China Reaffirms Refusal to Comply with US Sanctions on Iran

July 8, 2022

China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian expressed on Thursday during a press conference his comments regarding the imposed US sanctions on a network of Chinese, Emirati, and other companies that are accused of helping to deliver and sell Iranian petroleum and petrochemical products to East Asia.

He said, “China has always been firmly opposed to illegal and unjustifiable unilateral sanctions and so-called long-arm jurisdiction by the US. We urge the US side to abandon the wrong practice of resorting to sanctions at every turn and contribute positively to negotiations on resuming compliance with the JCPOA.”

He added that “the international community, including China, has conducted normal cooperation with Iran within the framework of international law. This is reasonable and lawful without harm done to any third party, and deserves to be respected and protected.”

The reinstatement of US sanctions after Donald Trump’s 2018 withdrawal from the Vienna Nuclear Agreement plunged Iran into a very difficult economic situation (9.5% drop in GDP in 2019) and prompted it to get closer to China. Spectacularly, bilateral trade increased from $4 billion in 2003 to $51.8 billion in 2014, making Beijing Tehran’s leading economic partner (25% of total trade in 2019-2020).

This privileged relationship resulted in the signing, in March 2021, of a trade agreement of 400 billion dollars for a period of 25 years between the two countries, the strategic “Lion-Dragon deal.” This alliance was also militarily expressed through the sale of arms, as well as joint naval maneuvers alongside Russia. This new Sino-Iranian proximity is reshuffling the cards in the Middle East. It also weighs on Chinese relations with “Israel” with whom Beijing had heated its exchanges in recent years.

Source: Iranian media (edited by Al-Manar English Website)

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

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

May 19 2022

(Photo credit: Press TV)

ByNews Desk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9 May 2022

Source: Al Mayadeen

Mohamad Zreik 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

West Asia’s economic savior is called ‘multipolarity’

The transition from a western economic order toward a multipolar one is ushering in unprecedented economic and security advancements for West Asia.

May 02 2022

With Russia and Iran standing guard, and China’s ambitious investments, West Asia must sever its western economic dependencies and race toward the riches of multipolarity. Photo Credit: The Cradle

By Matthew Ehret

With Russia and Iran standing guard, and China’s ambitious investments, West Asia must sever its western economic dependencies and race toward the riches of multipolarity.

A race is now underway that will determine the shape of things to come for many generations.

While it is easy to get lost in the swarm of chaotic facts, sound bites, narrative spin, and other noise, it is vital to keep sight of the larger historical forces shaping our present crisis-ridden age.

Two weeks ago, in an important exclusive interview for The Cradle, influential Russian economist Sergey Glazyev outlined the terms and operating principles quickly being brought online by the leading member states of the Greater Eurasian Partnership.

Glazyev laid out the fundamental principles upon which the new post-US dollar economic system will be based. Although some common unit will be agreed upon, it will not be based upon any particular currency as with the Bretton Woods order, but rather a market basket of local currencies tied more deeply to an array of real commodities such as gold and other precious metals, grain, hydrocarbons, sugar, etc.

Real science, not casino-economics

The difference between this system and the now defunct Anglo-American economic structures is that Glazyev’s conception is based on real, tangible, measurable processes defining economic value among participants of the multipolar alliance.

This new paradigm of value stands in stark contrast to the post-1971 floating exchange rate system of rampant speculation and hyperbolically increasing rates of unpayable debts supporting decades of western economic malpractice.

Whereas one system justifies the increase of monetary flows within its system by speculative casino-logic devoid of any measurable improvement in the productive powers of labor, the opposing Eurasian system as described by Glazyev is very different. This multipolar system justifies economic growth, investment, and profit by activities that are tied to improving the conditions of life of people through practices tied to agro-industrial and scientific progress.

For those willing to do their research, they will take note that this is ironically how the west behaved when it was still growing industrially during the 19th century and first half of the 20th century. Sadly, two generations of a post-industrial consumer society logic have destroyed that earlier heritage.

