مفاوضات فيينا: بين التراجع الأميركي والقلق الصهيوني وتوازن القوى الجديد The Vienna Negotiations: Between American Retreat, Zionist Anxiety, and the New Balance of Power

* Please scroll down for the ADJUSTED English Machine translation *


مفاوضات فيينا: بين التراجع الأميركي والقلق الصهيوني وتوازن القوى الجديد


 حسن حردان

ارتفع منسوب القلق في كيان العدو الصهيوني، مع توارد الأنباء عن قرب توصل مفاوضات فيينا الى اتفاق على العودة المتزامنة من قبل الولايات المتحدة والجمهورية الإسلامية الإيرانية إلى الالتزام بالاتفاق النووي كما نص عليه عام 2015، وهي الصيغة التي يجري وضع اللمسات الأخيرة عليها وتقضي بأن تقوم واشنطن برفع كلّ العقوبات عن إيران والعودة إلى الالتزام بالاتفاق وتأكد طهران من هذا الالتزام، وفي المقابل تقوم إيران بالعودة عن خطواتها التي اتخذتها بالتخلي عن التزاماتها بموجب الاتفاق، انْ لناحية وقف التخصيب بنسبة 60 بالمئة والعودة إلى التزام نسبة 3,67 بالمئة، أو لناحية السماح لمفتشي وكالة الطاقة الدولية بالعودة الى ممارسة عملهم في مراقبة البرنامج النووي.

هذا التطور أحدث صدمة وقلقاً داخل كيان الاحتلال الصهيوني، وأثار انقساماً في اجتماع الكابينيت، المجلس الوزاري المصغر، حول طريقة التعامل مع هذا التطور الذي اعتبر «إسرائيلياً» بأنه يشكل تنازلاً أميركياً أمام إيران، يلحق الضرر بـ «إسرائيل» وحلفائها من بعض الحكومات العربية… ولهذا حذّرت مجموعة كبيرة من المسؤولين السابقين في الاستخبارات «الإسرائيلية» والجيش وهيئات إنفاذ القانون، بايدن من التسرّع في إبرام اتفاق نووي مع إيران.

المجموعة التي ضمّت 2000 مسؤول رفيع المستوى، قالت في رسالة إلى بايدن، إنّ «التسرّع في التفاوض مع إيران يعرّض «إسرائيل» وحلفاءها العرب الجدد للخطر بشكل مباشر».

وأفاد موقع «واشنطن فري بيكون» أنّ الرسالة التي صاغها «منتدى الدفاع والأمن الإسرائيلي»، تُعدّ إشارة واضحة على أنّ «إسرائيل» وحلفاءها العرب في المنطقة متحدون في معارضة جهود إدارة بايدن للانضمام مرة أخرى إلى الاتفاق النووي. واعتبروا أنّ الاتفاق النووي الإيراني معيب ويعد تهديداً مباشراً للاستقرار الإقليمي…

لكن الأسئلة التي تطرح في هذا السياق هي:

أولاً، لماذا قرّرت واشنطن العودة إلى الاتفاق النووي كما وقع عام 2015 طالما انه يشكل ضرراً لحلفاء أميركا في المنطقة وفي المقدمة الكيان الصهيوني؟

وثانياً، لماذا يعتبر المسؤولون الصهاينة عودة العمل بالاتفاق النووي يلحق ضرراً بالكيان الصهيوني وحلفائه من الأنظمة العربية؟

وثالثاً، ما هي النتائج التي ستترتب على التوصل لهذا الاتفاق وفق الشروط الإيرانية؟

أ ـ انّ قرار إدارة الرئيس الأميركي جو بايدن العودة إلى الاتفاق النووي وقبول شروط إيران برفع كامل العقوبات بالتزامن مع عودة طهران للالتزام بالمثل بنصوص الاتفاق، حسب الأنباء الواردة من مفاوضات فيينا، لم يكن ليتمّ لو كان لدى الإدارة خيارات أخرى أفضل… بل انّ واشنطن تقدم على التراجع أمام ايران، حسب ما يرشح من مفاوضات فيينا، نتيجة انسداد الخيارات الأخرى أمامها ووصولها إلى قناعة بأنّ خيار العودة إلى الاتفاق وعدم الاستمرار في محاولات الضغط لتعديله أو تجزئة رفع العقوبات المفروضة على إيران، إنما يشكل أقلّ الخيارات سوءاً بالنسبة للسياسة الأميركية… لماذا؟

لأنّ خيار مواصلة سياسة الحصار والعقوبات لم يعد يجدي نفعاً بعد أن نجحت إيران في إجهاض أهداف الحصار، من خلال :اعتماد سياسات اقتصادية تنموية عزّزت…ـ الاكتفاء الذاتي… وإقامة علاقات اقتصادية مع دول ترفض سياسة الهيمنة الأميركية، لا سيما روسيا والصين، والتي كان آخرها الاتفاقية الاستراتيجية بين طهران وبكين والتي شكلت ضربة موجعة لسياسة الهيمنة الأميركية وأسقطت الحصار الأميركي على إيران بالضربة القاضية كونها أمّنت لإيران تصدير نفطها بكميات كبيرة ومنتظَمة على مدى 25 سنة واستثمارات صينية في شتى المجالات تناهز الـ 450 مليار دولار، هذا إلى جانب توطيد علاقات التنسيق والتعاون الاقتصادي والأمني مع روسيا وإقامة علاقات اقتصادية مع دول جمهوريات آسيا الوسطى لا سيما، دول جوار بحر قزوين مما أدّى إلى تحرّر إيران من تأثير العلاقات مع الغرب، وأوجد بدائل جديدة تجعل طهران قادرة على تأمين احتياجاتها وتصدير منتجاتها من دون الخضوع للابتزاز الذي تمارسه الدول الغربية…

أما الخيار العسكري فإنّ إدارة بايدن تدرك جيداً بأنه محفوف بالمخاطر الكبيرة على الوجود والمصالح الأميركية في المنطقة وعلى أمن الكيان الصهيوني… بسبب القدرات العسكرية الرادعة التي تملكها إيران وحلفائها في محور المقاومة…

في حين انّ خيار الحرب الأمنية غير المباشرة لتعطيل البرنامج النووي الإيراني لإضعاف موقف طهران وفرض الشروط عليها، لم يحقق أهدافه، بل أدّى إلى نتائج عكسية، حيث ردّت إيران على الهجوم الصهيوني التخريبي الذي استهدف مفاعل «نطنز»، بالعمل سريعاً على وضع جيل جديد متطوّر من أجهزة الطرد المركزي بدلاً من الأجهزة التي تضرّرت، ورفع نسبة تخصيب اليورانيوم من 20 بالمئة إلى 60 بالمئة مما عكس جاهزية إيران للمواجهة ونجاحها في تطوير قدراتها النووية وامتلاكها الاحتياطات اللازمة للتصدي لأيّ استهدافات أمنية للبرنامج النووي… وكان من الطبيعي أن يؤدّي هذا النجاح الإيراني إلى تعزيز موقف إيران ورفع سقف وشروط التفاوض من قبلها مع مجموعة 4  + 1 من ناحية، وانسداد أيّ أفق أمام واشنطن لتحسين شروط عودتها إلى الالتزام بالاتفاق النووي من ناحية ثانية… وبالتالي اضطرارها إلى التراجع وإبداء المرونة أمام إيران بالتخلي عن الرهان لتعديل شروط العودة للاتفاق والقبول بالعودة المتزامنة غير المشروطة المقرونة برفع العقوبات دفعة واحدة كما تطالب طهران…

ب ـ انّ قلق المسؤولين الصهانية من عودة واشنطن إلى الاتفاق النووي بالشروط التي ترضى إيران، إنما مردّه إلى جملة أسباب:

السبب الأول، إدراك تل أبيب بأنّ الجمهورية الإسلامية الإيرانية ستحقق انتصاراً جديداً في معركتها لتكريس استقلالها والحفاظ على برنامجها النووي والحصول على المنافع الاقتصادية التي ينص عليها الاتفاق من دون إدخال أيّ تعديلات على الاتفاق سعت إليها حكومة بنيامين نتنياهو دون جدوى.. وهذا يعني أنّ إيران الثورة ستصبح في وضع أقوى داخلياً وخارجياً حيث سيتحسّن الوضع الاقتصادي الإيراني بشكل كبير وينعكس ذلك بتحسين قيمة العملة الإيرانية وبالتالي تحسّن الوضعين الاجتماعي والمعيشي للشعب الإيراني الأمر الذي يزيد من التفافه حول قيادته، ويضعف الجهات المرتبطة بالخارج التي كانت تسعى الى استغلال الضائقة الاقتصادية نتيجة الحصار لتأليب الناس ضدّ نظام الجمهورية الإسلامية… ومن الطبيعي انّ تَحسّن الوضع الاقتصادي ومستوى معيشة الشعب سوف ينعكس بتعزيز موقف إيران السياسي واستطراداً دورها على الساحتين الإقليمية والدولية…

السبب الثاني، إدراك المسؤولين الصهيانية أنّ تنامي قوة إيران الاقتصادية واستعادتها لوارداتها النفطية، والاستثمارات الخارجية التي ستحصل في إيران، وارتفاع معدلات النمو في الاقتصاد والدخل على حدّ سواء، سوف تمكن إيران من زيادة قدراتها على دعم حلفائها في محور المقاومة، مما يقوّي من قدراتهم في مواجهة قوى الإرهاب المدعومة أميركياً، ومن الاحتلال الصهيوني…

السبب الثالث، قلق الصهاينة من التحوّل الذي ستحدثه عودة واشنطن إلى الاتفاق النووي بالشروط الإيرانية، على صعيد موازين القوى الإقليمية، في مصلحة المحور المناهض للهيمنة الأميركية، على حساب المحور الموالي لهذه الهيمنة والذي يضمّ الكيان الصهيوني وحلفاءه من الأنظمة الرجعية التابعة والتي بات يرتبط بعضها باتفاقيات مع كيان العدو… مما يضعف هذه الأنظمة ويجعلها مضطرة إلى التوقف عن مواصلة سياسة العداء لإيران والبحث عن سبل تطبيع العلاقات معها، وفي هذا السياق يمكن وضع الأنباء التي تحدّثت عن بدء حوار سعودي إيراني برعاية عراقية.. والذي تزامن مع الأنباء عن قرب التوصل إلى اتفاق في فيبنا لإعادة العمل بالاتفاق النووي… وتفاقم المأزق السعودي في اليمن بفعل نجاح المقاومة اليمنية في مواصلة توجيه ضربات موجعة القواعد والمنشآت الحيوية العسكرية والنفطية في قلب المملكة.

ج ـ انّ إنجاز الاتفاق بالشروط الإيرانية المدعومة روسياً وصينياً، سوف يكرّس المعادلات الجديدة على الصعيد العالمي، والتي تأتي نتيجة فشل الحروب الأميركية في تحقيق أهدافها لناحية إضعاف إيران وإسقاط الدولة الوطنية السورية والقضاء على قوى المقاومة وإعادة إخضاع العراق للهيمنة الأميركية، وصولاً إلى عزل إيران والعمل على تطويعها، ومحاصرة روسيا والصين، وإحباط تطلعاتهما لإقامة نظام دولي متعدّد الأقطاب…

انّ إخفاق الحروب الأميركية وفشل أهدافها المذكورة، أدّى إلى خروج دول وقوى محور المقاومة أكثر قوّة وقدرة، والى تعزيز قوة إيران السند الأساسي لهذا المحور، وعودة روسيا بقوة إلى الساحة الدولية كلاعب أساسي انطلاقاً من انتصار سورية ومساهمتها في هذا الانتصار في مواجهة الحرب الإرهابية الكونية التي شنّتها أميركا بوساطة جيوش الإرهاب القاعدي والداعشي…

 انّ هذا التحوّل سوف يجعل الكيان الصهيوني محاصراً ببيئة استراتيجية جديدة من محور المقاومة الممتدّ من لبنان مروراً بسورية والعراق وغزة واليمن وصولاً إلى إيران، فيما الولايات المتحدة الداعم الأول للكيان الصهيوني تتراجع هيمنتها في المنطقة وعلى الصعيد الدولي ولم تعد قادرة على شنّ حروب جديدة فيما هي تنسحب مهزومة من أفغانستان بعد أطول حرب خاضتها… واستطراداً فإنّ هذا التحوّل سوف ينعكس بتعزيز موقف روسيا والصين في السعي الى إقامة نظام عالمي جديد يقوم على التعددية القطبية بديلاً عن نظام الهيمنة الأميركي الأحادي القطب.. الذي لم يعد ينسجم مع موازين القوى الجديدة في العالم…


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The Vienna Negotiations: Between American Retreat, Zionist Anxiety, and the New Balance of Power

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Hassan Hardan

The level of concern in the Zionist entity has risen, with reports that the Vienna negotiations have reached an agreement on the simultaneous return by the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran to compliance with the nuclear agreement as stipulated in 2015, a formula that is being finalized and requires Washington to lift all sanctions on Iran and return to compliance In return, Iran is backing away from its steps to abandon its commitments under the agreement, with a 60 percent suspension of enrichment and a return to a 3.67 percent commitment, or allowing IAEA inspectors to return to their work monitoring the nuclear program.

