider Russia’s goals and concerns to be legitimate and well-founded. However, they also consider an all-out military advancement into Ukraine may not have been the most prudent and sagacious way to address Russia’s well-justified concerns.

So, what do they suggest? Exactly how long should Russia have waited to take any action serious enough not to fall on deaf ears? Should Russia have waited and fought the NATO-trained- Nazi-inspired foot soldiers of the West conduct operations in Moscow neighborhoods or are they suggesting an alternative? Did/does Russia have any alternatives? More significantly, how are all these convoluted aspects of Russian-Ukrainian crises teased apart in terms of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s foreign policy, its strategic partnership with Russia, Iran’s internal affairs, and the Resistance’s activities in the region?

In this essay, I hope to explore limited dimensions of some of these questions as well as discuss other contrasting views circulating in Iran about the subject. Hopefully, this exploration could illuminate Iran’s current position and possible future position.

Other Viewpoints about Russia-Ukraine Crises Circulating within Iran

Some alternative views that stand in stark contrast with the views expressed by our Leader, Ayatullah Khamenei, and the government officials here have been channeled through some well-known personalities such as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, an ex-president of Iran. Mr. Ahmadinejad has been quite vocal about his views. In fact, Mr. Ahmadinejad issued an official statement in this regard addressing the government of Russia and the Russian people, the Ukrainian people, and Mr. Zelensky.

Ahmadinejad’s views obtained some currency in some circles but are regarded as fringe by a great majority of the public here. I think it would be useful to translate at least parts of his statements in order to have a more well-rounded understanding of various perspectives inside Iran.

In a videotaped statement he released about the events (see here), he declared (I transcribe and translate):

“Without a doubt, the attack and aggression by Russia against Ukraine is a critical event and an introduction to many more critical events that follow. Here, for the nth time and very frankly, I must severely condemn the attack and aggression of Russia against Ukraine. Before, I spoke about the plot to change the political map of the world by [the US] America, Russia, and China. These three countries, in a coordinated fashion, have devised a plan to secure their power and control over the world once again. That is, with this enormous wave of humans, of human awakening that has begun, they have become frightened. They say, very soon, this wave would surpass the world. They sat and made a decision that one would take Ukraine, the other one would take Taiwan, and this one would come for Iran. That means, they would remove their gravest worries and, at the same time, they dominate.

Now, if, in our mind, we review the world, if this happens, then there is no place for anyone to say anything. Today, and fortunately, the epic presence and the heroic resistance by the Ukrainian people have introduced serious obstacles in execution and completion of that plot. They hit a bump.”

I do not intent to translate the entire 13-minute statement. In the last couple of minutes of his script-reading speech, he finishes with the following pronouncements:

The Iranian nation holds in high esteem their [the Ukrainian people’s] participation and epic resistance and prays for their victory against the aggressors. The Iranian nation asks God to prevent the expansionist gluts from continuing and to end the war, and to make possible the sweet flow of life among all people, including two great people of Ukraine and Russia. At the end, once again, I hold in high regard the resistance of the nation of Ukraine, President Zelensky, and other officials in Ukraine. And I send to them the friendship and prayer of the Iranian nation.

I take refuge in God when He turns us into a lesson for others! Firstly, I wonder if Mr. Ahmadinejad realizes that he is reading an exact script written by major architects of the crises in Ukraine. Secondly, I am not too sure how many times he must be reminded that he is no longer the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran and he is not authorized to speak on behalf of this nation. Thirdly, his statement reflects an array of uninformed, non-critical, and non-strategic thinking in a matter that is rather convoluted, complex, and rather nuanced. It is unfair and unjust in what it deliberately omits.

In the entire 13-minute video statement, there is not a single reference to the events of the past few years in Ukraine (including 30 plus US-financed and operated biological weapons labs about which he wrote an official complaint to the UN and to which I referred in one of the essays I wrote last year about COVID in the Islamic Republic of Iran (See here). Neither is there any mention of the role the US-West, Inc. has played in destabilizing that country and using it as a lever against Russia and a launching pad for all sorts of mischief in the region.

I must open a parenthesis here and add that I do not find Ahmadinejad’s stance all that surprising. When Daesh/ISIS was advancing in Syria and was busy chopping heads right, left, and center, he came forcefully against Bashar Asad and the Syrian government. He fiercely objected to Iran’s involvement and help in that country and issued statements in that regard. I referenced some of these when discussing his disqualification in the Iranian presidential election in another essay published last year (See here). Had he been in charge of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s overall foreign policy, we have little doubt would have now been busy fighting ISIS or some other variants inside our own cities and neighborhoods. Close parenthesis. We thank God Almighty for His Blessings in the form of a wise Leader.

As I mentioned, the majority of the public in Iran do not share Ahmadinejad’s particular view. There are some though who would like him to join his brother in armchair, Mr. President Zelensky, in his fight in Ukraine. Perhaps after they have defeated Russia, they could have a live show discussing the following two videos on Ukrainian national television: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Homosexuality versus Freedom Gay Fetish Dance with President Zelensky. Who knows, perhaps he could lead him to the Straight Path.

Again, I take refuge in God when He leaves us (due to our own arrogance and delusions of grandeur) to our own devices even for a nanosecond.

The Boundaries of Iran-Russia Relationship and Partnership

Successful collaboration and strategic coordination of operations between Iran and Russia in the battlefields of Syria, geopolitical and economic shifts in Asia and Eurasia, and perhaps a sense of comradery primarily due to the fact that both countries have been fierce targets for “crippling” sanctions by the US/West Inc. have all made the relationship between Iran and Russia to a phenomenon that is rather interesting and noteworthy. I discussed some contemporary and historical aspects of this relationship in another essay published last year (See here).

The Islamic Republic of Iran’s general framework for any foreign relation and partnership is firmly rooted in the jealously guarded Revolutionary motto of “Neither East, Nor West”, freedom, and full independence from any foreign pressure and interference. Its relationship with Russia, too, must be viewed, first and foremost, within that framework. So, what does this tell us about Iran’s policy and approach towards these particular crises?

Let us be rather frank and transparent and deal with the obvious first. Russian military’s advancement into Ukraine has suddenly resulted in some favorable outcomes for Iran and for some other countries friendly to Iran in the region. It has sent panic, disillusion about the US power, and insecurity to some other countries not so friendly to Iran.

Higher oil prices, halt in all sorts of restrictions on oil export, higher enthusiasm on the part of the US and Europe to reach an agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran over JCPOA, which has been in coma and on life support for a while now, sudden visits by keepers of oil wells with flag masquerading as Arab nations to bury the hatchet and make nice with Iran have also been among the consequences.

Missile attacks by Yemen on Saudi Oil facilities had never produced any sort of meaningful change in the attitude of the aggressors (US-Saudi-Brits) before. With Russia’s retaliatory work and countermeasures, the last couple of missile attacks by Yemen, however, seem to have become highly effective since they occurred at the right time. Oh, our cup runneth over!

Why? Three important reasons: 1) The US-West Inc. cannot fight effectively in more than one meaningful front at a time; 2) The US and Western nations cannot weather the storms of high energy and oil-based products (which includes almost everything). So, it is attempting to temporarily put Iran and others in our region on the back burner; and 3) There are always always always limits to how much media magic shows can achieve. The US-West Inc. will realize this, as always, soon enough.

Regardless of Russia’s mode of dealing with Ukraine problem and current needs for the US-West, Inc. to keep oil prices low, I can state for a fact that the Islamic Republic of Iran will, God Willing, never sacrifice its long-term goals for any short-term superficial gains.

Iran’s two main priorities were and are the eviction of all US forces from our region in retaliation for the martyrdom of our great Sardar, Shahid Soleimani, and dismantling of the illegitimate Zionist regime to return the land of Palestine to its rightful owners, the true Palestinians (Muslim, Christians, Jews, Arabs, and non-Arabs). Her collaboration or deal with Russia or any other nation or group of nations with plus or minus designations in ANY activity, exchange, and operation, be they short-, medium-, or long-term, will be directly related to how such collaborations and activities bring her a step closer to achieving the Islamic Republic of Iran’s own main goals and priorities.

In this context, it is not too difficult to see how Russia’s potential concerns with the countries and regions to her south happen to be largely alleviated simply due to the fact that they may coincide with Iran’s independent priorities and activities, be they military, economic, and political, and her vigilance in achieving her stated goals.

When the United States, Inc. attacked Iraq and removed Saddam Hussein from power, most notable think tanks in the West claimed that the Islamic Republic of Iran emerged the biggest winner. With Russia attacking Ukraine, who knows what other oppressed nations could emerge as the winners. God works in mysterious ways.

Russia-Ukraine Crisis in a Larger Inter-continental Context

In an essay titled Afghanistan, Taliban, the Resistance, and the Region (see Here), I alluded to a method used by the US-West, Inc. on Iran, Russia, and China to dismantle stability and positive developments in our region. I wrote:

“Afghanistan is a major keystone species in this ecosystem. Disintegration of Afghanistan means the new “Silk Road” will first turn into a “Rough Road” and then into an “Abandoned Road” and ultimately destroys the concord among the main players in Asia. In addition, it can serve as a tool for the application of internal-external clamp-style customized and separate pressures on Iran, Russia, China, and other countries in the region.”

Clamp-style pressures include inciting unrest, instability and sedition within each country and using belligerent neighbors from without each country. For the Islamic Republic of Iran they did/do everything they can to drag Iran’s military into Afghanistan. There is not a day that goes by and we do not hear about the massacre of Shia in this mosque and that school, in this gathering and that outing. Then, there is the Republic of Azerbaijan to the north and the Iraqi Kurdistan to the west, the oil wells with flags to the south that have each turned themselves into US-West-Zionist regime’s concubines in some form or shape. Certainly, the Islamic Republic of Iran does not take any of these lying down but we have military operations that are loud and we have calculated military operations that are silent but deadly enough.

To pressure Russia, there is Ukraine + a handful of other has-been nations proudly flying rainbow flags pretending they count for anything. And finally for China there is Tao (Taiwan + AUKUS + Occupied territories of Japan and South Korea).

The goal is rather simple, as Connable & McNerney opined in their commentary titled “The Will to Fight and the Fate of Nations,”:

 “Overmatching Russian mass and equipment is one part of a more complex and important pathway to overmatching the Russians. It is worth repeating that Russians — and Chinese, Iranian, and North Korean soldiers, sailors, airmen, and political leaders — can be broken. The U.S. military simply does not devote enough attention to understanding how to break them, or at least erode their resolve, in order to make war less likely and to make our success in war more likely and less costly.”[1]

To have a good grasp of where the authors are coming from, I highly recommend two other documents published by RAND Corporation titled: “Will to Fight: Analyzing, Modeling, and Simulating the Will to Fight of Military Units,”[2] and “National Will to Fight: Why Some States Keep Fighting and Others Don’t,”[3] from which the authors’ commentary obtains its essence.

Russia’s military advancement into Ukraine seems to have provided the US-West Inc. with a field experiment necessary to assess their “Will to Fight Model” answering the following question: “What are the political, economic, and military variables that may strengthen or weaken national will to fight, and which are most important?” Or, put more succinctly and eloquently, they wish to confirm or refute their null hypothesis of “No relationship between ‘will to fight’ (at individual, unit, national, and leadership levels) and winning the game of chicken.”

Allow me just post an image of the WTF Model[4] I have referenced for those who may not search and study the documents:

I am quite curious to see how this conceptual model, its multiple constructs, and included variables fair in this test. However, given what we have been observing in the media, I very much like to suggest the following changes to the model (let’s suppose it is an iterative model) for the sake of accuracy and add another layer that is often omitted by gods of war:

Now, I think that looks much better and more accurate. With the new model, let’s see how things turn out. Meanwhile, War on the Rocks seems to believe “Ukraine shows how Taiwan needs more air defense,”[5] based on preliminary reports of fabricated data collected from the imagined field and reported through the beacon of honesty and accuracy, Tweeter. I do not know why but the article just flashed Miller’s Death of a Salesman play before my eyes. والسلام.

Refrences

[1] War on the Rocks, B. Cannable & M. McNerney (2018). “The will to fight and the fate of nations,” Accessed online at: https://warontherocks.com/2018/12/the-will-to-fight-and-the-fate-of-nations/

[2] RAND Arroyo Center (2019). “Will to Fight: Analyzing, Modeling, and Simulating the Will to Fight of Military Units,” by B. Connable, M.J. McNerney, et al., RR2341-A, 2019. Accessed online at: www.rand.org/t/RR2341.

