Back in the (Great) Game: The Revenge of Eurasian Land Powers

Back in the (Great) Game: The Revenge of Eurasian Land Powers

EDITOR’S CHOICE | 30.08.2018

Back in the (Great) Game: The Revenge of Eurasian Land Powers


Get ready for a major geopolitical chessboard rumble: from now on, every butterfly fluttering its wings and setting off a tornado directly connects to the battle between Eurasia integration and Western sanctions as foreign policy.

It is the paradigm shift of China’s New Silk Roads versus America’s Our Way or the Highway. We used to be under the illusion that history had ended. How did it come to this?

Hop in for some essential time travel. For centuries the Ancient Silk Road, run by mobile nomads, established the competitiveness standard for land-based trade connectivity; a web of trade routes linking Eurasia to the – dominant – Chinese market.

In the early 15th century, based on the tributary system, China had already established a Maritime Silk Road along the Indian Ocean all the way to the east coast of Africa, led by the legendary Admiral Zheng He. Yet it didn’t take much for imperial Beijing to conclude that China was self-sufficient enough – and that emphasis should be placed on land-based operations.

Deprived of a trade connection via a land corridor between Europe and China, Europeans went all-out for their own maritime silk roads. We are all familiar with the spectacular result: half a millennium of Western dominance.

Until quite recently the latest chapters of this Brave New World were conceptualized by the Mahan, Mackinder and Spykman trio.

The Heartland of the World


Halford Mackinder’s 1904 Heartland Theory – a product of the imperial Russia-Britain New Great Game – codified the supreme Anglo, and then Anglo-American, fear of a new emerging land power able to reconnect Eurasia to the detriment of maritime powers.

Nicholas Spykman’s 1942 Rimland Theory advocated that mobile maritime powers, such as the UK and the U.S., should aim for strategic offshore balancing. The key was to control the maritime edges of Eurasia—that is, Western Europe, the Middle East and East Asia—against any possible Eurasia unifier. When you don’t need to maintain a large Eurasia land-based army, you exercise control by dominating trade routes along the Eurasian periphery.

Even before Mackinder and Spykman, U.S. Navy Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan had come up in the 1890s with his Influence of Sea Power Upon History – whereby the “island” U.S. should establish itself as a seaworthy giant, modeled on the British empire, to maintain a balance of power in Europe and Asia.

It was all about containing the maritime edges of Eurasia.

In fact, we lived in a mix of Heartland and Rimland. In 1952, then Secretary of State John Foster Dulles adopted the concept of an “island chain” (then expanded to three chains) alongside Japan, Australia and the Philippines to encircle and contain both China and the USSR in the Pacific. (Note the Trump administration’s attempt at revival via the Quad–U.S., Japan, Australia and India).

George Kennan, the architect of containing the USSR, was drunk on Spykman, while, in a parallel track, as late as 1988, President Ronald Reagan’s speechwriters were still drunk on Mackinder. Referring to U.S. competitors as having a shot at dominating the Eurasian landmass, Reagan gave away the plot: “We fought two world wars to prevent this from occurring,” he said.

Eurasia integration and connectivity is taking on many forms. The China-driven New Silk Roads, also known as Belt and Road Initiative (BRI); the Russia-driven Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU); the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB); the International North-South Transportation Corridor (INSTC), and myriad other mechanisms, are now leading us to a whole new game.

How delightful that the very concept of Eurasian “connectivity” actually comes from a 2007 World Bank report about competitiveness in global supply chains.

Also delightful is how the late Zbigniew “Grand Chessboard” Brzezinski was “inspired” by Mackinder after the fall of the USSR – advocating the partition of a then weak Russia into three separate regions; European, Siberian and Far Eastern.

All Nodes Covered

At the height of the unipolar moment, history did seem to have “ended.” Both the western and eastern peripheries of Eurasia were under tight Western control – in Germany and Japan, the two critical nodes in Europe and East Asia. There was also that extra node in the southern periphery of Eurasia, namely the energy-wealthy Middle East.

Washington had encouraged the development of a multilateral European Union that might eventually rival the U.S. in some tech domains, but most of all would enable the U.S. to contain Russia by proxy.

China was only a delocalized, low-cost manufacture base for the expansion of Western capitalism. Japan was not only for all practical purposes still occupied, but also instrumentalized via the Asian Development Bank (ADB), whose message was:

We fund your projects only if you are politically correct.

The primary aim, once again, was to prevent any possible convergence of European and East Asian powers as rivals to the US.

The confluence between communism and the Cold War had been essential to prevent Eurasia integration. Washington configured a sort of benign tributary system – borrowing from imperial China – designed to ensure perpetual unipolarity. It was duly maintained by a formidable military, diplomatic, economic, and covert apparatus, with a star role for the Chalmers Johnson-defined Empire of Bases encircling, containing and dominating Eurasia.

Compare this recent idyllic past with Brzezinski’s – and Henry Kissinger’s – worst nightmare: what could be defined today as the “revenge of history”.

That features the Russia-China strategic partnership, from energy to trade:  interpolating Russia-China geo-economics; the concerted drive to bypass the U.S. dollar; the AIIB and the BRICS’s New Development Bank involved in infrastructure financing; the tech upgrade inbuilt in Made in China 2025; the push towards an alternative banking clearance mechanism (a new SWIFT); massive stockpiling of gold reserves; and the expanded politico-economic role of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

As Glenn Diesen formulates in his brilliant book, Russia’s Geo-economic Strategy for a Greater Eurasia, “the foundations of an Eurasian core can create a gravitational pull to draw the rimland towards the centre.”