Glazyev is not just any theoretician. He is the Russian minister in charge of Integration and Macroeconomics of the Eurasia Economic Union (EEU) and a leading strategist behind the Eurasian Economic Union-China commission for a new financial architecture. As such, his words are not merely academic, but an active force of grand strategy which keeps even monetarist ideologues at the Russian Central Bank up at night.

In all of his recent interviews and writings, Glazyev has also made it clear that the principles of this new system are already operational in the form of China’s unique approach to finance and international relations, recently describing China in the following terms:

“The entire banking system in China is state-owned, it operates as a single development institution, directing cash flows to expand output and develop new technologies. In the United States, the money supply is used to finance the budget deficit and is reallocated to financial bubbles. As a result, the efficiency of the US financial and economic system is 20 percent-there only one in five dollars reaches the real sector, and in China almost 90 percent (that is, almost all the yuan created by the Central Bank of the PRC) feed the contours of expanding production and ensure ultra-high economic growth.”

Across South and Central Asia, the Sino-Russian alliance has been transformative with Moscow providing strategic military and intelligence assistance to prevent western-directed regime change over the past seven years, as we have seen in the case of Syria since 2015, Turkey in 2016, and most recently Kazakhstan in 2022.

However, Russia lacks the economic freedom to carry out construction of mega-projects due to the continuing (for now) IMF hold on its economy — this is where China comes in. Beijing has been able to use its vast state banking apparatus to provide long term investments for the reconstruction of all nations abused by globalization for generations.

‘Tunxi’ to transform western Asia

While China’s flagship Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has been evolving at a fast pace since it was first unveiled in 2013, nowhere does it offer more hope than in the regions of West and Southwest Asia which have suffered under Anglo-American manipulation for generations and whose people are hungry for economic advancement.

With the April 1, 2022 comprehensive Tunxi Agreement signed by the foreign ministers of Russia, Pakistan, China, Afghanistan, Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, the Southwest and Central Asian BRI projects took on new energy.

Among the many initiatives in the Tunxi’s goal of integrating Afghanistan into the BRI while also amplifying BRI influence in surrounding regions, we see a high priority on energy projects, transport/connectivity, integration, agriculture, telecommunications and integration with surrounding nations. Among its 72 points, the agreement states:

“China supports the extension of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the China-Central Asia-West Asia Economic Corridor to Afghanistan, and is ready to promote synergy between the Belt and Road Initiative and the development strategies of Afghanistan, and support the smooth operation of the China-Afghanistan freight train services, to help Afghanistan better integrate into the regional economic integration process.”

Leading projects will include the Khaf-Herat railway which will be completed and extended to central Asian countries via the Mazar-e-Sharif rail line and also the Chabahar Port in Iran.

Iran’s Deputy Transport Minister Abbas Khatibi pointed out that this project will soon link to China and other regional nations saying, “In addition to connect Iran’s rail network to Europe, the new Khaf-Herat railroad will link the country’s southern ports to Central Asian countries, the Caucasus, Iraq and even China.”

Increased interconnectivity

On February 23, 2022, The Silk Road Briefing stated:

“There is much to be done to attain Iran-Afghanistan-China rail connectivity. The planned route east would exit Afghanistan on the border with Tajikistan, then continue east to Kyrgyzstan before entering China through valleys of the Tian Shan mountain range that divide the two countries. A likely terminus would be Kashgar, with existing spurs heading north to Urumqi and connecting to China’s high-speed national rail network and through West to Kazakhstan. There are as yet unrealised plans to create a southern rail connection from Kashgar through to Pakistan.”

According to the Tunxi agreement, Turkmenistan also vowed to contributed to the “development of the transport, transit and communication system of Afghanistan, the intensification of the transit of cargo and passenger flows, by maintaining the operation of the railways along the route Atamyrat-Imamnazar-Akina-Andkhoy, which is designed to connect the countries of the region with further access to the railway network of China.”