[3] RAND Corporation (2019). “National Will to Fight: Why Some States Keep Fighting and Others Don’t,” by M. J. McNerney, Ben Connable, et al., RR-2477-A, 2019. Accessed online at: www.rand.org/t/RR2477.

[4] RAND Corporation Brief,(2019). “Will to Fight: Returning Human Fundamentals of War.” Accessed online at: www.rand.org/t/RB10040.

[5] War on the Rocks. “Ukraine Shows Why Taiwan Needs More Air Defense,” by H. Halem and E. Freymann, published on April 7, 2022. Accessed online at: https://warontherocks.com/2022/04/ukraine-shows-why-taiwan-needs-more-air-defense/

Lebanese Media: An Arab Pioneer on Media Silk Road

3 Apr 2022

Source: Al Mayadeen Net

Mohamad Zreik 

“The land of liberties” is a fitting label for Lebanon, a remarkable country that deserves it.

Lebanese Media: An Arab Pioneer on Media Silk Road

The right to free press is revered and guarded in Lebanon. Constitutional freedom of expression in Lebanon is guaranteed under Article 13, which states that all forms of expression are protected “within the bounds imposed by law.” For many people, the most arduous way to freedom is not the path of armed struggle, but rather the path of free and brave speech. “The land of liberties” is a fitting label for Lebanon, a remarkable country that deserves it.

Without the sacrifices of the martyrs, this attribute would not have been part of the Lebanese identity. It’s everything on the altar of the press and the sacredness of the free word. The message of peace and freedom of expression may be carried by Lebanon. Because there is no peace without freedom, the two concepts are intertwined in their connection. Several Lebanese journalists were exonerated from the gallows by the Ottoman Empire during the month of May of the year 1958. Since the killed journalists’ mandate was: “We die free and do not live as slaves or captives of others,” May 6 has been declared a feast day for the martyrs in Lebanon.

The Lebanese press has a rich history of events and phases that have been etched into the minds of the Lebanese. The comments of An-Nahar newspaper, held by Chairman of the Board, Gibran Tueni, who took up his pen and walked out into the streets to remind the world that in Lebanon, freedom of speech and expression are taken by pen and not by gun, are well-remembered by all of us. “We promise by Almighty God, Muslims and Christians, that we will remain together in defense of glorious Lebanon forever and ever,” Gibran Tueni swore to the Lebanese people.

As a result of the vast range of freedoms it enjoys, Lebanon stands out regionally and globally. For example, there are television stations in Lebanon for each and every political party. In addition to the many free internet sites, private newspapers are all examples. Freedom of expression is not constrained by any red lines; as long as it does not infringe on the sacred and national sovereignty, you are free to voice your thoughts. Since Arab countries have rigorous monitoring agencies and stringent laws, Lebanon will remain a milestone in the free Arab media.

An unauthorized political journal, “The News Garden,” was published by Khalil El-Khoury in Beirut on January 1, 1858, and is regarded as “the mother of Arab newspapers.” Count Rashid Al-Dahdah, who published the “Barjis” newspaper in Paris in 1858 and Ahmed Faris al-Shidyaq, who published the “Al-Jawa’ib” newspaper in Istanbul in 1861 are just two examples of Lebanese involvement in the publication of Arab newspapers published abroad. According to writer Laila Hamdoun, we find that most of the Arab newspapers were issued by Lebanese intellectuals, for example, the great “Butros al-Bustani” has launched “Nafeer Syria“, Lebanon’s second newspaper, in 1860 in Beirut, appealing for national unity in the wake of the sectarian murders of 1860. The cinema and theatre have also grown popular in Lebanon.

These remarks have been written during my stay in China, the land of civilization, culture, science, and commerce. As a specialist in the “Belt and Road Initiative” that was first introduced in 2013 by Chinese President Xi Jinping, and in order to highlight the Lebanese role in this effort, I decided to link the free Lebanese press in the Arab world to the Belt and Road Initiative, which aims in part at people-to-people exchange and cultural understanding.

Newspapers in Lebanon, media professionals, and authors claim that “our time today is different from prior periods.” People in Lebanon have long had an eye on the West, and they’ve done it through airing Hollywood films, importing anything dubbed, and keeping tabs on political developments in the West. To that end, I urge Lebanese political and media officials, as the stewards of Lebanon’s culture and language, not to cut ties with the West. At the same time, keep in mind that this is China’s golden period and that this great Asian is no less than the Western nations.

Speaking at the 2016 Media Cooperation Forum’s opening ceremony, Chinese President Xi Jinping discussed his country’s Belt and Road Initiative. Chinese President Xi Jinping mentioned that the media is a platform for constructive discourse, the sharing of ideas, and collaboration. Without an active and unbiased role for the media, there is no contact between peoples. Without media, the Belt and Road Initiative’s goal of bridging cultures won’t be able to fulfill its full potential.

As a technologically advanced country, China employs the most up-to-date broadcasting techniques in its media partnership with Lebanon. Co-operation between China and the Arab countries in media has become essential. According to Wang Chen of China’s State Council Information Office, media interactions between Beijing and Beirut are a priority for the country.

China has established a tight relationship with Lebanon through television shows that introduce the Lebanese people to the Chinese culture. As part of its Belt and Road Initiative, China has recently displayed a keen interest in the Arab world. CGTN Arabic and China Arab TV, two Chinese TV stations, have been introduced to the Arab satellites Nilesat and Arabsat, which transmit documentaries and news about China and the Arab world. To keep up with all of CGTN Arabic and China International Radio‘s social media accounts (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Wechat), separate department staffed by Chinese and Arabs has been established.

A deal was reached in 2016 between Lebanon TV and China’s state television, whereby Lebanon was provided with certain equipment. National News Agency was given a large number of computers and training workshops by the Chinese government in order to facilitate mutual collaboration.

More seminars and training sessions for journalists and more equipment donations are expected from the Chinese government in Lebanon. Media in Lebanon will focus on Chinese matters, invite Chinese specialists and introduce the Lebanese people and Arabs to Chinese news. As China’s influence in Lebanon grows, it’s feasible that Lebanese media outlets may start publishing content in Chinese. Videos, interviews, and information on Lebanon can be used by the Chinese media to educate the Chinese population about the country. China may invite Chinese journalists and press students to visit Lebanon to learn more about the nation and collaborate with Lebanese journalists in order to speed up the reporting of the news.

Ex-Chinese Ambassador to Lebanon Jiang said the media collaboration between China and Lebanon is growing quickly, and he underlined that China is a long-term supporter of both the government and Lebanese media outlets. During the Chinese Spring Festival and Chinese National Day each year, the Chinese Embassy in Lebanon and Lebanon TV work together to broadcast programs in China.

The works of the Chinese Cultural Centre in Beirut (Confucius Institute) should be extended so that it can do other functions, such as translating Chinese films into Arabic. Due to Lebanon’s high cultural value, many Chinese dubbing businesses have shown a desire to cooperate with Chinese media outlets. In order to make Lebanese culture more accessible to the Chinese audience, films from the country will be dubbed. ‘Capernaum’, a film directed by Nadine Labaki, was the first Lebanese film to be dubbed into Chinese. In addition to books and poetry which could enhance cultural exchange.

A plan for successful Chinese-Arab media cooperation is being devised by China, which includes enhancing communication between Chinese and Arab media, establishing a media administrative system that serves the common Chinese-Arab interest, and raising electronic media cooperation.

“Media Silk Road” has emerged in recent years as a term for the media cooperation between Belt and Road Initiative countries. There are four committees that focus on news cooperation, integrated communication, cooperation in program production, and industrial cooperation. The main mission is to promote international peace by fostering cultural exchange between nations. More positive steps are expected to be taken by the international television cooperation community of the Silk Road in order to benefit both Chinese and Arab interests.

As part of the Belt and Road Initiative, the people of participating countries play a significant role in its implementation. As a result, in accordance with the principles of cultural communication and freedom of speech, the media should be a tool to enrich the Arab people’s knowledge about China and the Belt and Road initiative.

Considering Lebanon’s status as a participant of the Belt and Road Initiative, it is expected that Lebanon will play an important role in promoting the initiative in Lebanon and the Arab world. As part of an Arab media strategy for the Belt and Road Initiative, Lebanon might be designated as an authorized media hub in conjunction with the Chinese authorities. There are numerous examples of Sino-Lebanese media and cultural collaboration that have been successful, and this proposed cooperation could be another success.

The opinions mentioned in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Al mayadeen, but rather express the opinion of its writer exclusively.

How Mariupol will become a key hub of Eurasian integration

Mariupol was battered by Ukraine’s right-wing Azov battalion well before Moscow launched its military ops. In Russian hands, this strategic steelworks port can transform into a hub of Eurasian connectivity.

March 29 2022

Mariupol sits on the strategic Sea of Azov at the tip of the Black Sea, and is the ‘Mecca’ of Europe’s steel industry. Its conquest by Russia can pave the way for a Eurasian railroad and connectivity surge.

By Pepe Escobar

Mariupol, the strategic Sea of Azov port, remains in the eye of the storm in Ukraine.

The NATO narrative is that Azovstal – one of Europe’s biggest iron and steel works – was nearly destroyed by the Russian Army and its allied Donetsk forces who “lay siege” to Mariupol.

The true story is that the neo-Nazi Azov batallion took scores of Mariupol civilians as human shields since the start of the Russian military operation in Ukraine, and retreated to Azovstal as a last stand. After an ultimatum delivered last week, they are now being completely exterminated by the Russian and Donetsk forces and Chechen Spetsnaz.

Azovstal, part of the Metinvest group controlled by Ukraine’s wealthiest oligarch, Rinat Akhmetov, is indeed one of the biggest metallurgic plants in Europe, self-described as a “high-performance integrated metallurgical enterprise that produces coke and sinter, steel as well as high-quality rolled products, bars and shapes.”

Amidst a flurry of testimonials detailing the horrors inflicted by the Azov neo-Nazis on Mariupol’s civilian population, a way more auspicious, invisible story bodes well for the immediate future.

Russia is the world’s fifth largest steel producer, apart from holding huge iron and coal deposits. Mariupol – a steel Mecca – used to source coal from Donbass, but under de facto neo-Nazi rule since the 2014 Maidan events, was turned into an importer. Iron, for instance, started to be supplied from Krivbas in Ukraine, over 200 kilometers away.

After Donetsk solidifies itself as an independent republic or, via referendum, chooses to become part of the Russian Federation, this situation is bound to change.

Azovstal is invested in a broad product line of very useful stuff: structural steel, rail for railroads, hardened steel for chains, mining equipment, rolled steel used in factory apparatus, trucks and railroad cars. Parts of the factory complex are quite modern while some, decades old, are badly in need of upgrading, which Russian industry can certainly provide.

Strategically, this is a huge complex, right at the Sea of Azov, which is now, for all practical purposes, incorporated into the Donetsk People’s Republic, and close to the Black Sea. That implies a short trip to the Eastern Mediterranean, including many potential customers in West Asia. And crossing Suez and reaching the Indian Ocean, are customers all across South and Southeast Asia.

So the Donetsk People’s Republic, possibly part of the future Novorossiya, and even part of Russia, will be in control of a lot of steel-making capacity for southern Europe, West Asia, and beyond.

One of the inevitable consequences is that it will be able to supply a real freight railroad construction boom in Russia, China and the Central Asian ‘stans.’ Railroad construction happens to be the privileged connectivity mode for Beijing’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). And, crucially, of the increasingly turbo-charged International North South Transportation Corridor (INSTC).

So, mid-term, Mariupol should expect to become one of the key hubs of a boom in north-south routes – INSTC across Russia and linking with the ‘stans’ – as well as major BRI upgrades east-west and sub-BRI corridors.

Interlocked Eurasia

The INSTC’s main players are Russia, Iran and India – which are now, post-NATO sanctions, in advanced interconnection mode, complete with devising mechanisms to bypass the US dollar in their trade. Azerbaijan is another important INSTC player, yet more volatile because it privileges Turkey’s connectivity designs in the Caucasus.

The INSTC network will also be progressively interconnecting with Pakistan – and that means the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a key BRI hub, which is slowly but surely expanding to Afghanistan. Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s impromptu visit to Kabul late last week was to advance the incorporation of Afghanistan to the New Silk Roads.

All that is happening as Moscow – extremely close to New Delhi – is simultaneously expanding trade relations with Islamabad. All three, crucially, are Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) members.

So the grand North-South design spells out fluent connectivity from the Russian mainland to the Caucasus (Azerbaijan), to West Asia (Iran) all the way to South Asia (India and Pakistan). None of these key players have demonized or sanctioned Russia despite ongoing US pressures to do so.