If the complex, long-term, multi-vector process of Eurasia integration could be resumed by just one formula, it would be something like this: the heartland progressively integrating; the rimlands mired in myriad battlefields and the power of the hegemon irretrievably dissolving. Mahan, Mackinder and Spykman to the rescue? It’s not enough.

Divide and Rule, Revisited

The Oracle still speaks

The same applies for the preeminent post-mod Delphic Oracle, also known as Henry Kissinger, simultaneously adorned by hagiography gold and despised as a war criminal.

Before the Trump inauguration, there was much debate in Washington about how Kissinger might engineer – for Trump – a “pivot to Russia” that he had envisioned 45 years ago. This is how I framed the shadow play at the time.

In the end, it’s always about variations of Divide and Rule – as in splitting Russia from China and vice-versa. In theory, Kissinger advised Trump to “rebalance” towards Russia to oppose the irresistible Chinese ascension. It won’t happen, not only because of the strength of the Russia-China strategic partnership, but because across the Beltway, neocons and humanitarian imperialists ganged up to veto it.

Brzezinski’s perpetual Cold War mindset still lords over a fuzzy mix of the Wolfowitz Doctrine and the Clash of Civilizations. The Russophobic Wolfowitz Doctrine – still fully classified – is code for Russia as the perennial top existential threat to the U.S. The Clash, for its part, codifies another variant of Cold War 2.0: East (as in China) vs. West.

Kissinger is trying some rebalancing/hedging himself, noting that the mistake the West (and NATO) is making “is to think that there is a sort of historic evolution that will march across Eurasia – and not to understand that somewhere on that march it will encounter something very different to a Westphalian entity.”

Both Eurasianist Russia and civilization-state China are already on post-Westphalian mode. The redesign goes deep. It includes a key treaty signed in 2001, only a few weeks before 9/11, stressing that both nations renounce any territorial designs on one another’s territory. This happens to concern, crucially, the Primorsky Territory in the Russian Far East along the Amur River, which was ruled by the Ming and Qing empires.

Moreover, Russia and China commit never to do deals with any third party, or allow a third country to use its territory to harm the other’s sovereignty, security and territorial integrity.

So much for turning Russia against China. Instead, what will develop 24/7 are variations of U.S. military and economic containment against Russia, China and Iran – the key nodes of Eurasia integration – in a geo-strategic spectrum. It will include intersections of heartland and rimland across Syria, Ukraine, Afghanistan and the South China Sea. That will proceed in parallel to the Fed weaponizing the U.S. dollar at will.

Heraclitus Defies Voltaire


Alastair Crooke took a great shot at deconstructing why Western global elites are terrified of the Russian conceptualization of Eurasia. It’s because “they ‘scent’…a stealth reversion to the old, pre-Socratic values: for the Ancients … the very notion of ‘man’, in that way, did not exist. There were only men: Greeks, Romans, barbarians, Syrians, and so on. This stands in obvious opposition to universal, cosmopolitan ‘man’.”

So it’s Heraclitus versus Voltaire – even as “humanism” as we inherited it from the Enlightenment, is de facto over. Whatever is left roaming our wilderness of mirrors depends on the irascible mood swings of the Goddess of the Market. No wonder one of the side effects of progressive Eurasia integration will be not only a death blow to Bretton Woods but also to “democratic” neoliberalism.

What we have now is also a remastered version of sea power versus land powers. Relentless Russophobia is paired with supreme fear of a Russia-Germany rapprochement – as Bismarck wanted, and as Putin and Merkel recently hinted at. The supreme nightmare for the U.S. is in fact a truly Eurasian Beijing-Berlin-Moscow partnership.

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has not even begun; according to the official Beijing timetable, we’re still in the planning phase. Implementation starts next year. The horizon is 2039.

(Wellcome Library, London.) 

This is China playing a long-distance game of go on steroids, incrementally making the best strategic decisions (allowing for margins of error, of course) to render the opponent powerless as he does not even realize he is under attack.

The New Silk Roads were launched by Xi Jinping five years ago, in Astana (the Silk Road Economic Belt) and Jakarta (the Maritime Silk Road). It took Washington almost half a decade to come up with a response. And that amounts to an avalanche of sanctions and tariffs. Not good enough.

Russia for its part was forced to publicly announce a show of mesmerizing weaponry to dissuade the proverbial War Party adventurers probably for good – while heralding Moscow’s role as co-driver of a brand new game.

On sprawling, superimposed levels, the Russia-China partnership is on a roll; recent examples include summits in Singapore, Astana and St. Petersburg; the SCO summit in Qingdao; and the BRICS Plus summit.

Were the European peninsula of Asia to fully integrate before mid-century – via high-speed rail, fiber optics, pipelines – into the heart of massive, sprawling Eurasia, it’s game over. No wonder Exceptionalistan elites are starting to get the feeling of a silk rope drawn ever so softly, squeezing their gentle throats.