Also important is the 6540 km Pakistan-Iran-Turkey freight line now being re-opened after 10 years of disarray. This strategic line which can easily intersect with CPEC and rail networks in China cuts travel down from 21 days at sea to only 10 days. Plans to add a new parallel passenger line to the freight service are also underway.

Commenting on the significance of this project, Pakistan’s Railway minister Azam Khan Swati said, “The start of the container train from Pakistan to Iran and Turkey was a long-standing dream of the countries of the region which has come true again.”

Following the Economic Cooperation Organization meeting in November 2021, projects to connect the Persian Gulf (at the Port of Bandar Abbas in Iran) with the Black Sea via rail were advanced by representatives of Iran, Azerbaijan and Georgia.

This development is part of the broader International North South Transportation Corridor (INSTC) which has become increasingly synergistic with the East-West BRI in recent years and which offers multiple points of intersection with both Russia, Ukraine and Europe. If a wider conflict is to be avoided among Russia and its European neighbors, win-win projects of economic cooperation embodied by this project are essential.

A high priority in the Tunxi agreement was placed on energy projects which Afghanistan desperately needs. Among the many coal, natural gas and other projects showcased, much effort was made to emphasize their complementarity with the CASA-1000 project launched in 2016. This $1.2 billion energy mega project involves creating a vast system of transmission lines stretching from the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

Another high priority project featured in Tunxi is the 1814 km Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) Natural Gas Pipeline whose construction began in 2018 which will be an important force for residential and industrial development of all four nations.

How ‘new’ will the international order be?

While the Russia-China alliance is robust, other nations among the 148 which have so far signed cooperation agreements with the BRI are on shakier ground. It is in these weaker zones that efforts are being made to loosen the fabric of the Eurasian alliance through any and all possible means.

Such has been the fate of Pakistan which saw an alleged US State Department-directed overthrow of Prime Minister Imran Khan on 10 April. This has cast doubt over the new government’s level of commitment to the CPEC and BRI projects as outlined in Tunxi and other locations as well as broader pro-Eurasian security agreements advanced through the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in recent years. At least for the time being, the new Pakistani government of Shehbaz Sharif has vowed to maintain CPEC as a top national priority.

Whatever the outcome of the unfolding conflict in Ukraine, military saber-rattling by the US in Asia-Pacific, or broader efforts to destabilize the allies of Russia, Iran and China (RIC), the fact is that the current order as we know it is in terminal decline, while a new economic system will arise one way or another.

The question isn’t “will it collapse?” but “will the new system be based on the principles advocated by Sergey Glazyev?” If not, will it be premised on the model of a new Roman Empire managing a divided, impoverished, and warring world under the influence of a sociopathic supranational hegemon?

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

By restricting Moscow’s moves, Erdogan is playing Russian roulette

April 27 2022

If closing part of Turkish airspace to Russian planes is an indication of Ankara’s new direction, it may prove fatal for Turkey across several fronts.

Photo Credit: The Cradle

By Abdel Bari Atwan

Turkey’s decision to close its airspace to Russian military and civilian aircraft bound for northern Syria surprised many observers. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu’s announcement of this decision to Turkish journalists during his Latin America tour raised many questions about its future implications for Russian-Turkish relations.

It is unlikely that this decision may have been one of the outcomes of a Turkish-American deal following discreet contacts between President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his US counterpart Joe Biden to clamp down on Russia. Unlike his predecessor Donald Trump, Biden believes that it is difficult to achieve regional security without Turkey, which is an original member of NATO. And so the deal between the two countries included expanding economic cooperation and meeting Turkey’s defense needs, particularly in the advanced F-35s, Patriot and THAAD missile systems.

There are several explanations for Ankara’s decision. The first is that the US exerted pressure on Turkey after it became evident that the Russians commanded the battle of Mariupol and other southeastern Ukrainian areas from the Russian airbase of Hemeimim in northern Syria – from which strategic strikes were carried out against Ukrainian forces.