Strategically, that represents the Russian multipolar concept of Greater Eurasian Partnership in action in terms of trade and connectivity – in parallel and complimentary with BRI because India, eager to install a rupee-ruble mechanism to buy energy, in this case is an absolutely crucial Russia partner, matching China’s reported $400 billion strategic deal with Iran. In practice, the Greater Eurasia Partnership will facilitate smoother connectivity between Russia, Iran, Pakistan and India.

The NATO universe, meanwhile, is congenitally incapable of even recognizing the complexity of the alignment, not to mention analyze its implications. What we have is the interlocking of BRI, INTSC and the Greater Eurasia Partnership on the ground – all notions that are regarded as anathema in the Washington Beltway.

All that of course is being designed amidst a game-changing geoeconomic moment, as Russia, starting this Thursday, will only accept payment for its gas in rubles from “unfriendly” nations.

Parallel to the Greater Eurasia Partnership, BRI, since it was launched in 2013, is also progressively weaving a complex, integrated Eurasian network of partnerships: financial/economic, connectivity, physical infrastructure building, economic/trade corridors. BRI’s role as a co-shaper of institutions of global governance, including normative foundations, has also been crucial, much to the despair of the NATO alliance.

Time to de-westernize

Yet only now the Global South, especially, will start to observe the full spectrum of the China-Russia play across the Eurasian sphere. Moscow and Beijing are deeply involved in a joint drive to de-westernize globalist governance, if not shatter it altogether.

Russia from now on will be even more meticulous in its institution-building, coalescing the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU), the SCO and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) – a Eurasian military alliance of select post-Soviet states – in a geopolitical context of irreversible institutional and normative divide between Russia and the West.

At the same time, the Greater Eurasia Partnership will be solidifying Russia as the ultimate Eurasian bridge, creating a common space across Eurasia which could even ignore vassalized Europe.

Meanwhile in real life, BRI, as much as the INSTC, will be increasingly plugged into the Black Sea (hello, Mariupol). And BRI itself may even be prone to re-evaluation in its emphasis of linking western China to western Europe’s shrinking industrial base.

There will be no point in privileging the northern BRI corridors – China-Mongolia-Russia via the Trans-Siberian, and the Eurasian land bridge via Kazakhstan – when you have Europe descending into medieval dementia.

BRI’s renewed focus will be on gaining access to irreplaceable commodities – and that means Russia – as well as securing essential supplies for Chinese production. Commodity-rich nations, such as Kazakhstan and many players in Africa, shall become the top future markets for China.

In a pre-Covid loop across Central Asia, one constantly heard that China builds plants and high-speed railways while Europe at best writes white papers. It can always get worse.

The EU as occupied American territory is now descending, fast, from center of global power to the status of inconsequential peripheral player, a mere struggling market in the far periphery of China’s “community of shared destiny.”

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

Sitrep: How Russia slew the US Dollar

March 24, 2022

By Godfree Roberts – an early extract from his weekly Here Comes China newsletter and posted with permission

WILL RUSSIA DESTROY THE US DOLLAR?

Farewell to Inordinate Privilege

Earlier this week, Russia announced that countries on its Unfriendly Nations list must pay in roubles for its gas. Within hours, the rouble regained its pre-embargo value on international markets.

De facto, the rouble also established itself as a reserve currency in the EU, as is the petrodollar in the Middle East. Having renounced coal and nuclear power, Europe left itself with no alternative to Russian gas.

But wait, there’s more on the currency front: next week, Russia and China will offer frictionless access to the world’s largest market, via cheap, secure, trackable, instantaneous transactions that are free of government manipulation, currency fluctuations, embargoes, and sanctions.

Here’s the backstory: after helping America out of the GFC, PBOC Governor Zhou Xiaochuan observed, “The world needs an international reserve currency that is disconnected from individual nations and able to remain stable in the long run, removing the inherent deficiencies caused by using credit-based national currencies.”

Zhou proposed SDRs, Special Drawing Rights, a synthetic reserve currency dynamically revalued against a basket of trading currencies and commodities. Broad, deep, stable, and impossible to manipulate.

Nobelists Fred Bergsten, Robert Mundell, and Joseph Stieglitz approved: “The creation of a global currency would restore a needed coherence to the international monetary system, give the IMF a function that would help it to promote stability and be a catalyst for international harmony”.

Dr. Putin and Mr Xi wasted no time.

 d

2012: Beijing and Moscow began valuing their currencies against an international currency/commodity basket.

2014: The IMF issued the first SDR loan

2016: The World Bank issued the first SDR bond

2017: Standard Chartered Bank issued the first commercial SDR notes.

2019: All central banks began stating currency reserves in SDRs

Mar. 14, 2022: “On April 1, China and the Eurasian Economic Union – Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan – will reveal an independent international monetary and financial system. It will be based on a new international currency, calculated from an index of national currencies of the participating countries and international commodity prices”.

SDRs are inspired by John Maynard Keynes’ invention of a synthetic currency that derives its value from a vast, global, publicly traded basket of currencies and commodities. Utterly resistant to manipulation it is as stable as the Pyramids.

SDRs pose an attractive alternative to the toxic US dollar for the EAEU, 143 BRI member states, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), ASEAN, and the RCEP, none of which counts the United States as a member and all of which count Russia as a full or correspondent member.

Adding amusement to this development is the fact that the EAEU, BRI, SCO, ASEAN, and RCEP were already discussing a merger before the Ukraine operation.

I predict a currency mutiny.

—o0o—

Godfree Roberts wrote Why China Leads the World: Talent at the Top, Data in the Middle, Democracy at the Bottom, and publishes the newsletter, Here Comes China.

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Is Qatar the means for a US comeback in Eurasia?

Energy-rich Qatar’s designation as a major non-NATO ally may upset the Persian Gulf balance, but could be a means for the US to counter a Sino-Russian lockhold on Eurasia.

March 21 2022

Washington’s sudden upgrade of Qatar to a Major Non-NATO Ally is not only about gas, but a means to get a foothold back in Eurasia.Photo Credit: The Cradle

By Agha Hussain

The US’ designation of Qatar as a Major Non-NATO Ally (MNNA) carries more geopolitical significance than is immediately evident. It in fact can be viewed as one of Washington’s first steps toward a new strategy for a US riposte against Russia and China at key theaters in Eurasian great-power competition.

On 31 January, US President Joe Biden hosted the Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hammad Al-Thani in Washington and declared Qatar an MNNA. Also discussed was gas-rich Qatar’s potential role in alleviating Europe’s reliance on Russian gas for its energy supply – a key leverage point for Moscow to dissuade European NATO members from confronting it over Ukraine.

It should be noted, however, that Qatar itself has cast doubt over any speculation that it could unilaterally replace the continent’s gas needs in case of a shortage.

Indeed, there is no western military response to current Russian operations in Ukraine. Whether US or European Union (EU), the western strategic calculus does not deem Kiev important enough to rescue from Russia.

Nonetheless, Ukraine is still crucial for the US as a means to help counter Russian influence in vast, resource-rich Eurasia. Namely, through connecting China to Europe via the multimodal Kazakhstan-Azerbaijan (via the Caspian Sea)-Georgia-Ukraine (via the Black Sea) route and thus helping China reduce reliance on its currently most-used land route to Europe, i.e. via Russia and Belarus, a close Russian ally.

Photo Credit: The Cradle

This strategy would give the US a rare opportunity to leverage China’s global economic expansion through its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which it usually tries to counter with limited success, to reduce Russia’s geo-economic depth in Eurasia.

However, the aforementioned Trans-Caspian International Transport Route (TITR) is more time-consuming, costly, and closer to conflict areas than Russia-Belarus. And Moscow and Tehran have all but blocked the Caspian Sea as a transit route for pipelines. Moreover, to justify the investment needed to improve Ukraine’s transit capacity and to ensure that traders even use the TITR, the EU needs to sanction Moscow and render the Russia-Belarus route untenable.

Thus, the EU hypothetically replacing Russia with Qatar as its gas supplier, and subsequently becoming more willing to confront Moscow, unlocks a major roadmap for the US to counter Russia.

In this scenario, the EU could enhance and leverage China’s own interest in tilting to the TITR from Russia. According to a 2016 study in the European Council of Foreign Affairs, Ukraine’s harmonization with EU trade standards boosted China’s interest in increasing its Ukrainian food imports, which necessitated enhancing Ukraine’s transport infrastructure since these imports cannot travel to China via the Belarus-Russia route due to Moscow’s sanctions on Kyiv. Indeed, China signed agreements with Ukraine last year to develop the latter’s transport infrastructure.

Afghanistan

The freezing of Afghan central bank assets are burning US bridges with Afghanistan – where the US fought its longest war (2001-21) in its short history. However, the US’ withdrawal from Afghanistan in July 2021 provided an opportunity for Russian and Chinese influence to fill the void. Thus, as the US’ great-power rivalries with Russia and China deepen, the case for rebuilding contacts and connections in Afghanistan will strengthen in Washington.

Afghanistan is central to the US’ goal of building new international transport routes for the Central Asian Republics (CARs) that do not transit through Russia, whose territory and infrastructure the CARs disproportionately rely on. This is an official US objective, as represented by the C5+1 platform and Washington’s official ‘Strategy for Central Asia 2019-25’.  Afghanistan is the transit state for this strategy, to connect the CARs to its own neighbor Pakistan and Pakistani Arabian Sea ports for access to global shipment.

For a proper ‘return’ to Afghanistan as a Eurasia-focused great-power, the US appears to have selected Qatar as its conduit. In this vein, Washington shifted its operational command for Afghanistan to Qatar during the withdrawal and designated Doha its official diplomatic representative in Kabul in November 2021.

Moreover, the US picked Qatar from amongst a broad mix of options for military involvement in post-withdrawal Afghanistan. Such options included negotiating with Pakistan to allow US aircraft to transit its airspace into Afghanistan for combat purposes and even Moscow’s offer, made during the withdrawal, for the US to use Russian bases in Central Asia for intel gathering flights over Afghanistan.

Qatar stood out as the best choice from the US’ great-power perspective. Pakistan’s close regional rapport with China and emphasis on cooperation, made it unlikely to facilitate an inroad for the US. Furthermore, Qatar’s retention of its own diplomatic channels to Afghanistan makes it yet more suitable to the US’ great-power sensitivities.

Qatar hosted US-Taliban peace talks since 2013, years before platforms such as the Moscow-led ‘Extended Troika’ or Beijing’s ‘Quadrilateral Coordination Group’ (QCG) were launched. Doha was not party to either platform, or of other multilateral dialogues on Afghanistan.

Hence, the US can integrate Qatar into its bigger-picture for Afghanistan without making the Gulf state feel as if it is sacrificing its positive bilateral relations with Afghanistan’s other external stakeholders.

Aside from Ukraine and Afghanistan, Washington has another potential front against its Eurasian rivals: Qatar’s home turf in the Persian Gulf region, where common ground exists between Doha’s own ambitions and the US’ containment efforts aimed at China in particular.

The Persian Gulf and China

China and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states are especially important trading partners to each other given the unmatched size of the former’s market for the latters’ energy exports. Beijing also invests heavily in the GCC to turn it into a commercial and logistics hub for the (BRI), the single most consequential driver of Eurasian geoeconomics.

The US views China’s expanding role in the Gulf – whether in the BRI, tech investment or security realms – as a challenge to its own decades-old status as the GCC states’ main security guarantor. How the Sino-GCC embrace pans out is therefore of special interest to Washington.

As noted by Jonathan Fulton, a specialist on Sino-GCC relations, the extent of GCC participation in the BRI is dependent on each Gulf state’s own development plans with BRI. Saudi Arabia and the UAE lead the way in this respect, hosting the bulk of China’s BRI supply chain in the region in the form of industrial parks and ports heavily invested in by Beijing.

In contrast, Chinese-Qatari relations lack this connectivity dimension and are more restricted to just trade.

“In general, Qatar and China maintain a very warm relationship,” noted Gulf affairs analysts Giorgio Cafiero and Anastasia Chisholm in August last year. “The Sino-Qatari partnership is mainly energy-oriented. Beyond the cooperation in the liquefied natural gas (LNG) sector, however, there is much less to Doha’s relationship with Beijing compared to Saudi Arabia or the UAE’s relations with China.”

China has also signed ‘Comprehensive Strategic Partnerships’ with the Saudis and Emiratis in contrast to the lower-level ‘Strategic Partnership’ with Qatar.