إغلاق مضيق هرمز

‫خنق إيران نفطياً: عقل إسرائيلي… وعضلات أميركية

خنق إيران نفطياً: عقل إسرائيلي... وعضلات أميركية

لم ينتظر قائد فيلق القدس، قاسم سليماني، رئيسه «المعتدل» حسن روحاني في خطاب المحارب الذي استحق عليه وعداً بتقبيل يديه. روحاني هدّد ألا يتمكن أحد «من تصدير نفطه إذا لم تتمكن إيران من ذلك» وإذا ما توصّلت الولايات المتحدة إلى خنق إيران نفطياً

‫العالم تغيّر لدى الرئيس حسن روحاني، والعالم الذي تحاول إدارته الولايات المتحدة وإسقاط النظام في إيران تغيّر أيضاً. هو العالم الذي أدارته خلال الحرب الباردة ومكّنها مطلع التسعينات، وفي منتهى أكثر من سبعين عاماً، من إسقاط النظام السوفياتي في استراتيجية باتت تعرف بـ«عقيدة ريغان». يذهب مستشار الأمن القومي، جون بولتون، إلى حد «التفاؤل» بأن يعيد التاريخ نفسه، دونما أدنى شك، والتنبؤ أن يكون عام ٢٠١٩، عام سقوط النظام الإيراني. أما وزارة الخارجية والبيت الأبيض، فيطلقان العد التنازلي للسقوط الإيراني المقبل بإعلان الرابع من تشرين الثاني المقبل، موعداً نهائياً، لإغلاق التعاملات النفطية والاقتصادية مع إيران، وإشعال الداخل الإيراني.

فخلف الهجوم الذي بدأته الولايات المتحدة يكمن شيء من ذلك الاعتقاد أنه بوسعها أن تفعل في إيران ما فعلته بالاتحاد السوفياتي، فتسقط طهران من دون تعكير مياه الخليج أو تطلق رصاصة واحدة، كما سقط السوفيات آنذاك. فما يتوسله أميركيون وإسرائيليون معاً لإسقاط النظام في طهران لا حرب نجوم فيها، ولا سباق إلى أسلحة تستنزف مداخيل الدولة الإيرانية، كما استنزفت السوفيات. وبدلاً من ذلك تستل الولايات المتحدة سلاح «الدمار النفطي الشامل» لإغلاق الأسواق أمام ٢،٤ مليون برميل من النفط الإيراني يومياً، وتجفيف عائداته المتوقع أن تتجاوز ٥٠ مليار دولار، والتي لا تزال تشكّل أكثر من ٧٥ في المئة من العائدات النقدية لموازنة طهران، فتنفجر عندئذ إيران من الداخل.

لا يباشر الأميركيون مشروعهم «الريغاني» الجديد في الألفية الثالثة وحدهم، كما لا يباشرونه بما يمكن أن يطلق عليه استراتيجية متكاملة ولدت من بنات أفكارهم. فإذا كانت عضلات الهجوم أميركية إلا أن عقله إسرائيلي.

فقد تكون عمليات التطهير التي قادها مايك بومبيو في أروقة «لانغلي» من المحللين وخبراء الشؤون الإيرانية، قبل انتقاله إلى وزارة الخارجية، قد أسهمت في إخضاع دولة الأمن القومي للمجموعة الجديدة التي تحيط بالرئيس دونالد ترامب، ومهدت للاتجاه الجديد بجعل إيران أولوية الأولويات.

يفتقر الأميركيون على جبهة محاصرة إيران اليوم إلى استراتيجي من معدن جورج كينان صانع احتواء السوفيات، ليرسم استراتيجية متكافئة ومتجانسة، ولا يجعل من الهجوم الجديد ارتجالاً يستند إلى أفكار متفرقة لا قوام لها، على ما يقوله خبير عربي في واشنطن، والتي تملأ فراغ ذات اليد من الاستراتيجية المتجانسة الممكنة التحقق، بأفكار إسرائيلية المنشأ، بعد أن اختارت الإدارة الجديدة تل أبيب شريكاً لها في التخطيط لعملية «الانقلاب» الثنائية الجارية ضد النظام في طهران. في هذا السياق، كشفت صحيفة «معاريف» أنّ «فريقاً أميركياً – إسرائيلياً جرى تشكيله منذ اندلاع الاحتجاجات في إيران لدعم المعارضين». عرض الجنرال عاموس يدلين، ما يشبه إلى حد بعيد، الأفكار التي تقود خطاب الإدارة الترامبية، كما عبّر عنها حرفاً بحرف، المسؤولون في البيت الأبيض ووزارة الخارجية. ففي مقابلة في «لو موند» الفرنسية، ومقالة في مجلة «ذا أتلاتنيك» أسهب رئيس الاستخبارات العسكرية السابق في الحطّ من فائدة أي خيار عسكري ضد إيران، وما قد يؤدي إليه من نتائج عكسية من توحيد الإيرانيين خلف النظام. وأشار على الأميركيين بتشديد العقوبات الاقتصادية وتحميل الإيرانيين عواقب حصار جديد، وتدمير اقتصادهم اليومي وضرب مدخراتهم، وتقويض تجارتهم… وتشتعل إيران.

يرتبط نجاح الهجوم الأميركي ــ الإسرائيلي على إيران إلى حد كبير بإغلاق شرايين النفط بموقف مستوردين رئيسيين هما الهند والصين من العقوبات الأميركية المعلنة. ففي امتناعهما أو موافقتهما على مواصلة شراء وتقاسم مليون و٣٠٠ ألف برميل يومياً، بالتساوي تقريباً، يتحدد مصير خمسين في المئة من العائدات النفطية الإيرانية التي يوفرها بيع مليونين وستمائة ألف برميل من النفط يومياً، إلى عشر دول أوروبية وآسيوية. والسؤال الذي يبدو ملحّاً هو ما إذا كانت الصين أو الهند ستنصاع أم لا للعقوبات الأميركية. يسود لدى المحللين الأميركيين الاعتقاد بأن الصين ستتخلى عن إيران في مواجهة الولايات المتحدة.