This development caused shock and anxiety within the Zionist occupation entity, and sparked a split in the meeting of the cabinet, the mini-ministerial council, on how to deal with this development, which considered “Israeli” as a U.S. concession to Iran, hurting Israel and its Arab allies. That’s why a large group of former Israeli intelligence, military and law enforcement officials warned Biden not to rush into a nuclear deal with Iran.

The group of 2,000 senior officials said in a letter to Biden that “rushing to negotiate with Iran directly puts Israel and its new Arab allies at risk.”

According to the Washington Free Beacon, the letter, drafted by the Israel Defense and Security Forum, is a clear indication that Israel and its Arab allies in the region are united in opposing the Biden administration’s efforts to rejoin the nuclear deal. They considered the Iran nuclear deal flawed and a direct threat to regional stability…

But the questions asked in this contextare:

First, why did Washington decide to return to the nuclear deal as it signed in 2015 as long as it is harmful to America’s allies in the region and at the forefront of the Zionist entity?

Secondly, why do Zionist officials consider the return of the nuclear agreement to harm the Zionist entity and its Arab regime allies?

Thirdly, what are the consequences of reaching this agreement in accordance with Iranian conditions?

A: U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration’s decision to return to the nuclear deal and accept Iran’s terms of lifting all sanctions in conjunction with Tehran’s return to similar compliance with the terms of the agreement, according to reports from the Vienna negotiations, would not have been possible if the administration had other better options… Washington is even pushing back against Iran, as nominated from the Vienna negotiations, as a result of the blockage of other options before it and its conviction that the option of returning to the agreement and not continuing to try to pressure it to amend it or fragment the lifting of sanctions against Iran is the least bad option for U.S. policy… But why?

Because the option of continuing the policy of embargoes and sanctions no longer works after Iran succeeded in aborting the objectives of the embargo, by: Adoption of economic and development policies that have strengthened…- self-sufficiency, and the establishment of economic relations with countries that reject the policy of American hegemony, especially Russia and China, the latest of which was the strategic agreement between Tehran and Beijing, which constituted a painful blow to the US policy of hegemony and brought down the American blockade on Iran by a knockout because it has secured Iran to export its oil in large and regular quantities over a period of 25 years, and Chinese investments in various fields amounted to about 450 billion dollars, in addition to strengthening coordination relations and economic and security cooperation with Russia and establishing economic relations with the countries of the Central Asian republics, particularly the Caspian neighbors, which led to Iran’s liberation from the influence of relations with the West, and created new alternatives that would make Tehran able to secure its needs and export its products without being subject to blackmail by Western countries…

As for the military option, the Biden administration is well aware that it is too risky for U.S. presence and interests in the region and for the security of the Zionist entity, because of the deterrent military capabilities of Iran and its allies, while the option of indirect security war to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program to weaken Tehran’s position and impose conditions on it, did not achieve its objectives, but backfired, as Iran responded to the Zionist sabotage attack on the Natanz reactor, working quickly to develop a new generation of centrifuges instead of damaged devices, and raising uranium enrichment from 20 percent to 60 percent, reflecting Iran’s readiness to confront and its success in developing its nuclear capabilities and having the necessary precautions to counter any security targets of the nuclear program. It was only natural that this Iranian success would strengthen Iran’s position and raise the ceiling and conditions of its negotiations with the 4+1 group on the one hand, and block any horizon for Washington to improve the terms of its return to compliance with the nuclear agreement on the other. Thus, it has to back down and show flexibility for Iran to give up the bet to amend the terms of the return of the agreement and accept the simultaneous unconditional return coupled with the lifting of sanctions at once, as Tehran demands.

B:. The concern of Zionist officials about Washington’s return to the nuclear deal on the terms that satisfy Iran is due to a number of reasons:

The first reason is Tel Aviv’s realization that the Islamic Republic of Iran will achieve a new victory in its battle to consolidate its independence, maintain its nuclear program and obtain the economic benefits provided for by the agreement without any amendments to the agreement. This means that Iran revolution will become in a stronger situation internally and externally where the Iranian economic situation will improve significantly and this is reflected in the improvement of the value of the Iranian currency and thus improve the social and living situation of the Iranian people, which increases its rallying around his leadership, and weakens those associated abroad who were seeking to exploit the economic hardship as a result of the embargo to turn people against the regime of the Islamic Republic… It is natural that the improvement of the economic situation and the standard of living of the people will be reflected in strengthening Iran’s political position and increasing its role on the regional and international arenas.

The second reason, Zionist officials realize that Iran’s growing economic strength and recovery of its oil imports, foreign investment in Iran, and high growth rates in both the economy and income, will enable Iran to increase its capabilities to support its allies in the axis of resistance, strengthening their capabilities in the face of U.S.-backed terrorist forces, and the Zionist occupation…

The third reason, the Zionists are concerned about the transformation that Washington’s return to the nuclear agreement on Iranian terms will bring, in terms of regional power balances, in the interest of the anti-American axis, at the expense of the axis loyal to this hegemony, which includes the Zionist entity and its reactionary allies, some of which are now linked to agreements with the enemy entity… Weakening these regimes will forces them to stop hostility and look for ways to normalize relations with Iran, and in this context the news of the start of a Saudi-Iranian dialogue under Iraqi auspices which coincided with the news that an agreement was reached in Vienna to reintroduce the nuclear agreement. Moreover the Saudi impasse in Yemen has been exacerbated by the success of the Yemeni resistance in continuing to strike vital military and oil bases and facilities in the heart of the kingdom.

C:. Achieving of the agreement on Iranian terms backed by Russia and China will perpetuate the new equations globally, as a result of the failure of the U.S. wars to achieve their goals in terms of weakening Iran, overthrowing the Syrian national state, eliminating the forces of resistance and re-subjecting Iraq to American hegemony, leading to isolating Iran, the main support of resistance axis, and besieging Russia and China, and thwarting their aspirations to establish a multipolar international order.

The failure of the American wars and the failure of their aforementioned goals led to the strengthening Iran, and the emergence of the countries and forces of the axis of resistance more powerful and capable, and to the strong return of Russia to the international arena as a key player based on the victory of Syria and its contribution to this victory in the face of the global terrorist war that America launched it through the armies of al Qaeda and ISIS terrorism

This transformation will make the Zionist entity besieged by a new strategic environment from the axis of resistance extending from Lebanon through Syria, Iraq, Gaza and Yemen to Iran, while the United States, the first supporter of the Zionist entity, is retreating its hegemony in the region and internationally and is no longer able to wage new wars as it withdraws defeated from Afghanistan after the longest war it has fought… Furthermore, this shift will be reflected in strengthening Russia and China’s position in seeking a new multipolar world order as an alternative to America’s unipolar hegemony.


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How Eurasia will be interconnected

How Eurasia will be interconnected

April 04, 2021

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

The extraordinary confluence between the signing of the Iran-China strategic partnership deal and the Ever Given saga in the Suez Canal is bound to spawn a renewed drive to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and all interconnected corridors of Eurasia integration.

This is the most important geo-economic development in Southwest Asia in ages – even more crucial than the geopolitical and military support to Damascus by Russia since 2015.

Multiple overland railway corridors across Eurasia featuring cargo trains crammed with freight – the most iconic of which is arguably Chongqin-Duisburg – are a key plank of BRI. In a few years, this will all be conducted on high-speed rail.

The key overland corridor is Xinjiang-Kazakhstan – and then onwards to Russia and beyond; the other one traverses Central Asia and Iran, all the way to Turkey, the Balkans, and Eastern Europe. It may take time – in terms of volume – to compete with maritime routes, but the substantial reduction in shipping time is already propelling a massive cargo surge.

The Iran-China strategic connection is bound to accelerate all interconnected corridors leading to and crisscrossing Southwest Asia.

Crucially, multiple BRI trade connectivity corridors are directly linked to establishing alternative routes to oil and gas transit, controlled or “supervised” by the Hegemon since 1945: Suez, Malacca, Hormuz, Bab al Mandeb.

Informal conversations with Persian Gulf traders have revealed huge skepticism about the foremost reason for the Ever Given saga. Merchant marine pilots agree that winds in a desert storm were not enough to harass a state of the art mega-container ship equipped with very complex navigation systems. The pilot error scenario – induced or not – is being seriously considered.

Then there’s the predominant shoptalk: stalled Ever Given was Japanese owned, leased from Taiwan, UK-insured, with an all-Indian crew, transporting Chinese merchandise to Europe. No wonder cynics, addressing the whole episode, are asking, Cui Bono?

Persian Gulf traders, in hush hush mode, also drop hints about the project for Haifa to eventually become the main port in the region, in close cooperation with the Emirates via a railway to be built between Jabal Ali in Dubai to Haifa, bypassing Suez.

Back to facts on the ground, the most interesting short-term development is how Iran’s oil and gas may be shipped to Xinjiang via the Caspian Sea and Kazakhstan – using a to-be-built Trans-Caspian pipeline.

That falls right into classic BRI territory. Actually more than that, because Kazakhstan is a partner not only of BRI but also the Russia-led Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU).

From Beijing’s point of view, Iran is also absolutely essential for the development of a land corridor from the Persian Gulf to the Black Sea and further to Europe via the Danube.

It’s obviously no accident that the Hegemon is on high alert in all points of this trade corridor. “Maximum pressure” sanctions and hybrid war against Iran; an attempt to manipulate the Armenia-Azerbaijan war; the post-color revolution environment in both Georgia and Ukraine – which border the Black Sea; NATO’s overarching shadow over the Balkans; it’s all part of the plot.

Now get me some Lapis Lazuli

Another fascinating chapter of Iran-China concerns Afghanistan. According to Tehran sources, part of the strategic agreement deals with Iran’s area of influence in Afghanistan and the evolution of still another connectivity corridor all the way to Xinjiang.

And here we go back to the always intriguing

Lapis Lazuli corridor – which was conceptualized in 2012, initially for increased connectivity between Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey.

Lapis Lazuli, wonderfully evocative, harks back to the export of an array of semiprecious stones via the Ancient Silk Roads to the Caucasus, Russia, the Balkans and North Africa.

Now the Afghan government sees the ambitious 21st century remix as departing from Herat (a key area of Persian influence), continuing to the Caspian Sea port of Turkmenbashi in Turkmenistan, via a Trans-Caspian pipeline to Baku, onwards to Tblisi and the Georgian ports of Poti and Batumi in the Black Sea, and finally connected to Kars and Istanbul.

This is really serious business; a drive that may potentially link the

Eastern Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean.

Since Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan signed the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea in 2018, in the Kazakh port of Aktau, what’s interesting is that their major issues are now discussed at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), where Russia and Kazakhstan are full members; Iran will soon be; Azerbaijan is a dialogue partner; and Turkmenistan is a permanent guest.

One of the key connectivity problems to be addressed is the viability of building a canal from the Caspian Sea to Iran’s shores in the Persian Gulf. That would cost at least US$7 billion. Another issue is the imperative transition towards container cargo transport in the Caspian. In SCO terms, that will increase Russian trade with India via Iran as well as offering an extra corridor for China trade with Europe.

With Azerbaijan prevailing over Armenia in the Nagorno-Karabakh flare up, while finally sealing a deal with Turkmenistan over their respective status in the Caspian Sea, impetus for the western part of Lapis Lazuli is now in the cards.

The eastern part is a much more complicated affair, involving an absolutely crucial issue now on the table not only for Beijing but for the SCO: the integration of Afghanistan to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

In late 2020, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan agreed to build what analyst Andrew Korybko delightfully described as the PAKAFUZ railwayPAKAFUZ will be a key step to expand CPEC to Central Asia, via Afghanistan. Russia is more than interested.

This can become a classic case of the evolving BRI-EAEU melting pot. Crunch time – serious decisions included – will happen this summer, when Uzbekistan plans to host a conference called “Central and South Asia: Regional Interconnectedness. Challenges and Opportunities”.

So everything will be proceeding interconnected: a Trans-Caspian link; the expansion of CPEC; Af-Pak connected to Central Asia; an extra Pakistan-Iran corridor (via Balochistan, including the finally possible conclusion of the IP gas pipeline) all the way to Azerbaijan and Turkey; China deeply involved in all these projects.

Beijing will be building roads and pipelines in Iran, including one to ship Iranian natural gas to Turkey. Iran-China, in terms of projected investment, is nearly ten times more ambitious than CPEC. Call it CIEC (China-Iran Economic Corridor).

In a nutshell: the Chinese and Persian civilization-states are on the road to emulate the very close relationship they enjoyed during the Silk Road-era Yuan dynasty in the 13th century.

INSTC or bust

An extra piece of the puzzle concerns how the International North-South Transportation Corridor (INSTC) will mix with BRI and the EAEU. Crucially, INSTC also happens to be an alternative to Suez.

Iran, Russia and India have been discussing the intricacies of this 7,200 km-long ship/rail/road trade corridor since 2002. INSTC technically starts in Mumbai and goes all the way via the Indian Ocean to Iran, the Caspian Sea, and then to Moscow. As a measure of its appeal, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, Oman, and Syria are all INSTC members.

Much to the delight of Indian analysts, INSTC reduces transit time from West India to Western Russia from 40 to 20 days, while cutting costs by as much as 60%. It’s already operational – but not as a continuous, free flow sea and rail link.

New Delhi already spent $500 million on a crucial project: the expansion of Chabahar port in Iran, which was supposed to become its entry point for a made in India Silk Road to Afghanistan and onward to Central Asia. But then it all got derailed by New Delhi’s flirting with the losing Quad proposition.