A second possible explanation is that Erdogan succeeded in improving his country’s relations with Washington, taking full advantage of the desperate US need for regional allies in NATO’s proxy war in Ukraine.

But where one loses, another gains. On the back of the surprise Turkish decision, Tehran cleverly offered to allow Russian aircraft to use Iranian airspace to reach naval and air bases in northern Syria. While these flight times may be longer, there are instant benefits for the two countries, especially Iran, which has now further enhanced its strategic relations with the Russia-China axis. Iran has not been ambiguous: since the outbreak of the Ukrainian military crisis, it has failed to condemn Moscow’s actions and has stood quietly in the Russian trench.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been generous with his Turkish counterpart. He forgave Erdogan for his 2015 mistake when Turkish air defenses shot down a Russian Sukhoi plane that allegedly penetrated Turkey’s airspace near the Syrian-Turkish border for a few seconds. It took a series of expansive Russian punishments for the Turkish president to apologize in all languages, including Russian, for the mishap.

Putin has showed understanding, and even patience, over the Turkish occupation of areas in northern Syria, contrary to the wishes of his staunch allies in Damascus. However, Ankara’s latest decision to establish a ‘Russian no-fly zone’ will not be so easy to forgive, especially if followed by further measures such as banning the passage of Russian military vessels through the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits to the Mediterranean, in accordance with the Montreux Agreement.

This remains an option in light of the rapid – if stealthy – improvement in Turkish-US relations. But choosing to align with Washington on Ukraine also risks racking up Russian-engineered military, political, and economic costs for Turkey, one year out from the country’s pivotal elections.

Further aligning with the US also means Erdogan will not be able to continue playing his carefully crafted role as a “neutral” mediator in this crisis, and host the upcoming summit meeting between the Turkish and Ukrainian presidents.

Turkish aspirations to expand trade cooperation with Russia to $100 billion dollars per annum will also be impacted, and the sale of further Russian S-400 missile defense systems to Turkey will be unlikely. More seriously, Russia may respond by developing or expanding relations with the separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and supporting its operations in Turkey.

Politically speaking, the Russian military operation in Ukraine is a matter of life and death for Putin. Therefore his response to Ankara’s belligerent moves are likely to be decisive and could possibly play out on several fronts:

  • The Syrian front: To keep the balance in Russian relations with Turkey, Putin strongly opposed the Syrian leadership’s desire to invade Idlib to eliminate the jihadist terror groups based there and restore territorial control back to Damascus. While Moscow’s position may not yet change, renewed, intensive Russian military operations in Idlib will lead to an increase in Syrians fleeing to Turkish territory, which already hosts over 3 million Syrian refugees.
  • Strengthening Russian-Iranian relations: This will have a negative impact on Erdogan’s regional ambitions – especially in West and Central Asia – taking into account that China, which forms the third and strongest arm of this budding alliance is a full-fledged member of this troika.
  • The Arab Front: Turkey’s desire to improve its relations with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other Persian Gulf and Arab states may be hindered in light of the rapprochement of these countries with Russia and China, which coincides with the breakdown of their relations with their traditional American ally. There is much the Russia-Iran-China (RIC) alliance can do in West Asia to unsettle Ankara’s relations within the region. It is worth noting that Riyadh has not yet responded to Turkish diplomatic outreach, significantly on the closure of the file of the state-sanctioned murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Erdogan’s leadership in recent months has been characterized by confusion and volatility. Recent political developments include Ankara’s unpopular improvement in ties with Israel, its gradual involvement in the Ukraine crisis, and its warming relations with Washington. These come at a critical time, not only amid a nation-wide economic crisis but also a year before presidential and legislative elections that pose a serious threat to Erdogan’s reign.

President Putin may have decided initially to overlook Turkey’s sale of the Bayraktar drones that have arguably contributed in the deaths of some 2,000 Russian soldiers in Ukraine, and reluctantly accepted its role as an intermediary in the crisis. At the strategic level, though, it will be difficult for him to tolerate Turkey’s accelerated bias toward the west.