لكن خبير الشؤون الصينية، ليونيل فيرون، يقول إنّ الصينيين يتدارسون الموقف قبل اتخاذ قرار حاسم في شأن نفطهم الإيراني، ويبحثون عن استراتيجية تحافظ في وقت واحد على مصالح شركاتهم التي لا ينبغي أن تخضع للعقوبات الأميركية، كما تحافظ على العلاقة الاستراتيجية التي تربطها بإيران. يتقاسم الصينيون مع الهند تقييماً مشابهاً، فالمقاربة الصينية – الهندية واحدة لخطر الانصياع للمطالب الأميركية بوقف مشترياتهم من إيران، والخوف واحد من أن يؤدي ذاك حكماً إلى وضع الأمن الطاقي (والقومي استطراداً) بيد الولايات المتحدة، وهو ما لا يمكن لأي من البلدين المخاطرة بالسير به. إذ لا تنظر الصين إلى إيران باعتبارها فقط المصدر الخامس للنفط إليها أو جزءاً من المدى الحيوي لتوسعها الاقتصادي فحسب، بل تعتبر إيران ركناً استراتيجياً في تأمين تدفق النفط اليها بصفتها مصدراً نفطياً آمناً لاستقلاله عن الولايات المتحدة، بعكس الدول الخليجية التي تخضع سياستها الخارجية والنفطية للإملاءات الأميركية.

وللمفارقة، تعتبر الصين أن خروج الشركات النفطية الأوروبية من المشاريع الإيرانية بفعل الضغوط الأميركية، فرصة للشركات المحلية للحلول محلها، لا سيما بعد خروج «توتال» من مشروع تطوير حقل «بارس٢». ويقول ليونيل فيرون إن هناك احتمال أن تتوقف الشركات المتوسطة والصغرى عن التعامل مع إيران خوفاً من العقوبات الأميركية، لكن الشركات الصينية النفطية الكبرى، «سي أن بي سي» و«سينوبك» و«بترو تشاينا»، التي تؤمن أكثر من ٩٠ في المئة من مشتريات الصين من النفط الإيراني، لا تخشى هذه العقوبات، وستواصل التعامل مع إيران عبر مصرف «كونلون» الصيني الذي أُنشئ في مرحلة العقوبات الأميركية الماضية لتنظيم العلاقات التجارية مع إيران عبر الدفع بـ«اليورو» أو «اليوان».

تنتظم أهمية إيران مع الهند لتتساوى مع المطالب الاستراتيجية الصينية نفسها في تأمين مصادر الطاقة والاستقلال الاستراتيجي عن الولايات المتحدة وغيرها. تؤمن العلاقة للهند مع إيران توازناً مع الانتشار الصيني الذي يطوقها في باكستان وسريلانكا والمالديف ونيبال، وتحفظ للهند ممرها البري الرئيسي والوحيد نحو آسيا الوسطى وأفغانستان، وروسيا عبر شبكة من ٧ آلاف كيلومتر من الطرق البرية انطلاقاً من مرفأ «تشابهار» الإيراني. وكانت اتفاقية مشتركة وقعت قبل عامين مع طهران قد وضعت جزءاً منه تحت إدارة هندية لمدة عام ونصف العام. يمثل «تشابهار» ممراً استراتيجياً يبعد ١٤٧ كيلرمتراً من مرفا «غوادار» الذي تموّل الصين بناءه في باكستان في شبكة من الطرقات تشق باكستان من الشمال إلى الجنوب بطول ٣ آلاف كيلومتر.

وإيران هي مصدر الهند الثالث من النفط، التي تقوم أيضاً بتشغيل مصافي التكرير الهندية الكبيرة. والأرجح أن تعود الهند هي أيضاً من أجل الحفاظ على تدفق النفط الإيراني إليها إلى تفعيل اتفاقية سابقة مع إيران للدفع بالروبيه بديلاً من الدولار لحماية مشتريات شركاتها من العقوبات الأميركية.

قد تنجح الولايات المتحدة في إلزام حلفائها الغربيين بالسير في مغامرتها الجديدة ضد إيران لكن القوى الآسيوية الصاعدة التي باتت بمثابة قلب الاقتصاد العالمي، لن تنساق خلفها حفاظاً على مصالحها الاستراتيجية الحيوية.

الحرس الثوري الإيراني يهدد بقطع النفط من الخليج

التعليق السياسي

يوليو 5, 2018

ـ المعادلة الجديدة التي أطلقها الرئيس الإيراني حسن روحاني بسيطة وتقوم على قاعدة أنّ واشنطن تهدّد بمنع شراء النفط الإيراني بوضع كلّ من يدفع ثمن هذا النفط بوضع مصارفه على اللائحة السوداء وتعتبر واشنطن هذا الأمر شأناً سيادياً أميركياً ومثلها ستفعل إيران بمنع مرور ناقلات النفط في المياه الإقليمية الإيرانية في مضيق هرمز الذي لا مجال لعبوره إذا قرّرت إيران إغلاقه، فالسيادة عليه ثنائية لإيران وعمان ووحدهما تطلان عليه وتملكان منفردتين حق إغلاقه بينما إتاحة العبور قرار ثنائي.

ـ ترامب يعلن حرباً تجارية على إيران ويريد أن تتلقاها وتتقبّلها إيران وفقاً لقواعده واليوم سيكون أمامه أن يتوقع الكثير فلم تضع إيران كل ما بين يديها دون دخول الحرب العسكرية فبيدها الذهاب للعودة للتخصيب المرتفع لليورانيوم كمثل ما تقدر على إقفال مضيق هرمز وعلى من يعترض أن يأتي هو بقرار الحرب العسكرية إن كان قادراً.