India also invested $1.6 billion in a railway between Zahedan, the key city in southeast Iran, and the Hajigak iron/steel mining in central Afghanistan. This all falls into a possible Iran-India free trade agreement which is being negotiated since 2019 (for the moment, on stand-by). Iran and Russia already clinched a similar agreement. And India wants the same with the EAEU as a whole.

Following the Iran-China strategic partnership, chairman of the Iranian Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, Mojtaba Zonnour, has already hinted that the next step should be an

Iran-Russia strategic cooperation deal, privileging “rail services, roads, refineries, petrochemicals, automobiles, oil, gas, environment and knowledge-based companies”.

What Moscow is already seriously considering is to build a canal between the Caspian and the Sea of Azov, north of the Black Sea. Meanwhile, the already built Caspian port of Lagan is a certified game-changer.

Lagan directly connects with multiple BRI nodes. There’s rail connectivity to the Trans-Siberian all the way to China. Across the Caspian, connectivity includes Turkmenbashi in Turkmenistan and Baku in Azerbaijan, which is the starting point of the BTK railway through to the Black Sea and then all the way from Turkey to Europe.

On the Iranian stretch of the Caspian, Amirabad port links to the INSTC, Chabahar port and further on to India. It’s not an accident that several Iranian companies, as well China’s Poly Group and China Energy Engineering Group International want to invest in Lagan.

What we see in play here is Iran at the center of a maze progressively interconnected with Russia, China and Central Asia. When the Caspian Sea is finally linked to international waters, we will see a de facto alternative trade/transport corridor to Suez.

Post-Iran-China, it’s not far-fetched anymore to even consider the possible emergence in a not too distant future of a Himalaya Silk Road uniting BRICS members China and India (think, for instance, of the power of Himalayan ice converging into a shared Hydropower Tunnel).

As it stands, Russia is very much focused on limitless possibilities in Southwest Asia, as Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov made it clear in the 10th Middle East conference at the Valdai club. The Hegemon’s treats on multiple fronts – Ukraine, Belarus, Syria, Nord Stream 2 – pale in comparison.

The new architecture of 21st century geopolitics is already taking shape, with China providing multiple trade corridors for non-stop economic development while Russia is the reliable provider of energy and security goods, as well as the conceptualizer of a Greater Eurasia home, with “strategic partnership” Sino/Russian diplomacy playing the very long game.

Southwest Asia and Greater Eurasia have already seen which way the (desert) winds are blowing. And soon will the masters of international capital. Russia, China, Iran, India, Central Asia, Vietnam, Indonesia, the Korean Peninsula, everyone will experience a capital surge – financial vultures included. Following the Greed is Good gospel, Eurasia is about to become the ultimate Greed frontier.

The Empire is losing the energy war

January 12, 2021

The Empire is losing the energy war

by The Ister for The Saker Blog

We can see the ongoing war against Russia’s energy industry as an act of revenge from the Empire – but a war which it is losing.

After Putin prevented the looting of the country’s energy reserves in the early 2000s, this economic war was launched, designed to cripple the nascent Russian Federation’s oil and gas industry and by extension the Russian economy as a whole.

This plan began with the planning of the Trans-Caspian, Nabucco, and Baku Tbisili Ceyhan (BTC) pipelines. The BTC pipeline was erected in 2005, pumping oil from Azerbaijan’s Caspian Sea fields through Georgia to Turkey. Next, the planned Nabucco pipeline would have brought Azeri gas from the BTC to the Baumgarten gas hub in Austria, where it would circumvent Europe’s need for Russian energy. As a final blow by NATO, the Trans-Caspian pipeline was intended to cross the Caspian Sea, bringing Turkmen gas and oil to Azerbaijan and eventually to Europe through the BTC and Nabucco routes, isolating Russia.

The Russo-Georgian war can also be understood through this lens. Two days before the outbreak of the conflict, the BTC pipeline suffered from a mysterious explosion. Putin’s victory in the war and subsequent occupation of South Ossetia and Abkhazia held the Nabucco and Trans-Caspian projects at risk, as Western energy corporations would no longer invest in such an expensive undertaking only miles from a conflict zone. The plans were scuttled. Russia’s oil giant Gazprom now signs deals to purchase Turkmen gas directly in order to disincentivize Turkmenistan from taking part in such a future project.

And while we see the reintegration of Crimea as the return of historically Russian territory, it was also a major victory in the energy war. In the Crimean conflict, Putin’s nightmare was that the overthrow of Yanukovych would be followed by the eventually weakening or removal of Russian military positions on the energy-rich Black Sea. A strengthened position in Crimea was leveraged in the creation of the TurkStream pipeline, which then allowed Russia to bypass Ukraine by shipping gas under the Black Sea to Europe.

Russia’s standing in the pipeline battle has been further cemented by recent events regarding the NordStream 2 pipeline, which will bring Russian gas through the Baltic Sea to Germany. Naturally, America is not a fan of this project and has sought to delay the construction by any means possible.

But even Germany, no friend of Putin or Russia, has pushed ahead with the project. Gazprom will now complete the pipeline alongside partners from British, Dutch, Austrian, and German energy companies. And while America may disapprove from afar, all America exports is its fiat dollar which can offer no substitute for the Russian gas and oil required to power Germany’s industrial clusters.

In December of 2020, Gazprom resumed construction on the pipeline despite America’s protestations. In fact, the German-Prussian state of Mecklenburg Vorpommern has recently voted to create a sanction-proof legal structure that would preempt future attempts by America to interrupt the project.

What a turn of fate: to see America’s omnipotence fade as the Empire’s geopolitical meddling is simply circumvented by peaceful trade

So while Russia’s victory in the pipeline battle has been unequivocal, the war has been fought in other domains. For the last 6 years the Empire has won the pricing battle, with its two primary weapons being the oil of Saudi Arabia and the natural gas produced by the shale revolution.

The oil price battle began when John Kerry and the Saudi King met in September of 2014. An arrangement was worked out where the Saudis would suppress crude prices to weaken the Russian economy in exchange for America’s military support in overthrowing Bashar al-Assad. Because Saudi Arabia has the lowest extraction costs of any major producer (3$ per barrel as of 2020), it can profit at prices much lower than its higher-cost oil-producing opponents such as Russia, Iran, and Syria. Under this new arrangement, crude prices fell to new lows as ISIS was spawned in Eastern Syria, and the Free Syrian Army was given American heavy weapons.

The Russian economy shrank almost 40% over the next two years. By comparison, America’s “Great Recession” almost crushed the entire financial system after a mere 2.5% drawdown in GDP. Russia was able to withstand the enormous contraction because under Putin the country’s monetary policy is focused on maintaining net-zero debt: a far cry from the 1990s when Saudi price-suppression (intended to punish Russia for fighting Islamists in Chechnya) hammered down crude prices and resulted in the 1998 Russian financial crisis. Now that Russia operates without external debt, these price tactics are harmful to the populace but no longer imperil the functioning of the state.

While 2020 has seen a renewal of price suppression by the Saudis, the Kingdom’s long-term prospects are plummeting. Below Saudi Arabia sits the state of Yemen. As the high birth rate outstrips the supply of natural resources, Yemen produces an excess of poor and radicalized young men. In response to Saudi and American airstrikes, the Houthi movement has united Shia and Sunni Muslims in Yemen under a common banner against their northern neighbor. Now Yemeni rebels are targeting Saudi oil facilities with increasingly frequent drone strikes, one of which spiked oil prices by almost 20% in Sep 2019.

Another problem for Saudi Arabia is resource depletion. The Saudis are systematically lying about the amount of oil that’s remaining. Leaked communications showed the former VP of Aramco warning the US that their oil reserves could actually be 40% lower than claimed. Consensus used to be that the Ghawar field had 5 million barrels per day capacity. The IPO filing for Aramco revealed a maximum capacity of 3.8 million barrels per day: and that’s their biggest field, producing a third of the nation’s oil output.

If their oil reserves are fine, why has the Kingdom been panickedly talking about economic diversification for the past 5 years? Why did Aramco even have to IPO? America’s vassal state in the crude oil battle seems to be drying up.

Another weapon in the energy price war has been the shale gas revolution. New advancements in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have allowed America to access previously hard to reach “tight” oil and gas reserves. As many small and mid-sized fracking operations rapidly set up shop in the mid 2010s this flooded the world with cheap natural gas and lowered Russia’s energy earnings. However, many of these firms were unprofitable and existed only due to the ultra-low interest rates available at the time, which enabled companies to operate at a loss for several years: meaning that the profitless shale revolution which hurt Russia was de facto financed by the Federal Reserve.

The fall of US shale seems to be on the horizon, as the industry showed signs of huge weakness in 2020. Oil and gas bankruptcies have quadrupled from 2019 to 2020, and production levels from America’s largest fields have dwindled. The Eagle Ford field is down 30% from 2019, Niobrara is down 35%, and Anadarko is down 40%! The best case for America is that these were voluntary production drawdowns due to cheap prices. The worst case is that these are symptoms of the end stage of depletion – the same fate befalling Saudi Arabia.

Even if the large American fields return to their previous production levels, this wave of bankruptcies will remove many small producers from the market who were essentially drilling at an operating loss for years.

There are other developments that suggest that the Empire is losing the energy war

1. Nikol Pashinian, who targeted Gazprom in Armenia with spurious lawsuits, has been given a black eye by Putin. By brokering the Armenian-Azeri peace deal the Russian military now permanently occupies the Caucasus. Anyone who seriously believes it is limited to 5 years should look to the “temporary peacekeeping operations” that have kept Russian troops stationed in the tiny nation of Transnistria for almost 3 decades. Russia’s position in the region – a crucial energy hub, is now stronger than at any other point since the Soviet Union.

2. In defiance of US sanctions, Iran has restarted its domestic shipbuilding industry by constructing new oil tankers with natively sourced parts. New Aframax size tankers have the capacity to hold 750,000 barrels of crude oil and will be used to surreptitiously deliver oil to Iran’s trading partners

3. Despite feeble efforts by Washington to install Juan Guaido in Venezuela – the only country with comparable energy reserves to Saudi Arabia, Maduro is still in power, and Russia and China are now collaborating to circumvent US sanctions. Throughout 2020, crude from Venezuela arrived at Chinese ports, having been snuck past American detection with the aid of Russian state oil company Rosneft, which made the oil appear as if its port of origin was Malaysia.

So what are the takeaways from these events?

First, we can see that Europe is waking up to the necessity of Russian energy. Despite all America’s bluster, it cannot provide a viable alternative even for the countries with which it aligns ideologically. Sure, there will be haphazard attempts like squirreling tight gas from cracks in the Mediterranean Sea, but those are at best partial solutions. Second, sanctions have backfired: the Russian economy is now fully resilient and profitable. There is no further way to wage economic warfare on a nation that has already been isolated from the global financial system. As far as oil trading is concerned, the willingness of America to impose restrictive sanctions has been matched by the creativity of those hoping to bypass them. Finally, the toughest period of the price war seems to be over and the pipeline battle has been won.

The Empire’s diminishing position in this conflict

Nikol Pashinian who targeted Gazprom is out – and Russia now occupies the Caucasus

Special Report: How China got shipments of Venezuelan oil despite U.S. sanctions | Reuters


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

Understanding the outcome of the war for Nagorno-Karabakh

THE SAKER • NOVEMBER 11, 2020 • 3,100 WORDS • 

A lot has happened very rapidly in the past two days and I will begin this analysis by a few bullet points summarizing what just happened (not in any particular order, including chronological):

  • The war which has just ended was a real bloodbath and it has seen more casualties (counting both sides) than what the Soviet Union lost in 10 years of warfare in Afghanistan
  • This war is now over, Russian peacekeepers have already been deployed along the line of contact. So far, neither side has dared to resume hostilities (more about that below).
  • There have been two days of celebrations in Baku where President Aliev has declared that the war was a triumph for Azeri forces and that Pashinian got nothing. He is right.
  • The Azeris are now declaring that they want compensation from Armenia.
  • There are now Turkish forces in Azerbaijan and Russian and Turkish forces have created a joint committee to coordinate actions.
  • Erdogan has insisted that he wanted Turkey to send in peacekeepers, but Putin has categorically rejected this demand: like any other state, Azerbaijan has the undisputed right to invite foreign forces on its territory, but these forces will not have the status and rights of a peacekeeping force.
  • Violent riots have broken out in Erevan where violent mobs have stormed government buildings, beaten officials and sacked the Parliament.
  • Seventeen Armenian opposition parties have declared that they want a committee of national salvation and the resignation of Pashinian.
  • Nobody knows where Pashinian is hiding, but he seems to still be somewhere in Armenia.
  • These mobs also destroyed the Soros offices in Erevan and they are now looking for Pashinian “the traitor” to lynch him.
  • Pashinian has complained on Twitter that his offices were sacked, that a computer, his driver license and, I kid you not, a bottle of perfume (poor perfumed baby!) were stolen.
  • The Russian peacekeeping force will be constituted of subunits of the 15th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade which itself is part of the 2nd Guards Combined Arms Army of the Central Military District. It will include about 2000 armed soldiers, APCs and IFVs, specialized vehicles (EW, C3I, etc.), drones and air defense systems.
  • Russians peacekeepers will stay deployed in this area for no less than 5 years.
  • Russia will now control both the Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) corridor and the Nakhichevan corridor.

Now let’s look at the position of the parties at the end of this war and compare them.