Since Chinese investments in Qatar do not springboard the BRI the way those in Saudi Arabia and the UAE do, it makes sense for the US to boost Qatar as a hedge against complete Chinese monopoly over the Gulf’s integration with Eurasia via BRI.

The end of the three-and-a-half year, Saudi-led blockade against Qatar has not necessarily led to a halt in Doha’s rivalry with Abu Dhabi and Riyadh. Rather it has grown more central to its foreign policy as it reclaims its place in the GCC without letting its guard down. This is a reality of Gulf affairs that will likely accompany the GCC’s closer integration with the BRI.

Qatar can offset its GCC rivals’ gains from the BRI by increasing its military engagement with the US. Both the Saudis and Emiratis still rely on the security umbrella that complying with the US’ great-power priorities brings yet have also strengthened ties with China.

This dilemma could also turn Saudi Arabia and the UAE’s increasing defence ties with both China and Russia into driving factors of a partisan pro-Qatari slant in the US’ Gulf policy. After all, Qatar has kept its own defence dealings with China and Russia minimal compared to those with the US.

The UAE recently suspended talks with the US to import the latter’s F-35 fighter jets. One of the reasons for this impasse is Emirati resentment at the US tying the deal to Abu Dhabi’s 5g contract with Chinese telecom giant Huawei, which Washington sees as means for China to compromise the Emirati-imported F35s’ technology. Meanwhile, Qatar’s own talks for the F-35s proceed with less complications and are arguably boosted by its MNNA designation.

China does not want its regional investments getting caught up in the intra-GCC competition for primacy in the Gulf, which could happen if the US greenlights the F-35s for Qatar but not for the UAE, thus setting a precedent for deeper rivalry.

After all, intra-GCC competition has increasingly exhibited zero-sum tendencies. This was seen last year when Saudi Arabia told companies doing business in the kingdom that they would lose their government contracts unless they shifted their regional headquarters to Riyadh from Dubai and then also excluded imports from Emirati economic zones from their preferential tariffs.

Such “zero-sumism” is antithetical to what China wants in the Gulf, which is the harmonization of each Gulf state’s trade and connectivity policies. Beijing needs this to synergize its various Gulf investments into serving a broader, unified global strategy as per the BRI.

Thus, the US could use its ascendant ties with Qatar to cause China a significant headache in the Gulf, especially considering how far Beijing stays from contributing to zero-sum rivalries and standoffs due to its neutrality-oriented foreign policy.

Mutual convenience

However it pans out, the emerging US-Qatari alliance in Eurasia is highly convenient to both sides.

At the very least, the US can try to leverage Qatar’s potential energy role in Europe, its diplomatic role in Afghanistan and its ambitious Gulf policies relative to growing Chinese influence there for its own geopolitical interests.

As for Qatar, the fact that these roles do not threaten its bilateral relations with either China or Russia is a major plus point. Neither of the Eurasian great-powers is zero-sum in its foreign relations outlook and is unlikely to deem Qatar’s prospective participation in the US’ Eurasia strategy a major problem.

Eurasia is once again at the forefront of geopolitics and great power rivalries. Following the US exit from Afghanistan last summer, the incumbent superpower, was perceived to be scaling back if not withdrawing from this strategically important region, however in its relationship with Qatar, the US has shown it may be down but not quite out of Eurasia.

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

Today’s Ukraine War was Made in the West Yesterday

March 19, 2022

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses the US Congress. (Photo: via MEMO)

By Issa Khalaf

War is the dark side of the human species, its rationalizations and justifications ubiquitous. Ukraine seems like a victim, the asymmetrical underdog. Those who care about Palestine (and elsewhere) have a deep knowledge of violent oppression and injustice, of innocent anguish.  Upon critical scrutiny, virtually no war can be judged to be just.  All of us, seeing the victim’s humanity in ourselves, instantly, emotionally side with the little guy and our outraged disgust rises at this activity of collective, organized violence.

These emotions, however, can be particularly misleading and exclude a whole set of critical analyses.  There are legal, political, historical, philosophical and moral dimensions to any conflict or dispute; favorable moral and legal comparison of Ukraine and Palestine not only do not comport to definitive observation, analysis, and conclusion, but the prevailing Western narrative towards Russia is vehemently iniquitous and completely out of touch with reality.

The nauseating hypocrisy of those who’ve ruled the world in the “modern period” is clearly on display for the vast majority of peoples and most states in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East, who sense the disarray, even crumbling, of the Western-dominated international order.  They are not alone: US intelligence analyses see the impending great shift in power centers from West to (Eurasian) East and even give a prognosticative date of 2030.

In this article, I will discuss only the Russia/Ukraine/West war.  I plan the following one that will argue the case that, in fact, Ukraine is neither morally nor legally equivalent to Palestine, support for Ukraine and Palestine is not required to maintain consistency of political, legal and moral principles and does not undermine advocacy for Palestine, on the contrary.

The war in Ukraine, like any war’s attendant horror, upheaval, unpredictability, and civilian anguish, should not have happened and could have been avoided even until recent months.  Factually, Russia did not want it, has no ambitions or capacity for a rebooted Soviet Union, contrary to what many puerile, propagandistic Western detractors assert, but has repeatedly warned and entreated about US/NATO expansion eastward. (Yes, Moscow emphatically desired a stable, secure, normal Europe.)  This expansion and its ramifications absolutely pose an existential threat to Russia.  Unlike the warring by others against fragile states and vulnerable societies in faraway lands on the pretext of national security threat, Russia’s fears are not a fantasy or a diabolical pretext, and its national security peril is literally at its doorstep.

The Ukrainian state is US/Western controlled and, in its alliance and arming, is effectively NATO-like.  Washington, according to coup-happy Victoria Nuland in 2014, pumped some $5 billion into Ukraine since the Western-intelligence induced “Orange” revolution in 2004; an additional $15-$18 billion in arms, loans, and grants (from the US and EU) were poured into Ukraine since the 2013-2014 CIA-backed, far-right enforced regime change of the democratically elected Ukrainian government and until before the war began.

With on-the-ground CIA direction, power in Ukraine was consolidated among a small sociopolitical base of venal Russophobes, political pluralism representing genuinely alternative visions to the essentially nationalist, ultranationalist, pro-NATO parties disbanded.  The Ukraine army, neo-fascist death squads, and small, Nazi-throwback extreme right-wing parties, celebrated by the new leaders and incorporated into the Ukrainian state, went on a repression spree, a terror campaign, to crush protests and dissent against those who were unhappy with what transpired and to erase all things Russian, including an eight-year shelling and sniping war on civilians designed to create terror and ethnic cleansing in eastern Donbass.  This was not a democracy but a monopoly on power to consolidate a vociferously, fanatically anti-Russian state.

Ukraine is (or now, was) merely a platform for a Western proxy war against Russia, a forward operations base, a front line state, its “foreign policy” directed by the American proconsul, its institutions “advised” by American/Western intelligence functionaries and embassy officials, whose job since 2014 was to ensure continuing aggravation and antagonism in Donbass to elicit, in fact, a Russian response justifying long-prepared sanctions, escalation and pretext for “confronting” Russia.

Rather than seeking good relations with both Russia and the West to achieve neutrality, stability, and prosperity, remain free of geopolitical blocs and nuclear capability, reduce suspicions and hatreds, the deeply corrupt and fragile Ukrainian state since the 2014 coup eagerly went along with the West.  In all of its glorious irrationality and myopia, the regime miscalculated miserably, believing the US actually cared about Ukraine other than a forward base for its own ends and that NATO would risk war with Russia over it.

Rather than seeking and facilitating, finally, a secure, stable, prosperous Europe after the Cold War by transforming European security to include Russia and attenuating historical animosities and suspicions between Russia and both its Eastern and Western European neighbors, the US would have none of it.  The US and Russia do not share European-like historical, cultural and psychological pathologies towards each other and potentially could have had very good relations.  Instead, we were led to the bankrupting, empire-exhausting chimerical caprice of unipolarity, exceptionalism, and full-spectrum dominance.

Today is the result of such arrogance, vanity and folly.  The “collective” West essentially caused this horrible war.  The objective threat that ignited it was not Russia to Ukraine or Eastern Europe, but NATO (i.e., the US) to Russia.  Lest we forget, Russia is a great power, and it should be clear to any neutral observer, it will not tolerate such an imminent threat, and further, has been the recipient of Western invasions, via the Ukrainian plains, that, in the case of the German onslaught, cost 25-30 million Russian lives, the vast majority civilian, and untold suffering and destruction.  In the Russian memory and psyche, this will never be allowed to happen again.

The Russian offensive, therefore, occurred for a much more ominous reason than the Ukrainian state terrorism visited upon eastern Donbass: the US/West’s wordless wish is no less than demoralizing, weakening, bankrupting, and territorially fragmenting the Russian Federation, controlling its markets and resources, indebting its people and rendering them dependent on US-dominated financial institutions, and bringing Russia under American dependency.

A pivotal principle of American hegemony is to obstruct and destroy friendly, normal ties, much less integration, between Russia and Europe, Germany being the fulcrum.

More simply, the strategic US/CIA goal is to ensnare Russia in a protracted war, deplete it, damage it, regime-change it, install a supine leader—all as a prelude to the big fantasy: bringing down China.

The multifaceted war on Russia has been ongoing since at least the late 1990s, but really, it never stopped with the Soviet state’s disappearance.  This veiled hostility and aggression certainly existed when Boris Yeltsin was in power (a good vassal according to Washington, this silly and funny man that made Bill Clinton laugh) but took off around 2005, after Washington understood that Vladimir Putin was putting Russia on an independent course, reversing the conditions overseen under the preceding, deplorable Yeltsin era, including steep economic, social, military, and developmental decline and the immiseration of the vast majority of the population, looting oligarchs, and economic “liberalization” designed in Washington.

From Bill Clinton to George W. Bush to Barak Obama to Donald Trump, Central and Eastern European states were gathered into the offensively retooled NATO, aggressive wars were initiated ranging from southeastern Europe to the Middle East and North Africa, arms control agreements were systematically dismantled, missiles deployed as far east as Romania and Poland aimed at Russia, and a client regime was installed in Ukraine.

Damn the continuous Russian protests, requests, warnings for the last twenty-five years about erosion of mutual trust.  Examples of provocations in recent years: 2003 “Rose” revolution in Georgia, its military offensive in 2008.  Incessant air (including B-52s) and naval incitement on Russia’s Black Sea coast in recent years, threats to Russia’s Black Sea fleet at Sevastopol, in the Crimea.  Unrelenting savagery against Donbass.  Dismissal, scoffing at Russia’s final effort for sanity, the late 2021demands for legal indivisible security guarantees in Eastern Europe, among other aspects.

The Russian responses at each of these critical junctures were predictable and desired by the US: Georgia was beaten back; the 2014 overthrow in Ukraine led to Crimea’s accession to Russia; and the Kiev regime became ever-more aggressive, militarized, and in breach of its neutrality commitments, its leader, under American tutelage, hinting at acquiring nuclear weapons at the most recent Munich Security Conference, leading to the offensive against Ukraine.

Of course, this is not just Russia reacting; it’s also Russia playing the long game to correct, no less, than the strategic imbalance of power, the historic Western political and economic domination.

At stake here is the potential Western subjugation of the Middle East for generations and the complete extinguishing of freedom for Palestine.

What the US has done since the Cold War’s end is characterized as a foreign policy blunder, as misguided, mistaken, perhaps reckless and irresponsible, even violating the tenets of realist politics, but benign, well-intentioned.  This logic is deficient, inconsistent with actual behavior.  The US has deliberately, unrelentingly, knowingly pushed eastward, moving Europe with it.

Take away, renege, refuse to renew the incredibly important security infrastructure and nuclear treaties, including those that protect Europe itself (e.g., the INF), indulge in illegal wars with impunity, violate the UN Charter, international law and international humanitarian law, severely degrade diplomacy, negotiations, genuine peacemaking and render the world into a frightfully, recklessly, unstably dangerous place, is no problem when practiced by the West.  Clearly, the ensuing conditions are the inevitable result of laws of the jungle foisted by those who claim to be the paragons of peace, human rights, freedom, democracy, virtue, and so on.

Russia has literally allowed itself to be cornered since 2014, though it needed time to achieve a conventional and nuclear deterrent.  It’s not hard to see reality: Russia is given no quarter, no voice, its real concerns and grievances dismissed, its leader demonized, its marginalization doggedly pursued at every level of international and bilateral social and cultural interactions.  No appeal to reason, to international law, to security, to evidence will do for the West, no amount of patient legal argument, explanation of Russian concerns, appeals, professional warnings, consummate diplomacy and transparency of Russian interests made an impression.  Instead, the Western response was and is always to double down.