ـ يقول ترامب وتقول إدارته إن سلفه باراك أوباما كان متخاذلاً بقبول التفاهم النووي، ويردّ أوباما أنه تفادى قرار حرب مدمّرة بلا جدوى وعلى ترامب كي لا يتبيّن أنه أحمق وغبي أن يظهر أن بيده خيارا غير الحرب المحكومة بالفشل لمحاصرة إيران وها نحن نقترب من اللحظات الفاصلة.

» إيران تهدّد بإقفال مضيق هرمز أمام الصادرات النفطية إذا حُرمَتْ من بيع نفطها


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فيما فشلت مساعي التوصل لتسوية تنهي القتال في جنوب سورية، بتسليم الجماعات المسلّحة لسلاحها، وتسهيل انتشار الجيش السوري حتى الحدود الأردنية، ودخوله أحياء مدينة درعا وقرى وبلدات ريفها، عادت المعارك إلى الواجهة كخيار وحيد لحسم المشهد، بينما تبدو واشنطن خلف الكواليس تلعب لعبة كسب الوقت لبلوغ قمة هلسنكي بين الرئيسين الأميركي دونالد ترامب والروسي فلاديمير بوتين، قبل أن يكون الوضع في جنوب سورية قد حُسِم.

استحقاق ثانٍ يداهم مفكرة الرئيس الأميركي يتصل بكيفية تصرّف إيران تجاه العقوبات الأميركية في حال فشل أوروبا بتقديم الضمانات اللازمة التي تطلبها إيران للبقاء في قلب التفاهم النوويّ. والضمانات تعني هنا بوضوح إحباط المسعى الأميركي لحرمان إيران من تسويق نفطها، وحرمانها من موارد العملات الصعبة والتبادل المصرفي. وفشل أوروبا بات يعني وفقاً للمواقف التي أطلقها الرئيس الإيراني وقادة الحرس الثوري، والجنرال قاسم سليماني، ما هو أبعد من عودة إيران للتخصيب المرتفع لليورانيوم، بعدما صار إغلاق مضيق هرمز أمام ناقلات النفط التي تخرج بقرابة عشرة ملايين برميل يومياً من الخليج، موضوعاً على الطاولة كواحد من الإجراءات التي قد تسلكها إيران، ما يضع إدارة الرئيس الأميركي أمام تحدٍّ فوري، في ظل مبادرته لإعلان الحرب التجارية والمالية على إيران، باستخدام نقاط القوة التي تتموضع فيها مصارفه في النظام المالي العالمي، مقابل تهديد إيراني بالردّ باستخدام نقاط قوتها التي تتموضع فيها جغرافيتها في الممرات المائية الحيوية لنقل الطاقة.

من ضمن الانتظارات التي تفرضها قمة هلسنكي تبدو الانتظارات اللبنانية لمصير الحكومة الجديدة، مع المواقف الصادرة عن الأطراف المعنية بالعقد الحكومية، حيث تبدّدت بسرعة مناخات التفاؤل التي انطلقت مع لقاء رئيس الجمهورية العماد ميشال عون بكل من رئيس حزب القوات اللبنانية سمير جعجع ورئيس الحزب التقدمي الاشتراكي وليد جنبلاط. فجاء كلام جنبلاط بعد لقائه عون عن التمسك بالمواقف السابقة تجاه التشكيل الحكومي، مشابهاً لمواقف أطلقها رئيس التيار الوطني الحرّ وزير الخارجية جبران باسيل ليلاً تجاه التمثيل القواتي والاشتراكي.

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China And U.S. Showcase Forces In South China Sea. Taiwan Prepares To Repel "Chinese Invasion"

A Chinese frigate launches a missile during a naval drill in the East China Sea. Photo: Weibo

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy conducted a series of live-fire drills and formation maneuvers in a large show of force off Hainan Island in the South China Sea and nearby areas in the period between March 24 and April 11. The drills involved the Liaoning aircraft carrier and more than 40 vessels from China’s North, East and South Sea fleets.

Following the exercises, on April 12, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China Xi Jinping reviewed the PLA Navy in the South China Sea, saying that the need to build a strong navy “has never been more urgent than today”, according to the state-run news agency Xinhua. More than 10,000 service personnel, 48 vessels and 76 aircraft took part in the review.

On April 10, the USS Theodore Roosevelt conducted aircraft operations as it was passing the South China Sea on its way to Manila, the US newspaper Navy Times reported. In turn, the US Navy regularly patrols the South China Sea in an attempt to limit the Chinese influence in this vital region.

As always, China condemned the US navy operations. Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying accused Washington of having “violated the Chinese law and relevant international law” and “put[ting] in jeopardy the facilities and personnel on the Chinese islands”, according to the official statement on March 24.

On April 24, Xinhua news agency said the vessels, led by China’s sole aircraft carrier the Liaoning, “took part in anti-aircraft and anti-submarine warfare training” with a simulated “opposing force” in the Taiwan Strait.

Furthermore, China’s first indigenously constructed aircraft carrier is poised to begin sea trials this week.

The Type 001A is quite similar to China’s Liaoning aircraft carrier, a Soviet-built hull that Beijing purchased from Kiev in 1998. Beijing modernized the ship and commissioned it with the PLA-Navy in 2012.

Taiwan blamed the Chinese operations for “sabre rattling” and preparing for invasion to Taiwan. The Taiwan Defense Ministry stated that it would simulate repelling an invading force, emergency repairs of a major airbase and using civilian operated drones as part of military exercises starting next week, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported on April 24. The major part will be a live-fire field training exercise from June 4 to June 8, including “enemy elimination on beaches”, the ministry said.