Armenia: there is no doubt that Armenia is the biggest loser in this war. Pashinian and his gang of russophobic Sorosites has brought a real calamity upon his people. Since he came to power his anti-Russian actions included almost totally eliminating any Armenian participation on the CSTO, he completely ceased any collaboration with Russia (including in the intelligence and security domains), he purged the Armenian military and security forces from all the supposed “pro-Russian” elements, he banned Russian language schools. In contrast, Armenia has an absolutely huge US embassy with about 2000 personnel (as much as the entire Russian peacekeeping force!) and when the Azeris attacked, Pashinin refused to ask Russia for help for a full month. He did ask Trump, Merkel and Macron for help instead. Needless to say, they did exactly nothing once the crisis erupted.

Truth be told, the Armenians had absolutely no other option but to accept the Azeri terms. The Armenians have suffered huge losses while the Azeris have taken Shushi, the key strategic city which controls both the capital of NK Stepanakert and the corridor between NK and Armenia. Had Pashinian not signed, the surrounded Armenians would have been slaughtered by the Azeris (in this war, both sides reported having almost no prisoners. Why? Because almost all were all executed, often after gruesome tortures by both sides). Russian analysts also say that Armenia was simply running out of supplies very fast (a fact also mentioned by Pashinian).

Simply put: Aliev’s plan worked, the blind arrogance of the Armenian leaders, along with their suicidal polices have almost cost Armenia the complete loss of NK and, possibly, even the existence of their own country. With all the best Armenian officers removed (including heroes from the first Karabakh war, which Armenia won), what was left were delusional clowns who promised that Armenia, without any help including without Russian help, could win the war and drive its forces to Baku (yes, they did sound just as delusional as some Ukie leaders).

Turkey: the next big loser in this war is Turkey whose objectives of bringing all Turkic nations under one neo-Ottoman empire have, predictably, crashed. Again. Erdogan is a world class megalomaniac and trouble maker, and he has involved Turkey in wars (or quasi wars) with Syria, Israel, Iraq, Greece, Libya, Iran, Russia and even (to some degree) NATO. And let’s not forget the bloody operations against the Kurds everywhere. He is a bona fide megalomaniac and that makes him very, very dangerous. Russia has intervened militarily in Syria, Libya and now Azerbaijan to deny Turkey its wannabe empire status and each time we saw that Turkey, as a country, simply does not have the resources to try to build an empire, especially since Erdogan simply does not understand that simultaneously opening conflicts on several fronts in a recipe for disaster.

There is also pretty strong likelihood that it was the Turks who shot down the Russian Mi-24 right inside the Armenian air space: their goal was to force Russia to stop seeking a negotiated solution and to impose a continuation of hostilities. Thank God for Aliev’s superb strategic skills which made it possible for him to do something very smart: he took the blame for what he called a tragic mistake and offered all sorts of compensations and excuses. Aliev’s decision to take the blame probably came after he and Putin (who are close friends) had what diplomats call a “frank exchange of views”.

The Turks are making a big deal out of the fact that the Azeris have invited Turkish forces into Azerbaijan. But let’s be honest here: the Azeris and Turks were always close and there was no outcome which could have prevented the Azeris from legally inviting Turkish forces into Azerbaijan. The real issue is what these forces can do. I submit that while we should never discard the toxic potential of any Turkish force anyway, there is little this force will be able to do than to a) monitor the situation and 2) coordinate with the Russians to stay out of each other’s way. But what these forces won’t be able to do is to attack, or even threaten to attack, Armenian and/or Russian forces (see below why).

Russia: Russia is the only true winner of this war. I know, there is a powerful Armenian lobby in the USA, in Europe and in Russia, and they are trying to present their defeat as a defeat for Russia. Frankly, I understand their bitterness and I feel sorry for them, but they are absolutely wrong. Here is why:

First, Russia has now established herself as the sole power in the Caucasus which can bring about peace. 2000 US personnel in Erevan did absolutely nothing for years to really help Armenia, all they did is force suicidal russophobic policies on Armenia, that’s about it. The same amount of Russian soldiers literally brought peace overnight. Here I have to explain a little something about the units which was sent Azerbaijan: 15th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade (15IMRB).

The 15IMRB is not a peacekeeping force in the western meaning of the world. This is an elite combat force which specializes in peacekeeping and peacemaking (“coercion to peace” in Russian terminology) missions. It’s personnel is 100% composed of professionals, most of whom have extensive combat experience: they participated in the coercion to peace operation against Georgia in 08.08.08 and in Syria. These are top of the line, well trained, superbly equipped forces who, on top of their own capabilities, can fully count on the support of the Russian forces in Armenia and from the full support of the entire Russian military. Those who say that this force is a lightly armed token force simply do not understand these issues.

The entire theatre of operations of this war is very much inside the (conceptual) under 1000 kilometers from the Russian border which the Russian military wants to be capable of domination escalation should a war break out. To repeat, the Russian military is not organized the way the US military is: the Russian military doctrine is purely defensive, this is not propaganda, and it relies for this defense on its ability to very rapidly deploy high readiness mechanized forces anywhere inside Russia and within about 1000km from the Russian border and the ability to destroy any force entering this zone. Russia also relies on advanced weapons systems capable of unleashing a lot of firepower in defense of its deployed task forces forces. In other words, while the 15IMRB is only a brigade sized expeditionary force, it is trained to hunker down and hold a position until the reinforcements (personnel and/or firepower) are deployed from Russia. You can think of this as something similar to the Russian task force in Syria, only much closer to Russia and, therefore, much easier to support if needed.

Coming back to the shooting down of a Russian Mi-24, this action will not go unnoticed or forgotten, of that you can be sure. The fact that Putin (and the Russian military) don’t act like the US would and immediately initiate reprisals does not mean that the Russians don’t care, have forgotten or are afraid. There is a Jewish proverb which says “a good life is the best revenge”. I would paraphrase this by saying that Putin’s motto could be “an advantageous outcome is the best retaliation”: this is what we saw in Syria and this is what will happen in Azerbaijan.

Another sweet spot for Russia is that she can now (truthfully) declare that color revolutions inevitably result in territorial losses (the Ukraine, Georgie and now Armenia) and political chaos (everywhere).

Next, please look at the following map (in Russian, but that is no problem):

Please look at the two thick blue lines: they are showing corridors between Azerbaijan and the Azeri province of Nakhichevan and the corridor between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. These two corridors are absolutely vital for both of these countries and they will now be under the control of FSB Border Guards (Russian border guards are light, mobile and elite units comparable in terms of training and capabilities to their colleagues from the Airborne Forces. Again, don’t assume that they are anything like the US or EU border or customs officials). They are very tough elite units which are trained to fight a much superior force until reinforcements come in.

What that means in strategic terms is that Russia now has an iron grip on what is a vital strategic artery for both Azerbaijan and Armenia. None of the parties are willing to comment very much on this, no need to humiliate anybody, but those in the know realize what a fantastic pressure capability Putin has just added to Russia in the Caucasus. You can think of these two corridors as a lifeline for both states as long as you also realize that these corridors are also strategic daggers in Russian hands pointed at the vital organs of both states.

The usual Putin-hating choir which has been singing the “Putin lost control of the near abroad” mantra should now be both ashamed of their lack of understanding, and livid at what “Putin” did to their hopes, but that kind of magical thinking won’t change reality on the ground: far from losing anything, Putin secured an immense strategic Russia victory at the cost of 2 dead soldiers, one wounded and one helicopter.

From now on, Russia will have permanent military forces in both Armenia and Azerbaijan. Georgia has been effectively neutered. The Russian Caucasus is mostly peaceful and prosperous, both the Black Sea and the Caspian are de facto “Russian lakes” and the Russian “underbelly” is now much stronger than it ever was before.

Let’s when any western power achieves a similar result 

Conclusion:

This war is now only frozen and, like in Syria, there will be provocations, false flags, setbacks and murdered innocents. But, like in Syria, Putin will always prefer a quiet strategy with minimal losses over one with a lot of threats, grandstanding and instant retaliations. There is also what I call the “Putin use of force rules”: never use force where expected, always use force when least expected and always use force in a way your enemies do not plan for. Still, let’s not see all this in rosy colors, there will be setbacks for sure, Erdogan is angry and he still wants to play a role. Putin, in a typical Russian manner will give him exactly that “a role”, but that role will be minimal and mostly for internal Turkish PR consumption. Erdogan, far from being a new Mehmed The Conqueror and “The Great Eagle”, will go down in history as Erdogan The Loser and the “Defeated Chicken”. Megalomania might be a prerequisite for an empire builder, but that alone is clearly not enough.

🙂

What comes next?

Pashinian will be overthrown, that is pretty sure. What matters most for Armenia is who will replace him. Alas, there are anti-Pashinian nationalists out there who are just as russophobic as the Pashinian gang. Furthermore, considering the hysterics taking place in Armenia, there is a real possibility that a new government might annul the ceasefire and demand a “fight to the end”. This could be a major problem, including for the Russian forces in Armenia and the peacekeepers, but it is also likely that by the time the Armenian people really understand that 1) they have been lied to and 2) they have suffered a crushing defeat these calls will eventually be drowned out by more sane voices (including those of the currently jailed pre-2018 leaders).

There is also a huge Armenian immigration in Russia which will hear all the reporting and analyses produced in Russia and will be fully aware of the reality out there. These immigrants represent a huge ressource for Armenia as they are going to be the one who will push for a strong collaboration with Russia which, frankly, Armenia now needs more than anything else. Right now, judging by what pro-Armenian Russian analysts are saying, the Armenians and their supporters are absolutely horrified by this outcome and they are promising that the Turks have now penetrated deeply inside the Russian sphere of influence. To them sane voices reply that this so-called “move” into the Russia sphere of influence will be mostly PR and that it is far better for some Turkish forces to move inside the Russian sphere of influence than for some Russian force to be deployed inside the Turkish sphere of influence. In other words, when these Armenia supporters say that Erdogan has moved deeply inside the Russian sphere of influence, they are also thereby admitting that this is a Russian, not Turkish, sphere of influence. They just don’t realize what they are saying, that’s all.

Frankly, the Armenian diasporas in Russia, the EU and the USA are superbly organized, they have a lot of money, and they currently control the narrative in the EU and the USA (in Russia they tried and miserably failed). Add to this the fact the Aliev was the one who started that war and that he is deeply enmeshed with Erdogan’s Turkey and you will see why the magnitude of the Armenian defeat is systematically underplayed in the western media. That’s fine, let a few months go by and the reality of the situation will eventually convince those currently in denial.

Right now, this is exactly the process which is (violently) taking place in Erevan. But sooner or later, looting mobs will be replaced by some kind of government of national unity and if that government wants to put an end to the horrendous losses and wants to rebuild what is left standing, they will have to call the Kremlin and offer Russia some kind of deal. Needless to day, the immense US embassy, and the hundred of Soros-sponsored “NGOs” will oppose that with all their might. But with the USA itself fighting for survival, the EU in total disarray and the Turks failing at everything they try, that is simply not a viable option.

Russians used to joke that it takes 2 Jews to cheat 1 Armenian, meaning that Armenians are possibly even smarter than Jews (who, in all fairness, are not that smart at all, that is mostly self-serving and self-worshiping propaganda). I tend to share this admiration of the Armenian people: Armenians are an ancient, truly noble and beautiful nation and culture, who deserve to live in peace and security and who have suffered many horrors in their history. They deserve so much more than this CIA/MI6 stooge Pashinian! Right now, the Armenian nation is definitely at a low moment in its history, comparable to the “democratic” 90s in Russia or the current “liberal” horror taking place in the USA. But, as Dostoevsky liked to say, “one should never judge a nation by how low it can sink, but by how high it can soar”.

The best thing for Armenia, objectively, would be to become part of Russia (which Armenia was in its recent past). But that is not going to happen: first, Armenian nationalism is as blind and as obtuse as ever and, furthermore, Russia would never accept Armenia into the Russian Federation, and why would she? Armenia has exactly nothing to offer Russia, except a difficult to protect territory with potentially dangerous neighbors. No, Russia never lost Armenia – it was Armenia which lost Russia. Now the most the Kremlin will offer to Armenia is 1) protection against all neighbors and 2) economic help.

As for the rest, let’s see if the next Armenian government re-joins the CSTO not only in words (as was the case for the past couple of years), but in actions (like resume intel exchanges, military collaboration, joint security operations, etc.). That would be a great first step for Armenia.

عندما تعود أذربيجان «سوفياتيّة» وأرمينيا إلى بيت الطاعة

محمد صادق الحسيني

بعيداً عن كلام الإعلام واستعراض الشاشات…

اتفاق قره باغ الثلاثيّ بين موسكو وباكو ويريفان،

ليس هو الإنجاز الذي كانت ترمي اليه أذربيجان تماماً، لكنه الهزيمة المرّة الأكيدة لتركيا العثمانية الأطلسية المتغطرسة وارتياحاً واسعاً لإيران، ونجاحاً باهراً لروسيا…

فوقف القتال في القوقاز الجنوبي سيفضي عملياً حسب مصادر وثيقة الصلة بالنزاع الى ما يلي:

هذه هي خلاصة ما حصل من توافق بين قادة روسيا وأرمينيا وأذربيجان في الساعات الماضية حول قره باغ.

1-

استرجاع الأذربيجانيّين أراضيهم المحتلة منذ نحو 30 عاماً.