For Russia, its offensive is protecting itself against external threats, imminent within the next few years at most.  What should it do?  Wait until the Ukrainian regime initiated its planned offensive in the southeast (having amassed over 60,000 troops there) by the end of February?  Until hypersonic Pershing II missiles are deployed literally at Russia’s western borders?  Until nuclear weapons are deployed, with US help?  Until Russia’s attacked?  Undertake a limited operation in Donbass and simply allow pretext for NATO/Ukraine regime to deploy vast forces/lethal weaponry at the front lines?

With decades of particularly US/UK cheating, lying, prevarication and intolerable gamble.

What better argument to American/Western publics—especially a timid Germany that, because of its Nazi past, is forever insecure to demonstrate its civilized, Western cultural bona fide in relation to the Other, the European east—for standing up to “Putin’s aggression” than this?

Why this insanity?  The neoliberal economic system is in deep trouble and Western power is in relative decline, hence the frenetic US-led Western activity to arrest its deterioration.  It seems to me that Russia (or China for that matter) seeks a world in which a new security architecture (and global economic development and prosperity for all) is implemented in Europe and worldwide and that respects the security needs of all parties.

Finance capitalism, the system of speculative bubbles, derivatives, debt, declining standards of living, and hyperinflation, is ruining Western economies, states and societies, destroying the middle classes. The US cannot tolerate Eurasian integration and China’s Belt and Road Initiative, determined to stop any alternative development model to hyper-capitalism enriching the few, cannibalizing the many; that reduces the US to one of a handful of important multipolar players.

Washington’s grave mismanagement of international relations, its self-defeating policies, has actually weakened genuine American interests and national security and the well-being and safety of the American people, a phenomenon that cannot be naively attributed to Democrats or Republicans, this or that president. Instead, the war-state is deeply embedded in the American political economy, in factions such as the “intelligence community,” the military-industrial complex, influential establishment neo-cons, and liberal interventionists, all living in a world of yesterday.

We are rushing headlong into extremely dangerous times in which facts are a threat to the state narrative and any dissent or differing opinion is treachery. Fascism does not come from below, always from the top.

-Issa Khalaf has a Ph.D. in political science and Middle East Studies from Oxford University. He contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle.

Here comes China (and they don’t stop!)

March 19, 2022

Source

By Amarynth collaborating with Godfree Roberts’ Newsletter, Here Comes China

Biden / Xi Summit.

In perfect Chinese diplomatic terms, it looks like business as usual. Taken outside of the perfect diplomatic terms, it is a true spanking.

Let’s take one paragraph only and remember a few things first:

Washington, as usual, threatened and danced something like the haka and warned Xi not to support Russia in any way or the consequences would be dire for China. Washington threatened with equally applied sanctions and other dire unmentionables.  Apparently, Washington can support who it wants, but China is in some form prohibited from exactly that.  Hypocritically they want it both ways.  That era is over.

A few hours before the ‘summit’, China had a perfectly normal sail-by through the Taiwan Straits of their aircraft carrier Shandong.  Yes, this is ‘likely routine’ says their spox.  Sure, it was highly likely just routine.  It must have been a wonderful day for the Shandong to take a little sail through the Taiwan Straits.

A few hours before the ‘summit’ Global times had an interview with an unnamed official.  (Is China playing the US game here by not naming the official?).  This is the take-away:  “The international community can fairly judge who is frank and open and who is up to something, who is easing the situation and who is aggravating tension, who is promoting peace talks and who is pouring fuel on the fire, and who is maintaining peace and stability and who is provoking confrontations between blocs.”

Xi Jinping made a pre-summit statement: Countries should not come to the point of meeting on the battlefield. Conflict and confrontation are not in anyone’s interest. Peace and security are what the international community should treasure the most.

So, this is the milieu that Biden walked into at the online summit.  We must know by now what this is all about.  None of the boring line-up of US representatives could bend China to their will to support sanctions against Russia, so, time for a Presidential Summit to yet again attempt to split China and Russia.  This is how perfectly ridiculous this attempt is:  Can you help me fight your friend so that I can concentrate on fighting you later?

Here is how it went:

President Biden expounded on the US position and expressed readiness for communication with China to prevent the situation from exacerbating.

Simply said:  How can we make a deal so that the US/Nato alliance remains a unipolar world and all others must be subservient.

President Xi pointed out that China does not want to see the situation in Ukraine to come to this. China stands for peace and opposes war. This is embedded in China’s history and culture.

Simply said:  Hey Biden, mistake number one!  You do not know who you are talking to, but now I’m going to tell you

  • China makes a conclusion independently based on the merits of each matter.
  • China advocates upholding international law and universally recognized norms governing international relations.
  • China adheres to the UN Charter and promotes the vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security. These are the major principles that underpin China’s approach to the Ukraine crisis.
  • China has put forward a six-point initiative on the humanitarian situation in Ukraine, and is ready to provide further humanitarian assistance to Ukraine and other affected countries.
  • All sides need to jointly support Russia and Ukraine in having dialogue and negotiation that will produce results and lead to peace.

Simply stated:  This is the crux of the matter and seemingly you are unable to grasp it!

  • The US and NATO should also have dialogue with Russia to address the crux of the Ukraine crisis and ease the security concerns of both Russia and Ukraine.

Message:  Go away and take your position and money with you!  You had your opportunity and you became a warmaker, coercing others to your will.  Enough is enough!  We have principles, law and morals and ethical standards.  You hold on to ‘positions’ favorable to you only.

China is active in the EU as well and the discussion does not remain dry and diplomatically correct. 

China is playing into its strengths, saying what is correct in terms of its own national interest and it happens to co-incide with that of the non-insane world.   The spokespeople are highly educated, clear, exceptionally well-spoken, and smart.   They also mercilessly dig in the knife when opportunity shows.  In a recent press conference:

CCTV: US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said that the US is concerned about Russian attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure which caused civilian casualties. However, China has yet to state its position explicitly. How does the foreign ministry view such criticism from other countries on China?

Zhao Lijian: Human lives are precious. Civilian casualties under all circumstances are heart-rending and lamentable. China has all along called for every effort to avoid civilian casualties. We still remember that in March 1999, the US-led NATO, without the Security Council’s mandate, flagrantly unleashed a ruthless bombing campaign against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia for 78 days, killing at least 2,500 innocent civilians and injuring around 10,000 people, most of them civilians. Over the past two decades or so, the US conducted tens of thousands of air strikes in places like Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia. The number of innocent civilians killed can be anywhere between 22,000 and 48,000. When professing its concern for the welfare of the Ukrainian people, shouldn’t the US first express concern over the civilian casualties caused by all these military operations?

I particularly enjoyed this vignette:

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that any support to Russia, military or any other type of support, would actually help Russia conduct a brutal war against an independent sovereign nation, Ukraine, and help them to continue to wage war which is causing death, suffering and an enormous amount of destruction.

This was the comment of the Chinese spokesperson:

Chinese people can fully relate to the pains and sufferings of other countries because we will never forget who bombed our embassy in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.  China does not need a lecture on justice from the abuser of international law. As a Cold War remnant and the world’s largest military alliance, NATO continues to expand its geographical scope and range of operations. What kind of role has it played in world peace and stability? NATO needs to have a good reflection.

Currency

Against this backdrop, the news filtered out about The Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU) and China designing a new monetary and financial system bypassing the U.S. dollar, supervised by Sergei Glazyev and intended to compete with the Bretton Woods system which is now less than 50% of the currency flow in the world.  While news is still very scarce on this front, it fulfilled the purpose of telling Biden once again to go away if US/NATO cannot be a serious contender to building a peaceful and prosperous world.

Godfree Roberts, in his last newsletter, did an overview of the major historical milestones.  I am not sure if the concept of a special drawing rights fiat currency revaluated regularly against a basket of currencies will be the way this rolls out.  Stand by!  Much more incoming!  We will see.

DOLLAR’S END – Farewell, Inordinate Privilege

  • Credit Suisse analyst Zoltan Pozsar says Ukraine triggered a perfect storm in commodities that could weaken the Eurodollar system, contribute to inflation in Western economies, and threaten their financial stability. Pozsar said China’s central bank is uniquely placed to backstop such crisis, paving the way for a much stronger yuan. Reuters, Mar. 13, 2022.
  • Saudi Arabia Considers Accepting Yuan Instead of Dollars for Chinese Oil Sales: Talks between Riyadh and Beijing have accelerated as the Saudi unhappiness grows with Washington. WSJ, Mar. 14, 2022

–o0o–

In 2009, after helping to rescue the US from the GFC, Zhou Xiaochuan, Governor of the Peoples Bank of China, said, “The world needs an international reserve currency that is disconnected from individual nations and able to remain stable in the long run, removing the inherent deficiencies caused by using credit-based national currencies.”

After helping rescue America from the GFC, PBOC Governor Zhou Xiaochuan observed, “The world needs an international reserve currency that is disconnected from individual nations and able to remain stable in the long run, removing the inherent deficiencies caused by using credit-based national currencies.”

Zhou proposed SDRs, Special Drawing Rights, a synthetic reserve currency dynamically revalued against a basket of trading currencies and commodities. Broad, deep, stable, and impossible to manipulate. Nobelists Fred Bergsten, Robert Mundell, and Joseph Stieglitz approved: “The creation of a global currency would restore a needed coherence to the international monetary system, give the IMF a function that would help it to promote stability and be a catalyst for international harmony”.  Here’s what’s happened since:

2012: Beijing began valuing the yuan against a currency/commodity basket

2014: The IMF issued the first SDR loan

2016: The World Bank issued the first SDR bond

2017: Standard Chartered Bank issued the first commercial SDR notes.

2019: All central banks began stating currency reserves in SDRs

Mar. 14, 2022: “In two weeks, China and the Eurasian Economic Union – Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan – will reveal an independent international monetary and financial system. It will be based on a new international currency, calculated from an index of national currencies of the participating countries and international commodity prices”.

The currency resembles Keynes’ invention Special Drawing Rights.SDRs are a  synthetic currency which derives its value from a global, publicly traded basket of currencies and commodities. Immense beyond imaging, and stable as the Pyramids. Everyone gets a seat at the table and a vote. It may eventually be administered by an arm of the UN.

SDRs pose a serious alternative to the US dollar, both for the EAEU, the BRI’s 145 member states, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), ASEAN, and the RCEP. Middle East countries, including Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, are keenly interested.

Less well known is that the EAEU, the BRI, the SCO, ASEAN, and the RCEP were discussing a merger before the currency news hit.

It is reasonable to expect them to join this new, cooperatively managed, stable reserve currency regime in which they can settle their trades in stable, neutral, predictable SDRs.

Biological labs

China is not losing any opportunity to bring this front and center.  This is their last list of questions:

  • If the concerns are “disinformation”, why doesn’t the U.S. release detailed materials to prove its innocence? – Question by Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian on U.S.-funded biolabs in Ukraine.
  • What did the U.S. spend the $200 million on? – Question by Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian on U.S.-funded biolabs in Ukraine.
  • What kind of research has the U.S. conducted on which pathogens? – Question by Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian on U.S.-funded biolabs in Ukraine.
  • What is it trying to hide when the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine deleted all relevant documents on its website? – Question by Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian on U.S.-funded biolabs in Ukraine.
  • Why does the U.S. insist on being the only country in the world to oppose the establishment of a multilateral verification mechanism though it claims to abide by the Biological Weapons Convention? – Question by Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian on U.S.-funded biolabs in Ukraine.
  • This is quite an amazing poster detailing the biolab web, which is too large to load here.  But take a look at the depiction of these US biolabs.  https://www.globaltimes.cn/page/202203/1255055.shtml

Economic goals in a nutshell

What is happening with Belt and Road?  About the data: On January 21, 2022, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) released its data for “China’s investments and cooperation in countries along the Belt and Road” covering the period of January to December 2021. According to these data, Chinese enterprises invested about US$20.3 billion in non-financial direct investments in countries “along the Belt and Road”. Furthermore, there were 560 newly signed projects with a contract value of over US$100 million. The MOFCOM data focus on 55 countries that are “along the Belt and Road” – meaning on a corridor from China to Europe including South Asia. For this report, the definition of BRI countries includes 142 countries that had signed a cooperation agreement with China to work under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative by the end of 2021. To analyze investments in these countries, we base our data on the China Global Investment Tracker and our own data research at the Green Finance & Development Center affiliated with Fudan University, Shanghai. As with most data, they tend to be imperfect.