The recent military developments fueled military hysteria in some mainstream media outlets and think tanks.

For example, Taipei Times newspaper reported on April 20 that Taiwan Foundation for Democracy had released a poll asking what “if China invades Taiwan?”. According to the released poll, nearly 70 percent of Taiwanese “are willing to go to war if China were to attempt to annex Taiwan by force”.

All the events of the escalating tensions are conducted amid the shifting balance of power in the region, especially in the South China Sea. China’s construction of artificial islands with military facilities in the South China Sea, has sparked concern that it is establish its de-facto control over the entire sea.

The US, a powerful supporter of Taiwan and other regional competitors of China, is concerned about the Chinese capability of controlling the strategic waterway. Washington has repeatedly slammed the militarization of the Chinese artificial islands.

Commander of the US Fleet Forces Command Philip Davidson told the Senate Armed Services Committee in a written statement that the military urgently needs hypersonic and other advanced weaponry to defeat China’s People’s Liberation Army in a future conflict.

“In the future, hypersonic and directed energy weapons, resilient space, cyber and network-capabilities, and well-trained soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and coastguardsmen will be crucial to our ability to fight and win,” the four-star admiral said in written answers to questions from the Senate Armed Services Committee. “In the South China Sea, the PLA has constructed a variety of radar, electronic attack, and defense capabilities on the disputed Spratly Islands, to include: Cuarteron Reef, Fiery Cross Reef, Gaven Reef, Hughes Reef, Johnson Reef, Mischief Reef and Subi Reef.”

“These facilities significantly expand the real-time domain awareness, and jamming capabilities of the PLA over a large portion of the South China Sea, presenting a substantial challenge to U.S. military operations in this region.”

The Chinese jamming technology has already been used against the US military in the region, according to some sources.

“The mere fact that some of your equipment is not working is already an indication that someone is trying to jam you,” an EA-18G Growler pilot told GMA News on April 14, adding that “we [the US] have an answer to that.”

The military and diplomatic conflict is developing in the South Chinese Sea amid the worsening relations between the USA and China. The US imposed tariffs on certain Chinese goods. Beijing responded by imposing sanctions on 106 US products.  Both Beijing and Washington don’t seem to be willing to step back in the erupted trade war. The same attitude the powers have towards the South China Sea standoff.

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Rohingya Muslims stood by Britain in WWII. Now they are dying, where is our loyalty?

Rohingya Muslims stood by Britain in WWII. Now they are dying, where is our loyalty?

The victims are Muslim, and the persecutors are Buddhist – which doesn’t neatly fit our Western world-view.

  • A human catastrophe is unfolding in Burma, largely unremarked and unreported. Over the past ten days, between 70,000 and 90,000 people have fled Arakan province for neighbouring countries, a decades-long trickle of emigration turning into a torrent. There are credible reports of villages being torched and bodies cremated to hide the evidence of atrocities. The Burmese authorities have prevented the UN from delivering aid in the stricken areas.

    And yet, until the weekend, the abominations were largely ignored except in Muslim-oriented media. No government other than Turkey’s raised its voice strenuously on behalf of the persecuted Rohingya, whose agonies have never attracted as much attention as those of, say, the Palestinians, or the Yazidis or the migrants pouring across the Mediterranean.

    Why not? Several reasons. For one thing, the horrors are far away. When boat people wash up on Spanish holiday beaches or Greek islands, they are arriving in places familiar to British TV viewers. But how many of us have been to Arakan?

    To the problems of distance we can add those of inaccessibility. There are few Western journalists in the area. Most reports depend on eye-witness descriptions, some of which will necessarily be partial. The numbers pouring into neighbouring Bangladesh are not in doubt, and the similarities in the refugees’ stories are telling: yesterday IBTimes reported on some truly sickening accounts of torture and murders. Even so, an aerial photograph of a burned-out village, or of a column of fleeing villagers, will never have the same force as an image of a drowned toddler on a beach.

    There may also, I’m afraid, be a dash of sectarian bias, conscious or not. When Boko Haram kidnaps schoolgirls, or when Daesh murders civilians, writers can press the event into a familiar narrative about Islamist extremism. Here, though, the victims are largely Muslim, and the persecutors are largely Buddhist – a religion we associate with martyred Tibetans and Californian hippies.

    Once we have identified people as “victims”, we can’t easily place them in the mental category of “oppressors”, and vice versa. As the psychologists Daniel Wegner and Kurt Gray have shown, we tend to classify others either as agents or patients, as those who give it out or those who take it. We find it surprisingly hard to accept the obvious truth that most people are both.

    Which brings us to the biggest mental block. The Burmese leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, is established in our world-view as a victim of almost saintly qualities: a woman who endured years of separation from her family under house arrest, but who eventually emerged to triumph over Burma’s brutal junta.

    We don’t like the idea that she might be turning a blind eye to atrocities for the sake of appeasing the generals, let alone that she might herself be flirting with Buddhist nationalism.

    Many of us therefore want to believe the alternative narrative: that what is underway is a counter-terrorist operation aimed, not at the population in general, but at militants. And it’s true that, after decades of being harassed and attacked by state forces and local militia, some Rohingya have started to hit back. But that is to misunderstand the nature of what is going on.

    The Rohingya, sometimes called “the world’s most persecuted minority”, have long been denied the most basic civil freedoms. Burma insists that they are not a national minority at all, but are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, having arrived during the British Raj.

    Not that this view is shared by Bangladesh: overwhelmed by the refugee crisis, it is doing what it can to prevent any more Rohingya entering its territory. Since 1982, Rohingyas have effectively been treated as stateless.