2-

عودة نحو مليون مهجّر أذربيجاني الى بيوتهم وأوطانهم.

3-

استعادة قره باغ موقعها كإقليم خاص داخل أذربيجان كما كان منذ عهد ستالين.

4-

عودة أرمينيا الى بيت الطاعة الروسيّ بعد أن حاولت عبر نفوذ غربي أميركي أن تخرج من الفضاء الروسي هلى الطريقة الجورجيّة.

5-

خروج أردوغان الأطلسي من الفضاء الروسي القوقازي بخفي حنين.

6-

تحصين الروس لسلطات نفوذهم العميقة أصلاً في أذربيجان سواء في أركان القيادة العسكرية الأذربيجانية او من خلال السيدة مهربان زوجة علييف ونائبة الرئيس المعروفة بميلها الروسيّ المعتق.

7-

تحصين النفوذ الروسي في عالم الطاقة القوقازي من خلال مشروع ربط الغاز التركماني الذي اشترته موسكو بخط الغاز الأذربيجاني الذي يمرّ من جورجيا وعلى تخوم حدود أرمينيا الشماليّة.

8-

استعادة روسيا موقعها المركزي في مجموعة بلدان حوض الخزر (بحر الخزر أو بحر قزوين) كطرف أساسي ومؤثر بالشراكة مع إيران.

9-

إعادة الزخم لعلاقاتها الاستراتيجية مع إيران بعد أن ساهمت في إطفاء نار الغدر واحتمالات العدوان على الأمن القومي الإيراني من بوابة اللعب بالصراع العرقي على حدودها الشمالية.

10-

تأديب تركيا وتقليم أظافرها في أذربيجان من خلال العمل الفعلي والجادّ على جدولة خروج مستشاريها وقواتها من باكو ومعها المستشارون الإسرائيليون وكلّ ما استقدم من رجال عصابات إرهابيّة الى منطقة النزاع.

كل ذلك سيحصل من خلال وجود عسكريّ روسيّ سيبدأ بآلاف المراقبين الروس ومئات المدرّعات ولا يعلم مدى حجمه المستقبليّ إلا الله والراسخون في علم الفضاء السوفياتي.

لقد صبرت موسكو كثيراً على قيادة يريفان التي حاولت التمرّد على الفضاء الروسي.

وصبرت أكثر على قيادة باكو وحليفها التركيّ المستجدّ والدخيل على الفضاء الروسيّ في القوقاز منذ ان حسمت معارك الحرب العالمية الثانية طبيعة هذا الفضاء الاستراتيجيّ.

كما استطاعت موسكو أن تعمل بتؤدة وبخبرة عالية أمنية وعسكرية وسياسية وديبلوماسية اكتسبتها من الميدان السوريّ، أن تؤمن ظهرها بالحليف الإيراني وتمنحه جائزة ترضية في حدوده الشمالية من دون أن يخوض حرباً مكلفة لأجل ذلك في القوقاز.

ومسك الختام كان عملها الدؤوب والحثيث لتحضير كلّ ذلك بعيداً عن الواجهة المحتدمة للصراع من أجل اقتناص اللحظة الاستراتيجية العالمية لفرض التسوية الإقليمية لهذا الصراع الناريّ والعدو الأميركي في لحظة انشغال وانهماك في استحقاقاته الانتخابيّة وتداعياتها التي جعلته يتخبط في مستنقع اللامعقول والشلل الاستراتيجيّ.

درس لكل مَن يريد أن يعتبر كيف يتم حسم معركة كبرى مفروضة عليه، من دون إطلاق رصاصة واحدة، اللهم عدا الطوافة العسكرية التي سقطت قرباناً للإعلان عن الصفقة…!

هي السنن الكونية والأقدار يحصد نتائجها مَن يتقن السباحة في بحرها.

بعدنا طيبين قولوا الله…

موسكو تقطع الشكّ باليقين و واشنطن تخرج بخفي حنين…!

محمد صادق الحسيني

القوقاز روسية إيرانية مشتركة لا مكان فيها للغرباء ولا نفايات الصهاينة أو الإرهابيين…!

وأردوغان يخسر المعركة، وإيران تحبط الإنزال الإسرائيلي التكفيري خلف خطوطها…!

هكذا تلخصت نتائج غزوة الأطلسي لجنوب القوقاز، وتقطعت السبل بجسور عبورهم التي تخيّلوها وخططوا لها من البحر الأسود إلى بحر الخزر…!

تخبّط أذربيجان، وصمود أرمينيا، وتعقل إيران، أفرز حصاداً روسياً لغير صالح أميركا والأطلسي، وضاعت طموحات أردوغان بين قره باغ ونقچوان والطرق السريعة التي تحمل غاز القوقاز الجنوبي…!

انتهت اللعبة بدخول بوتين شخصياً على الخط بتفويض إيراني وإكراه تركي، بدعوته الطرفين المتنازعين الى موسكو للتفاوض ومن ثم ترتيبات وقف إطلاق نار ستحمل في طياتها حضور روسي عسكري (مراقبين أو ما شابه ذلك) إلى حين البتّ في أصول النزاع بعيداً عن توظيف ثلاثي الإرهاب الأميركي الأطلسي العثماني الذي ظنّ للحظة انّ بإمكانه إعادة إطلاق سيناريو سوري في القوقاز…!

في هذه الأثناء وتعزيزاً للتفوّق الروسي والثلاثي الشرقي الصاعد فقد وضعت روسيا اليوم صاروخ تسيركين الأهمّ والأخطر في تاريخ الصناعات الصاروخية في العالم في الخدمة، أيّ بتصرف القوات البحرية والجوية الروسية…!

وصاروخ تسيركين هذا لمن لا يعرف تبلغ سرعته 12 ألف كلم في الساعة أيّ 12 مرة أسرع من الصوت، ويتمّ إطلاقه من الجو ومن البحر مدمّرات وغواصات، وليس بإمكان أيّ رادارات اكتشافه أو التقاطه فضلاً عن إسقاطه لأنه يتحرك بشكل طبقي ولولبي بشكل سريع جداً، وتتمّ حمايته بشبكة من أنظمة الدفاع التي تجعل منه غير قابل للاصطياد من جانب العدو مطلقاً…!

ويستطيع تدمير حاملة طائرات مع مرافقاتها خاصة عندما تطلق منه عدة صليات مرة واحدة…!

وهكذا يكون العالم قد تقدّم خطوة إضافية باتجاه خروج الأميركي من أحادية القوة التي لا تقهر، فيما دخل ثلاثي طهران موسكو بكين سباق الجلوس على عرش العالم رغم أنف الامبرياليين وأذنابهم الذين يتهاوون الواحد بعد الآخر…!

لا تغرنكم استعراضاتهم التلفزيونية ولا حتى أصوات مدافعهم الصدئة والبالية والمهترئة، فهي ليست سوى مناورات لقتال تراجعي تقهقري لقوة غزو فاشلة تحاول العودة الى قواعدها بأقلّ الخسائر الممكنة…!

عالم تتكسر موجاته على شواطئ بحارنا، فيما عالم تتشكل قدراته في جغرافيا آخر الزمان…!

بعدنا طيّبين قولوا الله…

The world is going to multipolarity, Russian analyst says

By M.A. Saki 

August 24, 2020 – 20:50

 TEHRAN – Leonid Savin, a Russian political analyst, is of the opinion that the world is moving in the direction of “multipolarity” as the world is fed up with unipolar moves by Washington.

“The world is going to multipolarity, and humanity is tired of Washington’s dominance and unipolar operations,” Savin tells the Tehran Times. 

Savin also says Moscow is looking to the East as Russians have bitter memories of the West.

“Russian decision-makers started looking to the East more and more. Because historically, we faced serious threats from the West.”

Following is the full text of the interview:
 
Q: Iran and Russia are set to renew their “20-year agreement”. What is the importance of this agreement in terms of bilateral, regional, and international cooperation? 
 
A: The actual agreement was signed on March 12, 2001. During the last 20 years, there were many changes from attacks in New York and the American occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan till colored revolutions, coups, with attempts in Russia and Iran. The world is going to multipolarity, and humanity is tired of Washington’s dominance and unipolar operations. Both Iran and Russia are targets of U.S. sanctions, soft and strategic ways to destabilize our countries. Now we see the necessity of more active cooperation in defense, security, trade, industry, etc. 
Defense and security are very important, and the purpose of Iran to conduct new drills in the Persian Gulf will be a good response to U.S. presence in the region with an impact on regional stability. But other types of bilateral ties also need to be promoted and developed. We are neighbor countries (the Caspian Sea only between us) and destined to be together in Eurasian affairs. From the global geopolitical point of view, Russia and Iran are important poles, and our perception of the world polity is similar in many aspects.

“Now we see the necessity of more active cooperation in defense, security, trade, industry, etc.” between Russia and Iran, says Leonid Savin. 

Q: Some analysts and politicians argue that Russia, China, and Iran are forming an alliance against Washington’s bullying, sanctions pressure, and use of the dollar as a weapon. They cite the Iran-China-Russia joint naval exercise in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Oman in December 2019 as the signs of such an alliance. What is your comment?

A: It is not alliance; because alliance usually means the duties and obligations of the members. There were no obligations, but mutual interests based on political realism. Actually, the alliance of mentioned countries (plus any) may affect much more on the fall of U.S. hegemony because it will more consolidate with certain roadmap and strategy, backed by our resources, manpower, and geographic positions. 
China has a specific outlook and prefers to run its own projects (organization of SCO even as Beijing’s idea to secure its borders and domestic issues like Uyghur and Tibet separatism), especially focused on communications (like BRI), not integration. Because of cheap labor forces in China, there is an economic opportunity to provide loans to other countries without political demands. Till now, this tool was very effective for Chinese foreign policy, but it cannot be useful all time and everywhere. 
Iran has a special agreement with the Eurasian Economic Union led by Russia. But historically, Iran was more interested in Africa, the Near East region, and Central Asia. So, it seems that the current turn of the three states is unique. But joint military exercises, including bilateral, are clear messages to the outsiders. I think that these tripartite efforts should be expanded and organized somewhere in the Caribbean, too, in partnership with our partners from Venezuela.

Q: What is your opinion of U.S. sanctions on Russia and even China? Can the U.S. undermine these two countries’ influence?

A: For the last six years after sanctions of the U.S. and its European satellites were imposed against Russia, there is no such negative impact on the Russian economy like architects of the sanctions predicted. The same for Iran and China. Western policymakers counted on our dependence on supplies, technologies, etc. But Russia implemented counter sanction to “beat the enemy by his own arms”.
We are succeeding in many spheres. Some production still not available here, but the government provided all the necessary needs to the people. And Russia secured our foreign policy for next year because we see the real face of Western diplomacy. 
Even pro-U.S. politicians and opinion-makers changed their minds. It is very important for the reorganizing of the political process and geopolitical priorities. Russian decision-makers started to look to the East more and more. Because historically, we faced serious threats from the West, the Napoleon invasion in 1812 and Hitler attack in 1941; these sanctions were just confirmation of the coward Western intentions.

“We need to note that advisers and persons responsible for the Middle East (West Asia) policy in the U.S. are linked with the Zionist pro-Israel lobby.”

Q: After failing to extend arms embargo, the U.S. is pushing to restore UN sanctions against Iran by invoking a snapback mechanism despite the fact that the U.S. quit the JCPOA in May 2018. Please give your comment.

A: Under the Trump administration, the White House and State Department will do everything to push on Iran. We need to note that advisers and persons responsible for the Middle East (West Asia) policy in the U.S. are linked with the Zionist pro-Israeli lobby. On the other hand, there should be no illusion about Democrats who are interested in controlling Iran through other ways. Also, the U.S. actively runs media propaganda and information operations against Iran. Tehran condemned for mostly all weird and chaotic things in the region from clashes in Syria and Iraq till blast in the port of Beirut and organization of narco-traffickers in Latin America. The last U.S. disinformation was that Iran proposed bounty for Taliban members to kill American troops before there were claims about Russia, but it was changed. Everything should be analyzed like multilayer but a united strategy of the U.S. against Iran.

Q: How do you assess European states’ position to U.S. sanctions against Iran? Why do they encourage Iran to fulfill its obligations in the nuclear deal while they cannot or are unwilling to resist the U.S. sanctions?

A: It is a pity that European countries still under the strong influence of Washington and afraid to act free and be independent. It is signing that the Euro Atlantic community is more powerful than continental Europe. Because two entities exist in one geographic and political space. Russia also suffers from irrational acts of some European politicians directed against the interests of European people. But if to consider the EU as a project of the U.S. and European Commission as anti-democratic government (members of the European Commission are not elected), there need to be real tectonic shifts in the European politics to get own sovereignty back. Any efforts from Russia and Iran for Europeans to be more Europeans and act in their own interests will be immediately labeled like the hostile interference into affairs. So, the issue is really tragic.

RELATED NEWS

China Newsbrief & Sitrep

China Newsbrief & Sitrep

August 12, 2020

By Godfree Roberts from his newsletter

This week we focus mainly on China’s development and business.

We still see signs of an unrestricted and type of unformed war on China that is described by many names, examples cold war or, hybrid war.  The main characteristic of this war is where nothing that disrupts the enemy is off limits.