Chinese joke

On a somewhat of a lighter note:  The Chinese Netizens are in the majority siding with Russia so completely and so enthusiastically, that China’s WeChat and Douyin had to crack down on vulgar jokes and netizens were told in no uncertain terms that they cannot make fun of international news events.  The very high support for Russia is becoming a clear talking point despite the somewhat muted and correct Chinese diplomatic statements.

So, here is a joke for you.

Bear and Dragon take a walk in the gardens.  Bear is a little overcome with his serious responsibilities in the world and presents emotionally somewhat tired and despondent.  As the walk proceeds, Dragon says to Bear .. Out with it!  What has you so despondent?  Bear thinks a moment and says:  We’ve been friends for a long time.  So, if I need a very large amount of money very quickly, will you give it to me?

Dragon, known for taking time to ponder the imponderables, walks on for a while and then comes to a firm stop.  NO, says Dragon, I will not give it to you!

Bear’s shoulders fall .. but Dragon continues:  I will lend it to you.  1.5 trillion the moment you ask for it, no interest, no repayment terms, pay me back when you can.

Snapshot

March 10, 2022

Source

By Fred Reed

Everybody and his goat are talking about the Ukraine. Why not me? You might ask, But Fred, what do you know about it? To which I would respond, Look, this is journalism. You don’t need to know anything, just wing it, preferably using words you can spell. Admittedly this is more of a limitation than it used to be. Anyway, here goes:

Why did Russia invade the Ukraine? Contrary to American media, the invasion was not unprovoked. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, America has been pushing NATO, which is a US sepoy operation, ever closer to Russian borders in what, to anyone who took fifth-grade geography, is an obvious program of military encirclement. Of the five countries other than Russia littoral to the Black Sea, three, Turkey, Romania, and Bulgaria, are now in NATO. America has been moving toward bringing in the Ukraine and Georgia. After Georgia would have come Azerbaijan, putting American forces on the Caspian with access to Iran and Kazakhstan. This is calculated aggression over the long term, obvious to the—what? Ten percent? Fifteen percent?—of Americans who know what the Caucasus is.

Putin has said, over and over, that Russia could not allow hostile military forces on its border any more than the US would allow Chinese military bases in Mexico and China or missile forces in Cuba. Washington kept pushing. Russia said, no more. In short, America brought on the war.

Among people who follow such things, there are two ways of looking at the invasion. First, that Washington thought Putin was bluffing, and he wasn’t. Second, that America intentionally forced Russia to choose between allowing NATO into the Ukraine, a major success for Washington’s world empire; or fighting, also a success for Washington as it would cause the results it has caused.

From the latter understanding, America pulled off, at least at first glance, an astonishing geopolitical victory over Russia. Nordstream II blocked, crippling sanctions placed on Russia, many of its banks kicked out of SWIFT, economic integration of Europe and Asia slowed or reversed, Germany to spend 113 billion on rearming (largely meaning buying American costume-jewelry weaponry), Europe forced to buy expensive American LNG, and Europe made dependent on America for energy. All this in a few days without loss of a single American soldier. This presumably at least in part engineered by Virginia Newland who, though she looks like a fireplug with leprosy, seems effectively Machiavellian.

Next victim, China. Divide and conquer. Or at least that’s the theory. At the same time reinstate the JCPOA and use economic baubles to try to pry Iran away from Beijing.

Here we need some context. Everything Washington does internationally aims at maintaining America’s largely military near-hegemony over the world. This involves several elements:

First, military dominance. This includes the many hundreds of bases around the world, naval supremacy, and the huge military expenditure. Thy latter will be maintained at any cost to domestic needs, and apparently it is going to be increased.

Second, control of the world’s supply of energy. Washington is trying to starve Venezuela, with its vast reserves of petroleum, into submission. Submission means letting American-dominated oil majors exploit the country’s oil. Washington is doing the same with Iran and its enormous reserves. It has troops in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, has confiscated Syria’s oil lands, crushed Libya, and so on. Keeping the European vassals from buying more Russian gas through Nordstream II is part of this energy control and an important part.

Third, and crucial, keep Eurasia—note the “EU”—from coalescing into a vast continent-spanning trade zone, which is exactly what China contemplates in its BRI, Belt and Road initiative. This is too much subject for a few paragraphs, but some thoughts: China is a manufacturing juggernaut in explosive growth. Economic power is the basis of all power. China has the advantage of inner lines of communication: it can build rail, fiber optics, highway,s and pipelines in Asia, where America has little access. China has money because it has a for-profit economy, and America doesn’t. The pull of China’s gigantic market and manufactures was beginning to loosen America’s control of Europe. Eurasian integration had to be stopped.

Fourth, the dollar. Washington controls the dollar, the IMF, SWIFT, and in general the international financial system. It uses this control brutally as a weapon to impose sanctions, crippling the economies of such countries as Venezuela, Iran, Cuba, North Korea, and now Russia. Seeing this intimidates other countries. Washington may have gone too often to this well. Having made England, its chief bootlicker, confiscate Venezuela’s gold reserves, and now freezing Russia’s reserves, Washington has served notice that no country is secure from this treatment. Here I speculate freely, but this may prove America’s worst mistake since 1619 as it may greatly accelerate the search for other payment systems—CIPS from China, SPFS from Russia, and the upcoming digital yuan. Washington, methinks, is betting the farm.

So much for the world. Meanwhile, America seems to be sinking into irreversible decadence that muss eventually—I would say soon—affect its international position. As the world’s economic and, laggingly, technological center of gravity moves east to Asia, an internally collapsing America will be less able to maintain the empire. Consider:

Washington’s printing of money, equivalent to the debasing of the coinage characteristic of failing societies, has resulted in high inflation and a potentially catastrophic national debt. This will cause political perturbation as voters seek to find which of the two essentially identical parties will not behave like the other one. Unrest will grow. Trust abroad in the dollar will decrease.

America suffers from a massive and growing trade deficit, largely with China, about which nothing can be done, certainly not soon, because America no longer makes things it needs. Manufacturing cannot be brought back, excep perhaps in niche markets like semiconductors, because the US no longer has the necessary engineers and trained work force, and American labor costs more than Chinese, so reshoring would increase inflation. The importation of cheap Chinese products keeps inflation down,.

The heavy flow of national wealth into Wall Street and the military in addition to offshoring has led to real poverty in Appalachia, the Rust Belt, and the rural Deep South. This has produced some 100,000 opioid deaths annually in despairing populations. Simultaneously large and growing homeless aggregations appear in LA, Seattle, San Francisco, Austin, St. Louis, on and on, estimated at 60,000 in LA and 50,000 in New York, making the subways dangerous. Bush world conditions presumably do not make for political stability, as neither does the governmental inattention to them.

Crime is out of control, not a sign of a healthy polity. Some 700 homicides annually in Chicago, 300 in Baltimore, and similar numbers elsewhere are now routine, almost all of the killers and killed being black. To countries like Japan and South Korea this must seem barbaric. The situation is not First World.

America’s racial problem is grave. The southern border is open, the southwestern states either majority Latino or soon to be. This is not as bad as it could be as the races seem to get along, but it imposes heavy economic and other costs. At the same time across the country cities have huge black ghettos with appalling semiliteracy, no prospects for the young, all of this apparently irremediable. Racial attacks on whites and Asians grow in number and so, almost everywhere, do racial killings, mostly by blacks. Governments at all levels fear blacks who they know will burn cities if provoked, which leads tax bases to flee from cities, making things worse.

This adds to potentially explosive resentment. There is a substantial White Nationalist movement, that wants no non-whites in America (a bit late for this), Republican Chambers of Commerce, that want more illegal Latinos for the cheap labor but won’t say so, and the high-tech sector, which wants more East Asian and Indian immigrants on which America, with a failing educational system, increasingly depends.

Overall, government is weak, unable to prevent crime, riots, and looting. Washington does not control, but is controlled, being a storefront operation for special interests. Elections do not change policy but only the division of the spoils. Presidents perform their three essential duties, protecting Wall Street, Israel, and the military budget, but not much else.

Schooling is being dumbed down in stark contrast with China. Excellence everywhere is discouraged in the name of equity. Native white talent dwindles in the elite schools, from high-end high schools through CalTech, as Asian majorities predominate. Measures of talent, such as SATs and Medcats, are dropped or downplayed. English grammar and arithmetic are dropped as racist. None of this seems likely to improve America’s future competitiveness.

Finally, the media are controlled. This allows Washington freedom of action abroad as enough of the public will believe anything they are told by television (The Russians are coming, the Chinese are coming, the Iranians are coming, the Guatemalans….) Internally censorship may keep the lid on, for now anyway, by keeping enough of the population from knowing what is going on. By preventing discussion of problems, or their mention, it assures that nothing will be done. I suspect this is having the effect of winding a spring.

Where is all of this leading?

Biden is playing as if this were 1960 and the US enjoyed rock solid military and economic superiority and the population were firmly behind him. This is the world he remembers, being an aging cold warrior. He seems to believe that he consequently can do what he pleases with no repercussions for America. This may be true, or true enough. Perhaps he believes that Russia will collapse in domestic rebellion or simply surrender to the US. It is not how I would bet.

But—and this is sheer speculation—it is not clear what would happen if Russia cut off gas and petroleum and wheat and such things as neon gas from Europe. The West is accustomed to bombing remote countries, not to going without. Would Russia collapse under privation before Europe decided it wanted to trade with Moscow after all?

If Biden and the hawks decide to play hardball with China, they may realize that America is an economic dependency of Beijing. If—again, very hypothetically—China cut off all trade with America, the US economy would die instantly. Almost everything on American shelves is made in China. An American public already very unhappy would explode, which it is on the point of doing for various reasons. Reflect on the Floyd riots. China would be hurt, but it has other markets and a nationalistic population more united than the American.

Them’s my thoughts, probably worth what you pay for them.

Follow the money: how Russia will bypass western economic warfare

March 01, 2022

By Pepe Escobar

The Cradle

The US and EU are over-reaching on Russian sanctions. The end result could be the de-dollarization of the global economy and massive commodity shortages worldwide.

So a congregation of NATO’s top brass ensconced in their echo chambers target the Russian Central Bank with sanctions and expect what? Cookies?

What they got instead was Russia’s deterrence forces bumped up to “a special regime of duty” – which means the Northern and Pacific fleets, the Long-Range Aviation Command, strategic bombers and the entire Russian nuclear apparatus on maximum alert.

One Pentagon general very quickly did the basic math on that, and mere minutes later, a Ukrainian delegation was dispatched to conduct negotiations with Russia in an undisclosed location in Gomel, Belarus.

Meanwhile, in the vassal realms, the German government was busy “setting limits to warmongers like Putin” – quite a rich undertaking considering that Berlin never set any such limits for western warmongers who bombed Yugoslavia, invaded Iraq, or destroyed Libya in complete violation of international law.

While openly proclaiming their desire to “stop the development of Russian industry,” damage its economy, and “ruin Russia” – echoing American edicts on Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Cuba, Venezuela and others in the Global South – the Germans could not possibly recognize a new categorical imperative.

They were finally liberated from their WWII culpability complex by none other than Russian President Vladimir Putin. Germany is finally free to support and weaponize neo-Nazis out in the open all over again – now of the Ukrainian Azov battalion variety.

To get the hang of how these NATO sanctions will “ruin Russia,” I asked for the succinct analysis of one of the most competent economic minds on the planet, Michael Hudson, author, among others, of a revised edition of the must-read Super-Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of American Empire.

Hudson remarked how he is “simply numbed over the near-atomic escalation of the US.” On the confiscation of Russian foreign reserves and cut-off from SWIFT, the main point is “it will take some time for Russia to put in a new system, with China. The result will end dollarization for good, as countries threatened with ‘democracy’ or displaying diplomatic independence will be afraid to use US banks.”

This, Hudson says, leads us to “the great question: whether Europe and the Dollar Bloc can buy Russian raw materials – cobalt, palladium, etc, and whether China will join Russia in a minerals boycott.”

Hudson is adamant that “Russia’s Central Bank, of course, has foreign bank assets in order to intervene in exchange markets to defend its currency from fluctuations. The ruble has plunged. There will be new exchange rates. Yet it’s up to Russia to decide whether to sell its wheat to West Asia, that needs it; or to stop selling gas to Europe via Ukraine, now that the US can grab it.”