    Why are they so resented by their Burmese neighbours? Largely because, in 1942, when many Arakanese Buddhists sided with the invading Japanese, the Rohingya stayed loyal to Britain.

    The army commander, Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, pointed explicitly to that conflict in order to justify the current repressions, telling his countrymen: “We will never let such a terrible occurrence happen again”.

    Britain, in short, is already involved. Involved not only in the sense that we owe an ancestral obligation to our Rohingya auxiliaries; but also in the immediate sense that we, more than any country, helped bring about the recent democratisation of Burma. Part of the deal was that the civil rights of all Burmese, including the Rohingya, would be guaranteed.

    To his credit, Boris Johnson has become the first foreign minister of a major Western country to speak out about the current persecution. The rest of us should back him

israel arming Myanmar amid ongoing Rohingya crackdown


Thousands of Rohingya refugees continue to flee Myanmar as the army intensifies its crackdown against the minority group

Satellite images showed Rohingya villages in the Rakhine state burned to the ground (AFP)

Israel has continued to sell weapons to Myanmar as thousands of Rohingya refugees flee the military’s violent crackdown in the Rakhine state.

The weapons sold to Myanmar include over 100 tanks, weapons and boats used to police the country’s border, according to human rights groups and Burmese officials. 

Israeli arms companies such as Tar Ideal have also been involved in training Burmese special forces who are currently in the Rakhine state where most of the violence has taken place.

Images previously posted on the arms company’s website showed its staff instructing members of the Burmese special forces on combat tactics and how to use specific weapons.

Petition to ban arms exports to Myanmar

In September, the Israeli High Court of Justice is expected to hear a petition, launched by activists, urging the Israeli government to stop arms exports to Myanmar.

The US and EU have an arms embargo against Myanmar. 

Eitay Mack, the lawyer presenting the petition, told Middle East Eye that Israel has “no control” over its arms exports once they are sent overseas.

“Israel has no control of what’s happening with its weapons once it sends its weapons to Burma,” said Mack, an Israeli human rights lawyer based in Tel Aviv.

A Rohingya village, burned by Burmese forces (Reuters)

“But from Tar Ideal’s website, we know that they are arming and training Burmese special forces who are operating in the Rakhine state right now.

The petition was submitted in January, following visits by Israeli officials to Myanmar to discuss arms deals, and vice versa.

After the petition was submitted, the Israeli Defence Ministry in March said the court had no jurisdiction over the issue and claimed that arms sales to Myanmar were “clearly diplomatic”.

Israel has shared a strong relationship with Myanmar and maintained trade relations over the years. These relations existed before the military junta stepped down.

Weapons used against the Palestinians are being sold as ‘field-tested’ to some of the worst regimes on the planet

– Ofer Neiman, human rights activist

Ofer Neiman, an Israeli human rights activist, said Israel’s relationship with Myanmar is linked to its ongoing occupation of Palestinian territory in the West Bank.

“Successive Israeli governments have been selling arms to the military dictatorship in Burma for years,” Neiman told MEE.

“This policy is strongly related to Israel’s oppression and dispossession of the Palestinian people. Weapons used against the Palestinians are being sold as ‘field-tested’ to some of the worst regimes on the planet.”

Myanmar’s military chief on Friday defended the clearing of villages, attempting to justify it as “unfinished business” dating back to World War Two. 

‘Supporting genocide’

Penny Green, an academic who has documented alleged war crimes perpetrated against the Rohingya people, told MEE that many governments “have lent their support to the current genocide”.

“It’s not at all surprising that the latest escalation in Myanmar’s genocide of the Rohingya has not moved the Israeli state to cease its supply of weapons to Myanmar’s military,” said Green, director of the International State Crime Initiative at Queen Mary University.

“Its own record of violence and terror against the Palestinian people of Gaza is clear enough evidence that the Israeli government is unmoved by ethical concerns and human rights.

“Last year the British government spent over £300,000 of tax-payer’s money in training the Myanmar military and Commander in Chief General Min Aung Hlaing was welcomed by EU heads of military eager to engage in arms sales and training,” she added, citing figures from the Burma Campaign organisation.

More than 60,000 Rohingya refugees have fled their homes to seek refuge in Bangladesh as violence escalates in the Rakhine state.

Satellite images show dozens of Rohingya villages burned to the ground by the Myanmar army.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday accused Myanmar of perpetrating a genocide against the Rohingya.

Neither the Israeli defence ministry or the Israeli embassy in the UK have replied to a request for comment.

China: The Real Winner of the 2016 Election

China: The Real Winner of the 2016 Election

EDITOR’S CHOICE | 07.02.2017

China: The Real Winner of the 2016 Election

Can the U.S.-China relationship survive a Twitter president?


After a president of the United States takes office, he normally enjoys what is called a “honeymoon period,” which is when the public and Congress generally approve of his actions and policies. During this time period, the president often receives high approval ratings. The same can be said for the relationship between the president and foreign leaders. They, too, grant him time to understand the intricacies of the position and get a feel for how the United States works with their respective countries. The U.S. president receives much goodwill from many actors in order to ensure a smooth transition between administrations. With President Donald Trump, it does not appear that there will be much of a honeymoon period with the American public or even with some foreign countries—particularly the People’s Republic of China.