Despite an unprecedented downturn in US-China relations during a pandemic, US businesses are not leaving the China market. This was a major finding of an annual survey of members released today by the US-China Business Council (USCBC), a trade group representing more than 200 businesses, many of them global brands with decades of China experience.  

https://www.uschina.org/media/press/pandemic-and-politics-aside-us-china-trade-ties-continue

Extracts from Here Comes China

Excellent overview – How Did China Succeed? | Joseph E. Stiglitz  on China’s Economic System

Although Stiglitz is a world banker, he holds different views from the trademark, neoliberal Washington consensus, specifically an economic ideology holding that while people should own the value they produce themselves, economic value derived from land (including all natural resources and natural opportunities) should belong equally to all members of society.  His wide overview here on the growth of China makes sense and is easy listening.

China’s central bank has taken the lead in digital currencies. What does it mean for businesses?  by Jemma Xu and Dan Prud’homme

Outside  China, digital currencies are fraught with incredible risk. In this void, China’s Digital Currency Electronic Payments offers the public confidence unobtainable by private digital currencies. DCEP is itself a stablecoin, but one backed 1:1 by the PBoC with fiat Chinese yuan/renminbi. Its system follows a “two layer” approach. First, and critically, because it is a sovereign digital currency, the PBoC is the only issuing party. Second, to expeditiously diffuse the currency, the central bank issues DCEP to select retail banks and non-financial institutions (e.g., Alibaba, Tencent, and Union Pay) in China with strong pre-existing mobile payment networks, who then merely distribute the currency to the general public. Businesses across China will be required by law to accept DCEP as payment.

Besides the regulatory legitimacy, many factors position DCEP to become the world’s most widely used digital currency:

  • the Chinese state’s track record of rapid institutional innovation;
  • Chinese public support of institutional experimentation;
  • Chinese firms’ strong competitiveness in digital ecosystems and
  • capabilities to quickly adapt to changing technological paradigms and institutions;
  • a massive Chinese population who quickly adopts new digital technologies, and
  • lead the world in adopting mobile payment applications.

Although central banks in several other countries have also been studying digital currencies, none have taken the lead to actually develop and rollout a CBDC at the scale occurring in China. DCEP will be used for purchases in all sectors across the country. To start, as of mid-2020, DCEP has been piloted in the Chinese cities of Shenzhen, Chengdu, Suzhou and Xiong’an – potentially reaching over 42 million people, more than Canada’s entire population. Elsewhere in China, DCEP is already in the process of being piloted in the restaurant and hospitality sectors, with foreign multinationals such as McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Subway already signing up to participate. Further, DCEP trials are already being conducted around China to reimburse public sector employees’ travel costs. Yet other pilot initiatives, such as a commitment to use DCEP at venues for large-scale upcoming events in Beijing, are in place.
Meanwhile, the Chinese government recently proposed the creation of a regional digital currency backed by the Chinese RMB/yuan, Japanese yen, South Korean won, and Hong Kong dollar – with DCEP at the centre. And China’s multi-trillion dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) offers a network to extend DCEP in countries around the globe.

Businesses should prepare for DCEP’s rollout in two main ways. First, they must ensure that they have appropriate infrastructure in place to accommodate DCEP, such as digital wallets. Contracts with third-party financial custodians can also be helpful. On the upside, to facilitate swift legal compliance with DCEP – considering that its acceptance is being required by law in China – the Chinese authorities may integrate DCEP with popular existing digital wallets already widely used by many businesses in China, namely Alipay and Wechat Pay.

Second, businesses may need to explore interoperability options when conducting cross-border trade. Such action may be needed in the longer term if DCEP leads to an alternative international payments system vis-à-vis the current US-led system, which is a probable prospect.
Meanwhile, firms who timely prepare for China’s DCEP rollout can seize several significant opportunities. First, as previously alluded to, the expansion of DCEP will facilitate the internationalisation of the yuan/renminbi. In doing so, the Chinese currency will provide a strong alternative institution to rival the current USD-dominated international payments system.

Third, by facilitating direct transactions between digital wallets, DCEP will eliminate sizeable banking clearing and settlements costs. In other words, ‘payment is settlement’ with no need for separate clearing and settlement processes.

Fourth, DCEP will offer firms new ways of raising capital and secondary trading via the issuance of digital securities and disintermediated trading on exchanges. Digital securities are regulated financial instruments such as equities or bonds where the transaction and shareholder details are recorded on the blockchain ledger. As a stable currency, DCEP will be used to reduce or eliminate the clearing and settlement processes associated with trading digital securities on secondary exchanges. In turn, this will provide firms and investors easier access to digital financial instruments.

Fifth, DCEP’s development will catalyse fintech innovation, giving rise to hybrid products that draw on both traditional markets and digital currencies. Greater numbers of innovative structured products are appearing in the digital currencies market, where the underlying asset is a native digital currency, such as Bitcoin, but the payoffs are based on traditional structured products. DCEP will serve as a reliable alternative underlying-asset in the future, stimulating the creation of more hybrid financial products.
Fifth, and not least, aggregate demand may rise as a result of DCEP’s rollout. DCEP adoption will allow governments to rapidly deploy “helicopter money” to the public without requiring bank accounts. This will empower the previously unbanked to form a new group of consumers.[MORE]

Debt – People criticizing China’s debt see only the debit side of the ledger. If they look at the credit side, they would see offsetting assets. One of those assets is the $20 billion Three Gorges Dam, which generates 100 billion KWh which it sells for US$0.084/KwH, bringing in $8.4 billion every year. Three Gorges tours earn another $3 billion, and flood mitigation and irrigation enhancement save another $3 billion, as the current flooding demonstrates. That’s valuable debt!

China pledged to invest $5.8 billion in the construction of the Moscow-Kazan High Speed Railway. The railway will be extended to China through Kazakhstan. The total cost of the Moscow-Kazan high speed railroad project is $21.4 billion. [MORE]

The Caspian Sea is becoming an alternative to the Suez for shipping between Europe and China, and a great deal of activity is taking place there. Four major Belt & Road routes and one significant Indian route make up the five East-West intersections that the Caspian is shortly to provide, with the potential for a sixth should plans to create a canal between the Caspian and Black Seas come to fruition. [Download Chris Devonshire-Ellis’ Report]

The Port of Beirut poses the biggest geostrategic threat to American power projection because China’s Silk Road is fast creeping towards the docks at Beirut Port. The US, having recently forced Israel to cancel its Haifa rail contract with China, has dampened the Chinese advance in the eastern Mediterranean, and what remains now in the path of the US is the Beirut Port. The US must either invade it to block the Chinese geostrategic mission creep, or else destroy it.[MORE]


See everyone next week for the regular Here Comes China newsletter.  It is a pleasure to work with Godfree and to collate the main points for The Saker Blog.

amarynth

بعد الميادين جاء دور النفط والغاز وتسقط مملكة آل سعود

محمد صادق الحسيني

عندما قرّرت الدول الأوروبية سنة 2003، وبضغط أميركي، إطلاق مبادرة لإنشاء خط أنابيب غاز، منافس لخطوط الغاز الروسية، التي تزوّد أوروبا بالغاز، وقامت، سنة 2004 بتأسيس شركة أوروبية، لتنفيذ هذا المشروع، أسمتها: Nabucco Gas Pipeline international، وسجلتها في النمسا كشركة مساهمة نمساوية، بمشاركة كل من النمسا وألمانيا والمجر وبلغاريا ورومانيا وتركيا، لم يكن النظام السعودي يدرك أن هذه الخطوة هي الحجر الأساس في انهيار مملكة آل سعود وباقي مشيخات النفط الخليجى.

فعلى الرغم من ان هدف المشروع الاستراتيجي تمثل في محاولة أميركية لتوجيه ضربة لسوق الغاز الروسي، ضمن محاولات واشنطن إضعاف النفوذ الروسي في القارة الأوروبية، فإنّ جهات التمويل الخفية لهذا المشروع العملاق، أوروبية وأميركية، قد هدفت الى تحقيق الهيمنة التامة، ليس فقط على جزء من أسواق الطاقة / الغاز / الاوروبية، وانما على مصادر الغاز الطبيعي ايضاً. وذلك عن طريق دمج كل من تركمنستان وكازاخستان وأذربيجان وإيران والعراق وسورية وكذلك مصر و»إسرائيل» في هذا المشروع. وهي دول تملك احتياطات كبرى من الغاز.

شكلت سورية وإيران مشكلة أساسية وعقبة كأداء في وجه تنفيذ هذا المشروع وذلك لرفضهما المشاركة في تنفيذ ما اعتبروه مشروع هيمنة واستعمار، وكذلك لكونه مؤامرة تستهدف إلحاق الأذى بالدولة الصديقة لهما، وهي روسيا، فكان لا بد من البدء بالعمل على ترويض الدولتين تمهيداً لعملية الدمج.

وهو ما تطلب اولاً احداث ما عرف بفتنة العام 2009، الشهيرة التي اعقبت انتخابات الرئاسة الإيرانية والتي أفرزت جدلاً واسعاً حول نتائجها، فعملت القوى الاستعمارية على تصعيد الوضع الداخلي الإيراني لعلّ ذلك يؤدي الى اسقاط النظام كما كانوا يتمنون وتزول العقبة الأهم في طريق تنفيذ المشروع، بحجمه الكامل.

لكن حكمة القيادة الإيرانية والالتفاف الشعبي حولها قد أسقطا تلك المحاولة، الأمر الذي عجل بدفع القوى الاستعمارية (القوى الخفية التي موّلت بدايات المشروع)، بتكليف مشيخة قطر بتولي موضوع فك الارتباط بين الدولة السورية والجمهورية الاسلامية في إيران. حيث قام أمير قطر آنذاك، حمد بن خليفة، بزيارة لدمشق والتقى الرئيس بشار الأسد في صيف عام 2010، وعرض عليه تقديم مساعدات مالية، تصل الى 150 مليار دولار، مقابل فك ارتباط سورية مع إيران والموافقة على الدخول في مشروع انابيب نابوكو، المذكور اعلاه.

ولكن رفض القيادة السورية المطلق لتلك المؤامرة أدى بمديريها الى الانتقال للمرحلة الثانية منها، الا وهي معاقبة الدولة الوطنية السورية على رفضها هذا، وإشعال فتنة داخلية تمهيداً لشن الحرب العالمية المعروفة ضدها. وقد قامت مشيخة قطر، وفِي اطار الدور الذي كلفت به كما أشرنا اعلاه، ومنذ شهر ايلول 2010 بإطلاق عملية تسليح واسع لعناصر خارجة عن القانون في سورية. كما أرفقت عمليات التسليح بعملية تمويل وشراء ذمم واسعة النطاق في الداخل السوري. وبحلول نهاية عام 2010 كانت قطر، وبمساعدة مخابرات دول عربية اخرى، قد ادخلت الى سورية ما يكفي لتسليح فرقة عسكرية كاملة (1800 جندي) الى جانب 500 مليون دولار، دفعت لشراء ذمم مجموعات كبيرة من ضعفاء النفوس، الذين شاركوا في تحريك الفتنة.

وقد اعترف شيخ قطر، خلال زيارته لإيران ولقائه الرئيس محمود أحمدي نجاد، وخلال تصريح صحافي يوم 26/8/2011، بأنه « قدّم النصح للاخوة في سورية بالتوجه نحو التغيير». وتابع قائلاً: «إن الشعب السوري لن يتراجع عن انتفاضته…».

وكما هي غلطة ذاك الأمير القطري، سنة 2011، فها هو اليوم محمد بن سلمان وعلى سيرة من سبقوه من ملوك آل سعود، يخطئون في تقييم الدول التاريخية، مثل روسيا وسورية وإيران، ويسقطون سقطات مميتة. فبعد فشل مشروع إسقاط الدولة السورية وتفتيت محور المقاومة، ها هو بن سلمان يدخل حرباً جديدة، بعد جريمة حرب اليمن، وهي حرب أسعار النفط، مع الدولة العظمى روسيا الاتحادية، التي لا قدرة لديه على حتى مناكفتها. علماً أن سياسته هذه قد أسست، فعلياً وموضوعياً، لسقوط مملكة آل سعود وانهيارها من الداخل.