About the possible introduction of a new Russia-China payment system bypassing SWIFT, and combining the Russian SPFS (System for Transfer of Financial Messages) with the Chinese CIPS (Cross-Border Interbank Payment System), Hudson has no doubts “the Russian-China system will be implemented. The Global South will seek to join and at the same time keep SWIFT – moving their reserves into the new system.”

I’m going to de-dollarize myself

So the US itself, in another massive strategic blunder, will speed up de-dollarization. As the managing director of Bocom International Hong Hao told the Global Times, with energy trade between Europe and Russia de-dollarized, “that will be the beginning of the disintegration of dollar hegemony.”

It’s a refrain the US administration was quietly hearing last week from some of its own largest multinational banks, including notables like JPMorgan and Citigroup.

Bloomberg article sums up their collective fears:

“Booting Russia from the critical global system – which handles 42 million messages a day and serves as a lifeline to some of the world’s biggest financial institutions – could backfire, sending inflation higher, pushing Russia closer to China, and shielding financial transactions from scrutiny by the west. It might also encourage the development of a SWIFT alternative that could eventually damage the supremacy of the US dollar.”

Those with IQs over 50 in the European Union (EU) must have understood that Russia simply could not be totally excluded from SWIFT, but maybe only a few of its banks: after all, European traders depend on Russian energy.

From Moscow’s point of view, that’s a minor issue. A number of Russian banks are already connected to China’s CIPS system. For instance, if someone wants to buy Russian oil and gas with CIPS, payment must be in the Chinese yuan currency. CIPS is independent of SWIFT.

Additionally, Moscow already linked its SPFS payment system not only to China but also to India and member nations of the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU). SPFS already links to approximately 400 banks.

With more Russian companies using SPFS and CIPS, even before they merge, and other maneuvers to bypass SWIFT, such as barter trade – largely used by sanctioned Iran – and agent banks, Russia could make up for at least 50 percent in trade losses.

The key fact is that the flight from the US-dominated western financial system is now irreversible across Eurasia – and that will proceed in tandem with the internationalization of the yuan.

Russia has its own bag of tricks

Meanwhile, we’re not even talking yet about Russian retaliation for these sanctions. Former President Dmitry Medvedev already gave a hint: everything, from exiting all nuclear arms deals with the US to freezing the assets of western companies in Russia, is on the table.

So what does the “Empire of Lies” want? (Putin terminology, on Monday’s meeting in Moscow to discuss the response to sanctions.)

In an essay published this morning, deliciously titled America Defeats Germany for the Third Time in a Century: the MIC, OGAM and FIRE conquer NATO, Michael Hudson makes a series of crucial points, starting with how “NATO has become Europe’s foreign policy-making body, even to the point of dominating domestic economic interests.”

He outlines the three oligarchies in control of US foreign policy:

First is the military-industrial complex, which Ray McGovern memorably coined as MICIMATT (military industrial Congressional intelligence media academia think tank).

Hudson defines their economy base as “monopoly rent, obtained above all from its arms sales to NATO, to West Asian oil exporters and to other countries with a balance-of-payments surplus.”

Second is the oil and gas sector, joined by mining (OGAM). Their aim is “to maximize the price of energy and raw materials so as to maximize natural resource rent. Monopolizing the Dollar Area’s oil market and isolating it from Russian oil and gas has been a major US priority for over a year now, as the Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia to Germany threatened to link the western European and Russian economies together.”

Third is the “symbiotic” Finance, Insurance and Real Estate (FIRE) sector, which Hudson defines as “the counterpart to Europe’s old post-feudal landed aristocracy living by land rents.”

As he describes these three rentier sectors that completely dominate post-industrial finance capitalism at the heart of the western system, Hudson notes how “Wall Street always has been closely merged with the oil and gas industry (namely, the Citigroup and Chase Manhattan banking conglomerates).”

Hudson shows how “the most pressing US strategic aim of NATO confrontation with Russia is soaring oil and gas prices. In addition to creating profits and stock market gains for US companies, higher energy prices will take much of the steam out of the German economy.”

He warns how food prices will rise “headed by wheat.” (Russia and Ukraine account for 25 percent of world wheat exports.) From a Global South perspective, that’s a disaster: “This will squeeze many West Asian and Global South food-deficient countries, worsening their balance of payments and threatening foreign debt defaults.”

As for blocking Russian raw materials exports, “this threatens to cause breaks in supply chains for key materials, including cobalt, palladium, nickel, aluminum.”

And that leads us, once again, to the heart of the matter: “The long-term dream of the US new Cold Warriors is to break up Russia, or at least to restore its managerial kleptocracy seeking to cash in their privatizations in western stock markets.”

That’s not going to happen. Hudson clearly sees how “the most enormous unintended consequence of US foreign policy has been to drive Russia and China together, along with Iran, Central Asia and countries along the Belt and Road initiative.”

Let’s confiscate some technology

Now compare all of the above with the perspective of a central European business tycoon with vast interests, east and west, and who treasures his discretion.

In an email exchange, the business tycoon posed serious questions about the Russian Central Bank support for its national currency, the ruble, “which according to US planning is being destroyed by the west through sanctions and currency wolf packs who are exposing themselves by selling rubles short. There is really almost no amount of money that can beat the dollar manipulators against the ruble. A 20 percent interest rate will kill the Russian economy unnecessarily.”

The businessman argues that the chief effect of the rate hike “would be to support imports that should not be imported. The fall of the ruble is thus favorable to Russia in terms of self-sufficiency. As import prices rise, these goods should start to be produced domestically. I would just let the ruble fall to find its own level which will for a while be lower than natural forces would permit as the US will be driving it lower through sanctions and short selling manipulation in this form of economic war against Russia.”

But that seems to tell only part of the story. Arguably, the lethal weapon in Russia’s arsenal of responses has been identified by the head of the Center for Economic Research of the Institute of Globalization and Social Movements (IGSO), Vasily Koltashov: the key is to confiscate technology – as in Russia ceasing to recognize US rights to patents.

In what he qualifies as “liberating American intellectual property,” Koltashov calls for passing a Russian law on “friendly and unfriendly states. If a country turns out to be on the unfriendly list, then we can start copying its technologies in pharmaceuticals, industry, manufacturing, electronics, medicine. It can be anything – from simple details to chemical compositions.” This would require amendments to the Russian constitution.

Koltashov maintains that “one of the foundations of success of American industry was copying of foreign patents for inventions.” Now, Russia could use “China’s extensive know-how with its latest technological production processes for copying western products: the release of American intellectual property will cause damage to the United States to the amount of $10 trillion, only in the first stage. It will be a disaster for them.”

As it stands, the strategic stupidity of the EU beggars belief. China is ready to grab all Russian natural resources – with Europe left as a pitiful hostage of the oceans and of wild speculators. It looks like a total EU-Russia split is ahead – with little trade left and zero diplomacy.

Now listen to the sound of champagne popping all across the MICIMATT.

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

Bouthaina Shaaban: ‘US Working With ISIS to Partition Syria!’

Posted by INTERNATIONALIST 360° 

We speak to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s political advisor Bouthaina Shaaban. She alleges that the US has been working with ISIS to demographically change Syria and make way for a Syrian Kurdistan, the US’ theft of Syrian oil and natural resources, Israeli bombing of Syria, Syria’s inclusion into China’s Belt and Road Initiative and much more.

West Asia transforms: Twenty Arab states in China’s BRI sights

‘A crisis is an opportunity riding the dangerous wind.’ So says a Chinese proverb, and nowhere is this truer than in crisis-ridden West Asia, now a major focus of Beijing’s BRI vision to bring infrastructure, connectivity and economic growth to this struggling region

January 26 2022

By Cynthia Chung

West Asia’s winds have changed. When Syria began 2022 by joining China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), it became the 20th Arab country that Beijing has factored into its grand connectivity vision for Asia, Africa and Europe.

The Arab states in China’s sights include those that have already signed deals, and others with proposals in hand: Egypt (2016), Sudan (2018), Algeria (2018), Iraq (2015), Morocco (2017), Saudi Arabia (2018), Yemen (2017), Syria (2022), Somalia (2015), Tunisia (2018), UAE (2018), Libya (2018), Lebanon (2017), Oman (2018), Mauritania (2018), Kuwait(2018), Qatar (2019), Bahrain (2018), Djibouti (2018), Comoros.

The ambitious connectivity and development projects the BRI can inject into a war-torn, exhausted West Asia have the ability to transform the areas from the Levant to the Persian Gulf into a booming world market hub.

Importantly, by connecting these states via rail, road, and water, the foreign-fueled differences that have kept nations at odds since colonial times will have to take a back seat. Once-hostile neighbors must work in tandem for mutually-beneficial economic gains and a more secure future to work.

And money talks – in a region continuously beset by war, terrorism, ruin and shortages.

Rebuilding Syria and linking the Four Seas

On 12 January this year, Syria officially joined China’s Belt and Road Initiative. The timing of this decision dovetails with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s whirlwind tour of West Asia this past spring and summer, beginning with the signing of the $400 billion Sino-Iranian 25-year Comprehensive Cooperation Plan.

In turn, President Bashar al-Assad’s re-election in May last year opened the door to a seven-year Sino-Syrian partnership in the reconstruction of Syria, to relink it to the Mediterranean and Asian markets.

The task will be extensive. The cost of Syria’s reconstruction is estimated to be between $250 and $400 billion – a massive sum, considering Syria’s 2018 total budget was just less than $9 billion.

Nonetheless, Syria has much to offer and China has never been reticent over long-term investment strategies, especially when much can be gained in stabilizing regions that include core transportation corridors.

Syria’s geographical location has been a center for trade and commerce that dates back centuries.

Today, it offers a crucial bypass from the choke points represented by the straits that separate the South China Sea from the Indian Ocean (Malacca, Sunda and Lombok), now controlled by a heavy US presence.

The location of Syria is of central importance to the trade routes through the Five Seas Vision, which was officially put forward by the Syrian president in 2004.

As Assad explained this vision: “Once the economic space between Syria, Turkey, Iraq, and Iran becomes integrated, we would link the Mediterranean, the Caspian, the Black Sea, and the Gulf … we are not only important in the Middle East … Once we link these Four Seas, we become the compulsory intersection of the whole world in investment, transport, and more.”

Photo Credit: The Cradle
Source: Schiller Institute. Proposed rail lines from Albu Kamal/Al-Qaim to Deir Ezzor onto Palmyra and Tehran to Baghdad.

The Latakia Port will be crucial to the Five Seas Vision, and will likely be the first primary focus for heavy Chinese investment, with the potential to become the Eastern Mediterranean’s largest port facility.

Iran has a lease on part of the Latakia Port and has a preferential trade agreement with Syria, while Russia has a base at the nearby Tartus Port, roughly 85km south of Latakia.

Latakia provides access to the Black Sea via Turkey’s Bosphorus (Strait of Istanbul), and access to the Red Sea via the Suez Canal. Russia has free trade facilities at the nearby Port Said in Egypt.

From there, vessels can enter the Persian Gulf, under the protection of another Russian facility at Port Sudan, through the Suez Canal.

Goods can then be shipped onto Iran, which connects to the Caspian Sea from the Chabahar Port via the International North-South Transportation Corridor (INSTC).

From the INSTC transport corridor, it is a short journey to Pakistan, India, and ultimately to China.

International North-South Transportation Corridor (INSTC), the 7,200 km multi-mode network of ship, rail, and road routes for moving freight, largely coordinated by Russia (north end) and India.

Reviving routes and expanding ports

Lebanon’s Tripoli port, 20 miles south of the Syrian-Lebanese border, will also be at the center of BRI investment, if the country’s muddled political rivalries allow for it. The port can play a vital role in the reconstruction of Syria – which Washington seeks to thwart – with plans to revive the Beirut-Tripoli railway as part of a wider network that would incorporate Lebanese and Syrian railway systems into the BRI.

China is also looking to help establish a Tripoli Special Economic Zone as a central trans-shipment hub for the eastern Mediterranean. Plans are underway for the China Harbor Engineering Company to expand the Tripoli port to accommodate the largest freighters.

China has helped to expand the Mouawad airport, about 15 miles north of Tripoli, transforming it from a predominantly military base to a thriving civilian airport.

In 2016, the year that Egypt joined China’s BRI, President Xi Jinping visited Egypt, and the two countries signed 21 partnership agreements with a total value of $15 billion.

China Harbor Engineering Company Ltd has been cooperating with Egyptian companies in the construction of new logistic and industrial areas along the Suez Canal.

In addition, the China State Construction Engineering Corporation has been working on the construction of a new administrative capital 45km east of Cairo, valued at $45 billion. These projects will work to further facilitate integration into the BRI framework.