All signs point to China taking advantage of the transition between administrations, and Trump’s inexperience at governing, to have its own sort of honeymoon. The Chinese—along with the rest of the world—face a similar situation. Other countries will wait to see what form a Trump presidency takes. Will his actions and policies be as aggressive as his tweets? Will his online Twitter persona differ from face-to-face interactions and negotiations with foreign leaders? At the same time, they will wait to see which of Trump’s foreign-policy campaign promises and statements will take precedent over others. Which region will he focus on? Which bilateral relationships will he view as most important? Which countries will be ignored at the get-go? How will he respond to aggression by another country? While other countries adopt a wait-and-see approach, China will test the limits of Trump’s patience.

The failures of the Obama administration’s pivot to Asia, and Trump’s promise not to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership, give China the opportunity to become the major power in the region. Its Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership will become the dominant multilateral trade organization in Asia, and the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank and the “One Belt One Road” initiative will ensure that all trade is centered on China. It has the mechanisms in place to dominate Asia economically and militarily as a Trump administration seeks to disengage from the world.

China Sets an Early Tone

After China seized a U.S. underwater drone in December 2016, Trump responded to the situation with harsh tweets against China’s actions. In response to Trump, the Global Times, a newspaper run by the Communist Party in China, published an op-ed that expressed the country’s rationale for dealing with the impending Trump presidency. “Trump is not behaving as a president who will become master of the White House in a month,” the op-ed states. “He bears no sense of how to lead a superpower. . . . One thing for sure is that Trump has no leverages to maneuver the world, nor can he reshape China-U.S. relations and the way the two major powers interact. . . . If he treats China after assuming office in the same way as in his tweets, China will not exercise restraint.” Recent actions taken by China indicate that it will continue its push for an increased presence throughout Asia and the Pacific, and it certainly will amp up pressure against Japan, Taiwan and claimants of islands in the South China Sea.

Since Trump’s victory in November 2016, China has incrementally increased its military presence throughout the region. In late November, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force conducted a flyby through the Miyako Strait, south of Okinawa. This move prompted the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force to scramble its jets. While the PLAAF did not enter Japanese airspace, the Chinese have increased the number of such flybys in 2016, angering Japan. Another such incident occurred in December. That time, both Japanese and Chinese government officials accused one another of engaging in dangerous activities that threatened the lives of the pilots. Then, in early January, both South Korea and Japan had to scramble their jets after Chinese aircraft flew between the two countries and over the Sea of Japan. According to Japan, the number of times it has had respond to Chinese aircrafts by scrambling its Defense Force has almost doubled from 2015.

Also, China has ramped up its military presence vis-à-vis Taiwan. Before and after the infamous “Trump call,” China flew H-6K bombers—capable of carrying nuclear weapons—around the island. The pre–Trump call mission was the first time that Chinese aircraft encircled Taiwan. Then, two weeks later, Chinese aircraft conducted a similar mission using the same types of aircraft. The Taiwanese air force tracked and photographed the planes during the entire mission. At no point in either mission did Chinese aircraft breach Taiwanese airspace, but these missions indicate an ever-encroaching Chinese military presence beyond the Taiwan Strait. These two missions show Chinese power not only to Taiwan, but also to the United States.

And China’s strategy is not limited to flybys. In early January, China sailed its only aircraft carrier into the open waters of the Pacific Ocean and also into the Taiwan Strait. Though the carrier remained in the western part of the strait, Taiwan still launched F-16 jets and a frigate to monitor the situation. The Taiwan Strait is international waters, so the United States does not have a problem with such a maneuver as long as China abides by international laws. However, the timing is no coincidence, since it occurred as Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen was out of country on a series of state visits in Central America. It also came after another Global Times op-ed called for an increase in China’s maritime capabilities.

China became even more active in the Asia-Pacific region in 2016 than in previous years, but since the election of Donald Trump, it has conducted even more drills and exercises, which have caused Japan, Taiwan and South Korea to respond in kind. As the op-ed above promised, China has been resolute and has not let other countries’ protests and responses affect its plans.

Expect the Expected

With Donald Trump in office on January 20, the Chinese can no longer expect the measured, diplomatic responses of the Obama administration. Its recent actions in the region were tests to see what a President Trump would do in response to military drills targeted at its neighbors and a show of force to demonstrate that China will not allow the change in U.S. administrations to affect its own interests. The flybys near Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, along with the Liaoning carrier’s journey, did not warrant a response from Trump, but the Chinese seizure of a U.S. underwater drone did. He has only responded to provocations directed by China against the United States, but not toward its allies or friends. His responses and nonresponses have not gone unnoticed.

Throughout Trump’s first year in office, expect China to do much of the same with some twists. Expect more nationalistic overtones used in the rationale for any perceived aggressive actions. Expect newspapers and party officials to ratchet up anti-Taiwan rhetoric. Expect more frequent flybys near Japan and South Korea. Expect more Chinese surveillance missions to circumnavigate Taiwan. Expect Chinese aircraft to fly closer to the airspaces of these countries and their defense zones. Expect the Liaoning’s next journey through the Taiwan Strait to be closer to the “Taiwan side” or have more flourish. Expect China to be more aggressive in its claims in the South and East China Seas. Expect China to continue its current course of action and buildup.

Donald Trump has previously expressed that U.S. allies do not spend enough to defend themselves, so it is unlikely that he will care much about China annoying its neighbors as long as it does not directly threaten the United States. Make no mistake: China does not desire to start a war with the United States or drag it into one. Despite any chest-thumping by either country, the United States and China both need each other to thrive economically. China does, however, want to dominate the region and be recognized as the true power that it is.

As the Trump presidency unfolds, expect China to take advantage of that same honeymoon period. China has a limited timeframe to assert itself vis-à-vis Trump and the Asia-Pacific region. Expect China to have a different sort of honeymoon.

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