It is true that Turkey is a regional power, and militarily strong, but it is also true that the US-led camp toward which it is tilting is in decline, torn apart by divisions, and failing dramatically in its economic sanctions regime against Russia. Furthermore, this camp is facing an alliance of two super-powers, a nuclear third (India), and a fourth on the way (Iran), together comprising more than half of the world’s population.

President Erdogan’s gamble with Russia is risky and may backfire, at just the wrong time.

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

ايران قد ترفع نسبة التخصيب إلى 90%!

الخميس 7 نيسان 2022

 ناصر قنديل

خلال شهرين ماضيين وصلت مفاوضات فيينا حول الاتفاق النووي مع إيران الى نقطة شبه نهائيّة ما قبل التوقيع، وبدا أن الأمور في دائرة تحديد موعد لإقفال هذا الملف، والمعادلة التي تجعل الاتفاق حتمياً تركزت على نقطتين، الأولى أن كل الرهانات على وسائل أخرى غير الاتفاق لمنع تقدّم إيران نووياً نحو عتبة حرجة تتمثل بامتلاك ما يكفي من اليورانيوم المخصب على درجة عالية لإنتاج قنبلة نووية، وصلت الى طريق مسدود. فهذه الطرق رغم فاعليتها في إزعاج إيران بقيت دون القدرة على إعاقة إيران فعلياً عن التقدم الثابت نحو هذه العتبة الحرجة، وفقاً للوثائق الأميركية والإسرائيلية، والثانية أن الزمن يعمل لصالح إيران التي تتقدّم بثبات نحو هذه العتبة، ولا بدّ من دفع ثمن يستطيع إقناعها بالتوقف والعودة إلى التزاماتها بموجب الاتفاق، وهي التزامات تتكفل وفقاً لإجماع الأميركيين على جعل إيران بعيدة مدة سنة على الأقل عن هذه العتبة، من تاريخ خروجها من هذه الالتزامات.

ضبط الأميركيون مواقف حلفائهم، وخصوصاً السعودي والإسرائيلي، لجهة التسليم باستحالة فرض ملفات تفاوضية على إيران، تدمج بالملف النووي، كملف سلاحها الصاروخي أو ملف تحالفاتها في المنطقة مع قوى المقاومة، ويدرك حلفاء واشنطن أن غضبهم لن يقدّم ولن يؤخر، لأنهم لم يستطيعوا تقديم بدائل لواشنطن عن العودة للاتفاق، وقد منحتهم الفرص الكثيرة لإثبات العكس، من حرب اليمن الى اطلاق اليد للعبث الأمني في الداخل الإيراني، إلى الضغط في لبنان، ومعركة بين حربين في سورية، واللعب بالتوازنات السياسية في العراق، فتحققت نتائج تكتيكية على حساب محور المقاومة في بعض الملفات، وأصيبت خطط أخرى بالفشل، لكن الناتج الإجمالي بقي على قاعدة أن محور المقاومة إلى صعود وخصومه إلى تراجع، وأن إيران تثبت صمودها، وتتقدّم في ملفها النووي.