The case of Yemen, which joined the BRI in 2017, remains a challenging one. China has done much to invest in Egypt’s Suez Canal and the Djibouti Port, which connects with the Addis Abba-Djibouti railway.

Djibouti, Ethiopia and Sudan all joined the BRI in 2018, while Somalia had been on board since 2015. China established its first overseas military base in Djibouti in 2017, giving it access to the key maritime choke point in the region. Yemen stands to gain much with its strategically placed Port Aden.

China’s ambassador to Yemen, Kang Yong, said in a March 2020 interview with Yemeni news outlet Al-Masdar that China considers all agreements signed between the two countries prior to the onset of the 2015 war as still valid, and will implement them “after the Yemeni war ends and after restoring peace and stability.”

Although both China and Russia have made the point that they will not directly intervene in regional politics, it is clear where both nations stand in their orientation, as gleaned from the rapid ascension that has been granted to Iran in recent months.

This past September, Iran was admitted as a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), while Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Qatar were admitted as SCO dialogue partners, joining Turkey.

Over the past year, Iran has quickly gained high regard and is now considered the third pillar to the multipolar alliance of Russia and China, increasingly referred to as RIC (Russia-Iran-China).

On 21 September, officials from Saudi Arabia and Iran met for the fourth round of talks aimed at improving relations, and although the process remains slow, it looks increasingly possible that a peaceful resolution can be reached.

Returning to Syria’s Five Seas Vision, Iraq also has a crucial role to play in this game-changing program.

The office of the Iraqi prime minister stated last May that “negotiations with Iran to build a railway between Basra and Shalamcheh have reached their final stages, and we have signed 15 agreements and memoranda of understanding with Jordan and Egypt regarding energy and transportation lines.”

China-Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Iran railway corridor, part of the INSTC. Iraq joined the BRI in 2015, Iran in 2018.

The railway is part of Syria’s reconstruction deal. The 30km Shalamcheh-Basra rail line will connect Iraq to China’s Belt and Road lines, as well as bring Iran closer to Syria. Basra is also linked to the International North-South Transportation Corridor (INSTC).

The Shalamcheh-Basra rail link will make it possible for Iran to send various commodities, such as consumer goods, construction materials, and minerals through the railway from Tehran to Shalamcheh and then to Basra, and finally to Al Qaim border crossing between Iraq and Syria, which was re-opened in September 2019 after being closed for eight years due to war in both countries.

Presently, there is no rail link between Al Qaim in Iraq to Syria’s rail station in Deir Ezzor, which is roughly 163km away. This should be a priority for construction. From Deir Ezzor, Syria’s existing rail line connects to Aleppo, Latakia, Tartus, and Damascus.

On 29 December, the Iranian cabinet approved the opening of the Chinese consulate in Bandar Abbas, China’s first consulate in Iran. It is expected that China will invest heavily in the Chabahar Free Trade and Industrial Zone and Bandar Abbas, Iran’s most important southern sea transportation hub.

The former Iranian ambassador to China and Switzerland, Mohammad-Hossein Malaek, told the Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA) that Beijing is set to play a leading role in developing the Makran region, the coastal strip along Iran’s Sistan-Baluchestan province and Pakistan’s Balochistan, and where Beijing already has a 40-year, multi-billion dollar agreement with Islamabad to develop the Gwadar port.

Both Iran and Turkey have been intensely engaged with the BRI. The first freight train ran from Pakistan to Turkey through Iran on 21 December last year, after a 10-year hiatus.

This resulted in a major boost to the trading capabilities of the three founders of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), created in 1985 in Tehran by the leaders of Iran, Pakistan and Turkey, and which now has 10 members.

The 6,540km journey from Islamabad to Istanbul takes ten days, less than half the time needed for the equivalent voyage of 21 days by sea. The train has the capacity to carry 80,000 tons of goods.

Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul Rail (ITI).

Within the corridors of cooperation and connectivity

Also in December last year, Javad Hedayati, an official with Iran’s Road Maintenance and Transportation Organization, announced that Iran, Azerbaijan, and Georgia had reached an agreement on establishing a transit route connecting the Persian Gulf to the Black Sea.

This transit route could potentially link with the Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul Rail (ITI) and further boost connectivity in the region.

The construction work of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline is resuming in the Afghanistan section. The TAPI is a regional connectivity project for supplying gas from Turkmenistan to India’s Punjab to meet regional demand.

Map illustrates the planned TAPI pipeline (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) and railways in Afghanistan.

The pipeline is expected to carry 33 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year. The 1,814km pipeline stretches from Galkinesh, the world’s second-largest gas field, to the Indian city of Fazilka, near the Pakistan border.

This will be more than enough to supply Afghanistan’s own energy needs as it starts to rebuild and reconstruct. TAPI is expected to facilitate a unique level of trade and cooperation across the region, as well as support peace and security between the four countries: India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan.

The Afghan-Uzbek rail project is another exciting proposal that has recently been under serious discussion. The project would include the construction of a 700km long Mazar-i-Sharif to Herat rail line that would pass through Shiberghan, Andkhoy, and Maimana in western Afghanistan.

If this project materializes, all Central Asian countries, including Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, would be connected to Iran’s Chabahar corridor via western Afghanistan.

The Afghan-Uzbek rail project will be one of the biggest breakthroughs in Asian transport connectivity with enormous implications for the entire region, both in terms of economic prosperity as well as political stability.

Afghanistan, Iran and Uzbekistan have already signed an agreement to develop a trans-Afghan transport corridor.

India is also seeking a railway connection with Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, which would connect Chabahar as a gateway between Eurasia and the Indian Ocean.

Cooperation in the area of connectivity with these countries could also be pursued under the SCO framework.

Whether the official title of BRI is present or not, all these development corridors in transportation, industry and energy will participate in the main economic corridors under the BRI framework.

All participant countries in the BRI understand this, and they also know that cooperation is key to mutual beneficence and security.

The Six Main Economic Corridors under China’s BRI, some completed, others hindered by geopolitical conflicts, as in Myanmar, Kazakhstan, Iraq, South China Sea.

Meanwhile, Gulf States shun collaboration

Generally, western-backed Persian Gulf countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the UAE have done much to sabotage this vein of progress.

Thus far, their involvement in the BRI framework has mostly consisted of exchanging oil for technological resources to diversify their economies. They have not, however, been as eager to participate in collaborative processes with other Arab countries.

Nonetheless, the tides are changing, and one cannot maintain a wealthy island philosophy among this growing framework.

The Gulf States need a market to trade in, so that they can grow and prosper. They are therefore in no position to dictate relations with their neighbors, on whom they will grow increasingly dependent for their survival.

If the Gulf countries – some now dialogue partner states of the SCO – adhere to the guidelines of that political-economic-security organization – funding and support of Islamic terrorism is expected to slowly die out.

This would be the most effective way to isolate the attempts of the west to instigate chaos and division within West Asia.

With the BRI and Eurasian Economic Union framework working in tandem, those who are willing to abide by the multipolar framework of a win-win cooperation will make the quickest ascensions.

And those who sluggishly cling to old prejudices and outdated orders will only sink into irrelevance.The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.

What Next?

Source

January 23, 2022

I’m not sure even a NATO mosquito could cross the Russian border unmolested. And when a bear is lethally threatened, it doesn’t posture; it charges in a mighty roar. So why the Russian ultimatum? There are many plausible motives, many of which are not mutually exclusive. I’d like to focus on an aspect that hasn’t been discussed yet.

The last ten to twenty years could be characterized as a rivalry between China’s desire to re-balance the world’s economy, and the US’s effort to maintain the Dollar’s supremacy. China rose on the back of Western consumerism. There is only that much the West economy can absorb of China’s growing production, and that limit has clearly been exceeded. If China is to pursue its economic development, it needs additional “advanced” export markets to sustain its growing middle class. This is the Chinese necessity underlying the BRI, it cannot grow without the world growing with it.

Until recently it was content with a simple strategy: Enter several disparate countries at a time and start economic projects. Soon enough the US intervened to discipline the offenders; but they cannot strike all at once, choices must be made. Meanwhile, China approaches another bunch with still more economic projects. The US gets slowly overwhelmed, while the projects advance two steps forward, one step backward. On paper, it looks like an expensive proposition, but that is the beauty of it, it’s all paid for with US paper, while gold is accumulated. This entire period is comparable to the early and middle stages of a Go game

There is a point however when all these mini economic hubs must consolidate into a unified stream of connections to realize their full potential. That means no more US military interference and economic/financial disruptions. It seems we are now entering the late stage when “eyes” must be locked and linked.

There is little question the latest Russian move was long prepared and discussed with China. We may assume a common goal, and that none of the recent events are coincidences.

China and Russia favor and promote inter-currency settlement of trades. The Digital Yuan (E-CNY, electronic China Yuan) is designed for this purpose and has just completed successfully its live trials. It is reasonable to expect its official announcement in the near future. There are rumors this will be done during Putin’s visit to the Olympics. Regardless of the exact launch date, preparation must be made against the predictably harshest US resistance to its international deployment. There’s little doubt in my mind that many, if not most of East Asia will readily incorporate the new crypto iteration of the Yuan. However the Kazakhstan events, which were clearly foreseen with great precision, essentially opened up the entire Central Asian economies to its eventual use. With the recent 400bn commitment to Iran and the ongoing Pakistani projects, one may merrily add them to the bunch. India is free to join whenever they deem it in their best interest. This brings us right to the doorsteps of the Middle East.

Let’s now briefly revisit the US’ choices taken during the middle stage game. Since East Asia was growing to displace the US and EU as China’s main trading partner, Washington initiated their “pivot East” strategy to disrupt their momentum. Because of the sorry state of both their economy and military, they had to “delegate” the task of containing Russia on its western border to the EU. The Ukraine, in this context, can be seen as the “pretext” for the EU to activate NATO in Eastern Europe. However, as “pivot East” was floundering, they further needed to draw on their middle east assets (it’s becoming increasingly difficult not to laugh at what I must write). To this effect, they devised the Abraham Accords to similarly delegate the task of containing the “Shiite Axis” to Israel and the Golf States. The first “casualty” of these infamous Accords was probably Pakistan’s definite defection to the BRI, which further precipitated the Afghani debacle. To correct that mistake they then tried another formation with India, Japan, and a few others, followed by AUKUS, which both turned into flops, guided by the same imperative to relieve the strain on their military in an attempt to remain relevant on all fronts.

To control the Middle East, the US needs control of Europe, if only to secure their supply line. And to influence Central Asia they must control the Middle East. Until now Washington was essentially calling the shots, while Russia and China adapted their plans to whatever was thrown their way. By submitting their security demands, Russia is signaling unequivocally it is now taking the initiative. While the reinforcement of the Ukrainian Army was first designed to pressure some Russian reaction so as to increase the European nations’ commitment to toe the anti Russia line, the resulting Russian built-up of forces and large scale exercises have effectively reversed the pressure. The bulk of NATO forces are now bogged down on the eastern European front in a self induced paranoia, severely restricting their possible redeployment elsewhere.

With the Russian ultimatum the US is now basically faced with the following choices. Sign the documents, which by extension will mean the Minsk agreement and opening of NS2, but would free NATO reinforcement to the Middle East, no matter how futile this would ultimately prove. Because if this happens Europe will quickly “organically” link to the Asian network and recover most of its sovereignty from the US. At that moment, the Middle East is lost.

By not signing, the choice becomes loosing the middle East or release the pressure in East Asia, in both cases China wins.

If they don’t reinforce the Middle East, Pakistan is soon to be followed by the entire region. Though there could be some fireworks in the process, once the dust settles the BRI will be staring straight at Africa, throwing its full weight at European and American interests on that continent. If that happens, Europe falls.

Finally if they do “save” the Middle East at the detriment of East Asia, the Asian power house will become such that no one will escape its gravitational pull for long.

It is not very difficult to see, in this context, that whichever region the US decides to forsake, it’s only a matter of time before they lose the rest. Of course, this all assumes they don’t first crumble under the weight of their debts. Will they turn nuts and try blow it all up? I can only attest that the one thing greater than their evil idiocy, is their cowardice.

“Russia plans to engage its nuclear weapons not against those countries where it was launched against Russia, but against the mastermind cities where the decisions were made. To be exact, it is Washington, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and other American cities. Please fully understand, in case American nuclear weapons are launched from, eg. Taiwan, or Poland, the response will hit New York or Washington.”  Russian Duma deputy, Yevgeny Fyodorov.

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