ولأسباب محددة وواضحة، نورد أهمها، للإضاءة على عوامل داخلية وإقليمية ودولية في هذا السياق:

ان دخول اي معركة حول النفط سيؤدي الى خسارة محتمة وذلك لانعدام القيمة السوقية للنفط في العالم. وهو الأمر الذي يميِّز روسيا عن مملكة آل سعود، حيث تعتمد الموازنة الروسية بنسبة 16% فقط على عائدات النفط بينما يعتمد بن سلمان بنسبة 95% على عائدات النفط.
ان مستقبل قطاع الطاقة في العالم سيكون قائماً على الغاز، الطبيعي والمسال، وذلك لأسباب بيئية واقتصادية. وهذا هو السبب الذي دعا روسيا، وقبيل بدء العشرية الثانية من هذا القرن، بالعمل على إفشال مشروع انابيب نابوكو للغاز، الذي كان يفترض ان يضارب على الغاز الروسي في الاسواق الأوروبية، اذ قامت روسيا بخطوات استراتيجية عدة أهمها:
شراء كامل مخزون الغاز الذي تملكه جمهورية تركمنستان، التي تملك ثاني أكبر احتياط غاز في العالم بعد روسيا، والبدء بإنشاء خط أنابيب غاز باتجاه الشرق، من غالكينيش ( Galkynysh )، في بحر قزوين، الى هرات ثم قندهار في افغانستان، ومن هناك الى كويتا ( Quetta ) ومولتان ( Multan ) في باكستان، وصولًا الى فازيلكا ( Fazilka ) في الهند. وهو ما يعتبر خطوة هامة على طريق تحقيق المشروع الصيني العملاق حزام واحد / طريق واحد.
قيام روسيا بتنفيذ مشروعين استراتيجيين، في قطاع الغاز، هما مشروع السيل التركي مع تركيا والسيل الشمالي مع المانيا. وهما مشروعان يعزّزان الحضور الروسي في قطاع الغاز، وبالتالي قطاع الطاقة بشكل عام، في أوروبا والعالم.
مواصلة روسيا تقديم الدعم السياسي الضروري لجمهورية إيران الإسلامية، للمحافظة على قاعدة التعاون الصلبة بين البلدين، وكذلك الدعم السياسي والاقتصادي والعسكري للجمهورية العربية السورية، منعاً لسيطرة الولايات المتحدة وأذنابها عليها، وتمهيداً لإنشاء سيل غاز روسي إيراني عراقي سوري ( لدى سورية احتياط غاز هائل في القطاع البحري المقابل لسواحل اللاذقية طرطوس ) جديد، لضخ الغاز من السواحل السورية، عبر اليونان، الى أوروبا مستقبلاً.
أما عن أسباب الدور المتصاعد للغاز في أسواق الطاقة الدولية فيعود الى ثبوت عدم إمكانية الاستمرار في الاعتماد على النفط، سواءً في تشغيل وسائل النقل الجوية والبرية والبحرية او في تشغيل محطات توليد الطاقة الكهربائية. يضاف الى ذلك فشل مشروع التحول الى السيارات التي تعمل بالطاقة الكهربائية، وذلك بسبب استحالة التخلص من بطاريات الليثيوم بطريقة غير ضارة بالبيئة. وهذا يعني أن من يمتلك الغاز هو من يمتلك المستقبل، في عملية التطور الصناعي والتجاري، وبالتالي المشاركة في قيادة العالم، وليس من يغرق الأسواق بالنفط كما يظن إبن سلمان ذلك النفط الذي لم يعد يهتم به احد ولم تعد له أي قيمة مباشرة، علاوة على فقدانه قيمته كسلعة استراتيجية.
وبناءً على ما تقدم فانه يجب طرح السؤال، حول مستقبل السعودية بلا نفط. ففي ظل استمرار هبوط أسعار النفط واستمرار تآكل ارصدة الصندوق السيادي السعودي، الذي كان رصيده 732 مليار دولار، عندما تسلم الملك سلمان وابنه محمد الحكم بتاريخ 23/1/2015 ، وتراجع هذا الرصيد بمقدار 233 مليار دولار خلال السنوات الماضية، حسب بيانات مؤسسة النقد السعودية الرسمية، نتيجة لعبث بن سلمان بأموال وأرزاق الأجيال السعودية القادمة، وفي ظل عدم وجود بديل للنفط لتمويل الموازنة السعودية السنوية، الأمر الذي دفع البنك الدولي الاعلان عن ان دول الخليج، وليس السعودية فقط، ستتحول الى دول مفلسة بحلول سنة 2034. البنك الدولي الذي عاد واستدرك تقريره مؤكداً قبل ايام بان هذا الموعد سيحل قبل العام ٢٠٣٤ بكثير، وذلك لأن المحافظة على مستوى الحياة الحالي في السعودية لا يمكن تأمينه بأسعار نفط تقل عن 65 دولاراً للبرميل. وهذا عدا عن أن أرصدة الصندوق السيادي السعودي (بقي منها 499 مليار فقط، بينما يبلغ رصيد صندوق الإمارات السيادي تريليوناً ومئتين وثلاثين مليار دولار)، المشار اليها اعلاه، لن تكون كافية، بالمطلق، لتأمين استثمارات تدر على الدولة السعودية من المال ما يكفي لتمويل الموازنة السنوية.
وعندما يقول الكاتب البريطاني الشهير ديفيد هيرست، في مقال له نشره على موقع ميدل ايست آي بتاريخ 22/4/2020، يقول إنه وبالرغم من المرسوم الملكي السعودي حول ان الحكومة السعودية ستدفع 60% من معاشات الموظفين، طوال فترة الإغلاق التي تطبقها البلاد في ظل كورونا، الا ان موظفي مؤسسة الاتصالات السعودية لا يتقاضون سوى 19% فقط من مستحقاتهم، كما أبلغوني، يقول الكاتب.
والى جانب ذلك فإنّ وزارة الصحة السعودية، التي حوّلت عدداً من الفنادق الى مراكز صحية لمعالجة المصابين بوباء الكورونا، لم تكتف بعدم دفع أية مستحقات لأصحاب تلك الفنادق فحسب، بل طلبت منهم تحمل تكاليف عمليات التعقيم والتطهير لفنادقهم قبل تسليمها لوزارة الصحة.

اما ما يعزز أقوال الصحافي البريطاني، ديفيد هيرست، الشهير بالموضوعية والمهنية الصحافية، فهو ما نشرته وكالة بلومبيرغ، حول تقرير للبنك الدولي نهاية العام الماضي 2019، جاء فيه ان جميع احتياطات السعودية النقدية، سواء ارصدة الصندوق السيادي او البنك المركزي السعودي او مبلغ المئة وثلاثة وثمانين مليار دولار، الذي تحتفظ به السعودية في وزارة الخزانة الأميركية، لن تكون كافية، سنة 2024، سوى لتغطية المستوردات السعودية لمدة خمسة أشهر فقط، هذا اذا ما تراوح سعر برميل النفط بين 50 – 55 دولاراً، كما يقول الكاتب ديفيد فيكلينغ ( David Fickling )، في مقال له على موقع وكالة بلومبيرغ الالكتروني بعنوان: إن تراجع وسقوط امبراطورية النفط في الخليج بات يقترب / أو يلوح في الأفق.
وهذا يعني، وبكل موضوعية، ودون تحيُّز أن حرب اسعار النفط، الدائرة حالياً، والتي أشعلها محمد بن سلمان، لن تنقذه من مصيره المحتوم، وكذلك بقية دول الخليج النفطية، ولو بشكل متفاوت، لأن احتياطاتها النقدية سوف تواصل التآكل، مع اضطرار الحكومات المعنية لمواصلة السحب منها، لتغطية عجز الموازنات السنوية الناجم عن تدهور اسعار النفط وتراجع المداخيل المالية. هذا الى جانب ان تلك الصناديق او الاموال الاحتياطية لم تستثمر في مجالات تدر أرباحاً عالية لتكون قادرة على تغطية نفقات الدولة صاحبة الاموال، في حال انهيار اسعار النفط او نضوبه. اي ان تلك الدول ولأسباب سوء الادارة الاستثمارية قد فشلت في الاستفادة من تلك الأموال وتحويلها الى شبكة أمان لمستقبل أجيالها القادمة.
وهو الامر الذي سيؤدي حتمًا الى انهيار ثروات دول الخليج، واضطرار حكوماتها الى فرض ضرائب عالية على مواطنيها، وبالتالي حرمانهم من مستوى الحياة التي عاشوها حتى الآن، مما سيسفر عن زلازل اجتماعية، لا قدرة لحكومات تلك الدول على احتوائها، وبالتالي فإن نتيجتها الحتمية ستكون انهيار تلك الحكومات والدول وزوالها من الوجود. وهو الأمر الذي لن يأسف عليه حتى صانعي تلك المحميات، من الدول الاستعمارية الغربية، وذلك لانتهاء الحاجة لوجود الدول الوظيفية في المنطقة، ومن بينها الكيان الصهيوني، ذلك لأن مبررات وجود تلك الدول، مثل النفط والقواعد العسكرية، قد انتهت لأسباب عديدة، ليس هنا مقام التوسع فيها، بينما يكفي القول إن نهاية انتشار وباء الكورونا سيشكل ايضاً نقطة النهاية لسياسة الهيمنة الأحادية القطبية على العالم، مما سيضطر جميع الدول الغربية، دون استثناء، الى سحب قواعدها من دول المنطقة وترك شعوب المنطقة تقرر مصيرها بنفسها وتقيم نظاماً أمنياً اقليمياً، يضمن استقرارها واستكمال تحررها، في إطار النظام الدولي الجديد المرتقب، والذي لن يكون فيه مكان لقوى الاستعمار التي نعرفها.

عالم ينهار، عالم ينهض…

بعدنا طيبين، قولوا الله…

An Attack on Iran Would be an Attack on Russia

Moscow is proposing a diametrically opposed vision to Western sanctions, threats and economic war, one that is drawing it ever closer to Tehran

Global Research, August 06, 2019R

Russia is meticulously advancing Eurasian chessboard moves that should be observed in conjunction, as Moscow proposes to the Global South an approach diametrically opposed to Western sanctions, threats and economic war. Here are three recent examples.

Ten days ago, via a document officially approved by the United Nations, the Russian Foreign Ministry advanced a new concept of collective security for the Persian Gulf.

Moscow stresses that “practical work on launching the process of creating a security system in the Persian Gulf” should start with “bilateral and multilateral consultations between interested parties, including countries both within the region and outside of it,” as well as organizations such as the UN Security Council, League of Arab States, Organization of Islamic Cooperation and Gulf Cooperation Council.

The next step should be an international conference on security and cooperation in the Persian Gulf, followed by the establishment of a dedicated organization – certainly not something resembling the incompetent Arab League.

The Russian initiative should be interpreted as a sort of counterpart of, and mostly a complement to, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which is finally blossoming as a security, economic and political body. The inevitable conclusion is that major SCO stakeholders – Russia, China, India, Pakistan and, in the near future, Iran and Turkey – will be major influencers on regional stability.

The Pentagon will not be amused.

Drill, baby, drill

When the commander of the Iranian Navy, Hossein Khanzadi, recently visited St Petersburg for the celebration of Russia’s Navy Day, the General Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces and the Russian Defense Ministry signed an unprecedented memorandum of understanding.

Khanzadi was keen to stress the memorandum “may be considered a turning point in relations of Tehran and Moscow along the defense trajectory.”

A direct upshot is that Moscow and Tehran, before March 2020, will enact a joint naval exercise in – of all places – the Strait of Hormuz. As Khanzadi told the IRNA news agency:

“The exercise may be held in the northern part of the Indian Ocean, which flows into the Gulf of Oman, the Strait of Hormuz and also the Persian Gulf.”

The US Navy, which plans an “international coalition” to ensure “freedom of navigation” in the Strait of Hormuz – something Iran has always historically guaranteed – won’t be amused. Neither will Britain, which is pushing for a European-led coalition even as Brexit looms.

Khanzadi also noted that Tehran and Moscow are deeply involved in how to strengthen defense cooperation in the Caspian Sea. Joint drills already took place in the Caspian in the past, but never in the Persian Gulf.

Exercise together

Russia’s Eastern Military District will be part of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (ASEAN) anti-terrorist exercise in Thailand and China early next month. According to the Eastern Military District, the training is part of “preparations for a practical phase of an ASEAN anti-terrorist exercise in China.” This means, among other things, that Russian troops will be using Chinese military hardware.

Exercises include joint tactical groups attempting to free hostages from inside official buildings; search for and disposal of explosives; and indoor and outdoor radiation, chemical and biological reconnaissance.

This should be interpreted as a direct interaction between SCO practices and ASEAN, complementing the deepening trade interaction between the Eurasia Economic Union and ASEAN.

These three developments illustrate how Russia is involved in a large spectrum from the Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf to Southeast Asia.

But the key element remains the Russia-Iran alliance, which must be interpreted as a key node of the massive, 21st century Eurasia integration project.

What Russian National Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev said at the recent, historic trilateral alongside White House national security adviser John Bolton and Israeli National Security Council Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat in Jerusalem should be unmistakable:

“Iran has always been and remains our ally and partner, with which we are consistently developing relations both on a bilateral basis and within multilateral formats.”

This lays to rest endless, baseless speculation that Moscow is “betraying” Tehran on multiple fronts, from the all-out economic war unleashed by the Donald Trump administration to the resolution of the Syrian tragedy.

To Nur-Sultan

And that leads to the continuation of the Astana process on Syria. Moscow, Tehran and Ankara will hold a new trilateral in Nur-Sultan, the Kazakh capital, possibly on the hugely significant date of September 11, according to diplomatic sources.

What’s really important about this new phase of the Astana process, though, is the establishment of the Syrian Constitutional Committee. This had been agreed way back in January 2018 in Sochi: a committee – including representatives of the government, opposition and civil society – capable of working out Syria’s new constitution, with each group holding one-third of the seats.

The only possible viable solution to the tragedy that is Syria’s nasty, rolling proxy war will be found by Russia, Iran and Turkey. That includes the Russia-Iran alliance. And it includes and expands Russia’s vision of Persian Gulf security, while hinting at an expanded SCO in Southwest Asia, acting as a pan-Asian peacemaking mechanism and serious counterpart to NATO.

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This article was originally published on Asia Times.

Featured image is from en.kremlin.ru

So what will The Sanctioned supergroup do?

 

August 20, 2018So what will The Sanctioned supergroup do?

by Pepe Escobar (cross-posted with the Asia Times by special agreement with the author)

Trump’s solo act can’t compete with the hard rock presidents from the electric east

Those were the days, during the Cold War 1960s and 1970s, when the earth was actually ruled by rock supergroups – from Cream and Led Zeppelin to Yes and Emerson, Lake & Palmer.

Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends – and the post-truth geopolitical remix of the supergroup. Meet The Sanctioned;  a multinational band starring multi-instrumentalists Vladimir Putin (Russia), Xi Jinping (China), Hassan Rouhani (Iran) and Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Turkey).

As the whole rock universe knows, The Sanctioned run the relentless risk of being outshined – in the form of multi-layered sanctions – by undisputed glitter solo act Donald Trump (US).

The two real virtuosos in the band relish playing in perfect synch. Putin may indulge only the occasional Jimmy Page solo (as in Caspian-launched missiles against Daesh in Syria); he’s more like Keith Emerson invoking the Russian classical composer Mussorgsky. Xi is fond of orchestral Pink Floyd-esque concept albums, in the New Silk Roads mould. Rouhani could be Jack Bruce in Cream – supplying those subtle moments of faultless musicianship. It’s Erdogan who’s irresistibly attracted to summon the back door man’s antics of Robert Plant.

As for Trump, he’s no Dylan – and certainly not Roger Waters; more like Ted Nugent with some Black Sabbath overtones.

So what will The Sanctioned come up next? A doozy like Deep Purple without Gillan and Blackmore or an epic like ELP’s Fanfare for the Common Man?

The Fanfare for the Common Man geoeconomic scenario reads like this.

Putin-Xi – as in the Russia-China strategic partnership – offer Erdogan membership of both the BRICS (as in BRICS Plus) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organizations (SCO). Erdogan, on the record, has already manifested interest in both.

Turkey pulls out of NATO. The Turkish military will squeal, but Erdogan, after the failed 2016 coup – of which he was alerted by Russian intelligence – now controls the military.

Beijing and Moscow offer an array of trade deals; Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has already offered trade in their own currencies. Erdogan for his part said Turkey is ready to begin using local currencies in trade with Russia, China, Iran and the EU.

After Turkey restructures its US dollar debts, China buys up the Turkish lira off foreign exchange markets – an easy play for the People’s Bank of China (PBOC). Ankara is already planning to issue yuan-denominated bonds. China’s ICBC already announced a $3.6 billion loan for energy/transport.

In sharp contrast to the Washington Consensus, Erdogan very well knows that Turkey cannot “rewrite the crisis management playbook for emerging markets” by surrendering to IMF austerity. An answer would be to increasingly rely on the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

Then most of the scenario – SCO, BRICS Plus, AIIB, trade bypassing the US dollar – is replayed with Iran, as in those days when Pink Floyd used to engage in full encores of Dark Side of the Moon.

A new sell-out album

The Sanctioned’s new album (in 180g vinyl plus all formats/platforms), titled Eurasian Integration, is destined for multi-platinum status and to fill multi-purpose arenas from Izmir and Hamadan to Chongqing and Vladivostok.

It features Iran as an even more crucial hub of the New Silk Roads, or Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – in conjunction to the new connectivity drive between Russia and Iran signed at the landmark Caspian Sea Convention.

In a parallel track, the China-Kazakhstan-Iran connectivity corridor already features freight trains plying the route all the way to the Iranian Caspian port of Bandar-e Anzali.

Another key track in the new album revolves around the BRICS’s Contingent Reserve Agreement (CRA), decided at their latest summit; a mechanism to de-dollarize economies which will be expanded as the BRICS turn into BRICS Plus.

After signing an interim agreement three months ago, Iran is already on the way to engage, by the start of 2020, into a full free trade deal with the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU). Turkey will follow.

As EU companies leave sanctioned Iran, Chinese and Russian companies go into overdrive. As the US Congress slaps a nyet on Turkey buying F-35 fighter jets because Ankara is buying the Russian S-400 air-defense system, Boeing and Airbus in Iran are bound to lose market share to Russian jets such as the MS-21 or the IL-96-400M.

And as Iran-Turkey trade gets a boost, Turkish Stream – the Russia-Turkey strategic energy partnership – is far from being derailed.

Erdogan knows very well how Turkey is the quintessential East-meets-West strategic connector across Eurasia. And he knows what’s he’s really “guilty” of: buying the S-400s, ditching the “Assad must go” obsession, advancing Turkish Stream and insisting Turkey will continue to buy Iranian oil.

So as he perfects his Robert Plant impersonation – “You need coolin’/ Baby I’m not foolin’/ I’m gonna send ya/ back to schoolin’” – Erdogan is doing the math on how a New Silk Roads partnership among equals, in tandem with a close relationship with the AIIB and the EAEU may be way more profitable than a toxic cocktail of oversized NATO, no EU and IMF neoliberal austerity.

That partly explains Ankara’s whirling dervish dance away from US T-bills, bonds and notes by over 50% since the end of 2017. While, in parallel, Moscow and Beijing (followed at a distance by New Delhi and even Ankara itself) keep piling up gold anticipating the extra bonanza of Eurasian Integration, the hit album.

A very handy thermometer of Erdogan’s popularity may be found in Fatih, a pious, working-class neighborhood on the European shore of Istanbul.

Fatih mirrors Erdogan’s immense popularity all across Anatolia. Whatever his notorious, incandescent illiberal traits, Erdogan’s development program is not only about more mosques and more malls. The AKP over the years did manage to set up a quite decent universal healthcare insurance system – including the upgrading of public hospitals – as well as a pension system.

Now it’s time to deliver again – nationally and globally.

Calling all Eurasian young dudes

Meanwhile, Russia will keep developing a very sophisticated strategy across the Black Sea.

In no time, Putin has already reshaped the Black Sea – geopolitically and geoeconomically. The graphic symbol is the sumptuous Kerch Strait bridge to Crimea – an engineering tour de force inaugurated only three months ago.

Putin’s multi-instrumental riffs are ubiquitous. Erdogan gets S-400s, nuclear power plants and Turkish Stream (which also benefits vast tracts of southern Europe). Rouhani and the Central Asians get a Caspian convention and the prospect of a succession of energy deals. Damascus and Tehran – with Ankara a little far behind – get to see the possible end of the tragic Syria war cycle.

As Erdogan progressively moves Turkey’s reserves to yuan – and gold – benefits can accrue from more interaction with the BRI/EAEU/SCO galaxy in everything from electronics and nuclear technology to advanced weapons. And further connectivity may entail, for instance, Chinese goods transiting through Russian ports in Krasnodar and Crimea to Turkish ports in the Black Sea.

The Black Sea, for all practical purposes, is being configured as a Russo-Turk Mediterranean Sea – much as the Caspian is now configured as a Central Asian, non-NATO, Mediterranean Sea.

In parallel, The Sanctioned is also enjoying a guest performing appearance by the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim al-Thani, instrumental in the offer of a $15 billion loan to Ankara. And this after Qatar restored good relations with Iran, including energy collaboration on the shared South Pars/North Dome – the largest gas field on the planet.

It’s crucial to consider that in the event the Qatar-Turkey Combined Joint Force Command may “disappear”, for some reason, the path would be open for a nasty, joint Saudi/UAE invasion of Doha, with   major consequences; the double confiscation of the Qatari sovereign wealth fund and North Dome – to the benefit of salvaging the sinking “Vision 2030” House of Saud.

What’s certain for now is that The Sanctioned face a real threat of having Eurasian Integration – the hit album – dispatched to the bottom of the charts, with the corollary of having new BRI and EAEU connectivity routes to Europe via crossroads Turkey partially blocked or at least seriously disturbed.

As the (real) David Bowie wrote it, for supergroup Mott the Hopple: All the (Eurasian) young dudes, carry the news.

All hands on deck: the Caspian sails towards Eurasia integration

The Saker

All hands on deck: the Caspian sails towards Eurasia integration

August 14, 2018

by Pepe Escobar (cross-posted with the Asia Times by special agreement with the author)

The five states surrounding the sea – Russia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan – have reached difficult compromises on sovereign and exclusive rights as well as freedom of navigation

The long-awaited deal on the legal status of the Caspian Sea signed on Sunday in the Kazakh port of Aktau is a defining moment in the ongoing, massive drive towards Eurasia integration.

Up to the early 19th century, the quintessentially Eurasian body of water – a connectivity corridor between Asia and Europe over a wealth of oil and gas – was exclusive Persian property. Imperial Russia then took over the northern margin. After the break up of the USSR, the Caspian ended up being shared by five states; Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan.

Very complex negotiations went on for almost two decades. Was the Caspian a sea or a lake? Should it be divided between the five states into separate, sovereign tracts or developed as a sort of condominium?

Slowly but surely, the five states reached difficult compromises on sovereign and exclusive rights; freedom of navigation; “freedom of access of all the vessels from the Caspian Sea to the world’s oceans and back” – in the words of a Kazakh diplomat; pipeline installation; and crucially, on a military level, the certitude that only armed forces from the five littoral states should be allowed in Caspian waters.

No wonder then that President Putin, in Aktau, described the deal in no uncertain terms as having “epoch-making significance.”

A sea or a lake?

So is the Caspian now a sea or a lake? It’s complicated; the convention signed in Aktau defines it as a sea, but subject to a “special legal status.”

This means the Caspian is regarded as open water, for common use – but the seabed and subsoil are divided. Still a work in progress, the devil is in the details in sorting out how the seabed is divided.

According to the draft text, published two months ago by Russia’s Kommersant, “the delimitation of the floor and mineral resources of the Caspian Sea by sector will be carried out by agreement between the neighboring and facing states taking into account generally recognized principles and legal norms.” Stanislav Pritchin, director of the Center for Central Asia and Caucasus Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences, described this as the best possible compromise, for now.

The maritime boundaries of each of the five states are already set; 15 nautical miles of sovereign waters, plus a further 10 miles (16 km) for fishing. Beyond that, it’s open water.

In Aktau, Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev frankly admitted that even to reach this basic consensus was a difficult process, and the key issue of how to share the Caspian’s underground energy wealth remains far from solved.

Two offshore oil rigs on the Caspian sea. Photo: iStock

Kazakh Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov, quoting from the final text, emphasized that, “the methodology for establishing state base lines shall be determined in a separate agreement among all the parties according to this convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea. This is a key phrase, especially important for our Iranian partners.”

The reference to Iran matters because under the deal Tehran ended up with the smallest share of the Caspian seabed. Diplomats confirmed to Asia Times that up to the last minute President Rouhani’s team was not totally satisfied with the final terms.

That was reflected in Rouhani’s comment that the convention was “a major document” even as it did not solve for good the extremely complex dossier.

What Rouhani did emphasize was how “gratifying” was the fact his Caspian partners privilege “multilateralism and oppose unilateral actions that are developing in some countries.” That was not only a direct reference to the Caspian partners supporting the JCPOA, or Iran nuclear deal, but also a veiled reference to President Trump’s threat that “anyone doing business with Iran will not be doing business with the United States.”

Rouhani and Nazarbayev in fact held a separate meeting dedicated to increased economic cooperation, including the mutual drive to use their national currencies on trade, bypassing the US dollar.


These waters are off-limits to NATO

Iran-Kazakhstan economic cooperation is bound to follow Iran-Russia parameters. Putin and Rouhani, who enjoy a warm, close personal relationship, spent quite some time in Aktau discussing issues far beyond the Caspian, such as Syria, Gazprom investment in Iranian gas fields, and how to deal with Washington’s sanctions offensive.

Both were adamant in their praise of a key stipulation of the deal; there will be no NATO roaming the Caspian. In the words of Rouhani, “the Caspian Sea only belongs to the Caspian states.” Putin for his part confirmed Russia plans to build a new deepwater port in the Caspian by 2025.

A panoramic view of Baku, Azerbaijan from the Martyrs Lane viewpoint, near the center of Baku. Photo: iStock

In the turbulent geoeconomic realm that I defined years ago as “Pipelineistan,” the deal will allow a lot of leeway; from now on, pipelines to be laid offshore require consent only from neighboring states, rather than from all “Caspian Five”.

A major consequence is that Turkmenistan may finally be able to lay down its own 300 km-long trans-Caspian underground pipeline to Azerbaijan – a project that was never exactly encouraged by Russia. This pipeline will allow Turkmenistan to diversify from its massive exports to China by tapping the European market via Baku, in direct competition with Gazprom.

Ashgabat may finally be on its way towards a win-win; not only Baku could use more gas imports to compensate for production shortfalls, but Moscow seems inclined to restart imports of Turkmen gas.

From now on, the game to watch in the Caspian is how deeper energy/economic cooperation may go, in the spirit of true Eurasia integration, even with China not directly involved in the affairs of the sea. Chinese companies though are heavily invested in the Kazakhstan oil business and are major importers of Turkmenistan gas.

Historically, Persia always maintained a demographic, cultural and linguistic pull across most of Central Asia. Persia remains one of its organizing principles; Iran is a Central Asian as much as a Southwest Asian power.

This should be contrasted with Caspian nations still heavily influenced by Soviet atheism and Turkish shamanism. A particularly interesting case to watch will be Azerbaijan – which is part of the Western sphere of influence via pipelines such as the BTC (Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan), which crosses Georgia all the way to the Turkish Eastern Mediterranean.

This was The Art of the Deal – Central Asian-style. What’s already established is that the Caspian 2.0 is a major multilateral win for Eurasia integration.

The Essential Saker II
The Essential Saker II: Civilizational Choices and Geopolitics / The Russian challenge to the hegemony of the AngloZionist Empire
The Essential Saker
The Essential Saker: from the trenches of the emerging multipolar world
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