– مع بداية حرب أوكرانيا وتحوّلها حرباً روسية أميركية، ظهر التداخل بينها وبين مفاوضات فيينا من زاويتين، روسية وأميركية. الزاوية الروسية ظهرت بشرط موسكو للمضي قدماً بمسار فيينا بتلقيها ضمانات أميركية خطية حول عدم شمول تعاملاتها مع إيران بالعقوبات التي فرضت عليها إثر حرب أوكرانيا، ونجح التفاهم الروسي الإيراني بتفكيك هذه العقبة ومنع الأميركيين من استغلالها لتعطيل المسار. أما الزاوية الأميركية فقد كانت مزدوجة ومتعاكسة، فمن جهة دفعت الحاجة لمواجهة أزمة النفط والغاز الناجمة عن العقوبات على روسيا بالأوساط الأميركية المعنية بمعالجة هذه الأزمة الى الضغط لتسريع التفاهم مع إيران بصفتها منتجاً مهماً يمكن لعودته الى السوق ان تخفف من وطأة الأزمة، ومن جهة مقابلة أظهر التيار المتشدد في الإدارة والكونغرس مخاوفه من أن يكون المشهد الدولي والإقليمي ذاهباً لمواجهة تصطف فيها إيران وروسيا والصين في جبهة واحدة بوجه الغرب بقيادة أميركا، ما يطرح السؤال عن جدوى تزويد إيران بمقدرات مالية سرعان ما سيتم الزج بها في هذه المواجهة، كما تقول تجربة الحرب على سورية، عندما وظفت إيران عائدات الاتفاق النووي عام 2015 للمضي قدماً في الحسم في معركة حلب بالتعاون مع روسيا، التي جاءت الى سورية بالتوافق مع إيران، على أولوية هذه المعركة على مستقبل الاتفاق مع واشنطن.

خلال أسابيع معارك أوكرانيا تراجع العامل النفطي الضاغط، ليس لعدم أهميته، بل لأن أهميته الشديدة أتاحت لإيران العودة الى الأسواق كما كانت قبل الانسحاب الأميركي من الاتفاق النووي والعودة للعقوبات، بمعدل يقارب عتبة الـ 4 ملايين برميل يومياً، ولم تعد العودة للاتفاق النووي شرطاً ضرورياً لانضمام إيران إلى أسواق النفط والغاز، وخلال هذه الأسابيع أعدت مسودة للاتفاق في فيينا، وبقي بند أساسي واحد عالق عنوانه رفع العقوبات عن الحرس الثوري، والضغط السياسي والإعلامي في الداخل الأميركي يرتفع للتشدد في هذا البند الذي بات خطاً أحمر لإيران، بحيث عادت الأصوات المشككة بإمكانية السير نحو العودة للاتفاق.

في إيران هناك أصوات فاعلة ومقررة تقول إن زمن التريث انتهى، وإن مهلة كافية للتفاوض قد منحت، وإن إيران التي تقاتل ضمن جبهة تفكيك الهيمنة الأميركية معنية بالانخراط في هذه الجبهة بقوة، وإن إيران لم تعد تحتاج الاتفاق للعودة إلى أسواق النفط والغاز، ولذلك يجب العودة إلى رفع نسب التخصيب إلى 90%، وإن على واشنطن أن تأكل أصابعها ندماً على الفرصة الضائعة!

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ما هي النتائج الاستراتيجيّة لحرب أوكرانيا؟

الاربعاء 23 03 2022

 ناصر قنديل

يعتقد الكثير من المتابعين العسكريين والاستراتيجيين خطأ أن تقييم النتائج الاستراتيجية للحروب، غير ممكنة إلا بعد أن تضع الحرب أوزارها، والصحيح أن النتائج التي يمكن استخلاصها على الصعيد الاستراتيجيّ للحروب هي تلك التي تظهر قبل أن تنتهي الحرب، فما تظهره سياقات الحروب من تأثيرات في الجغرافيا السياسية، ومن تبدّلات في مواقع الدول، وحدود الحركة السياسية والعسكرية والاقتصادية لردّات فعلها تجاه تداعيات الحروب، تكون أحياناً أهم من تلك التي يمكن تسجيلها مع نهاية الحروب، وفي الحرب الأوكرانيّة تدور الحرب على ساحة الأفكار والمواقف والعقول بصورة أشدّ شراسة من تلك الدائرة في الميدان. ومن موقع التفوّق الاستثنائي للآلة الغربيّة الإعلاميّة، ولقدرة التحكم بضخ المعلومات والتحليلات والأخبار، نجح الغرب بتوظيف عناصر تفوّقه لتحديد مواضيع النقاش بما يناسب خطته للتعامل مع الحرب، ولذلك يبدو النقاش الذي نجريه خرقاً لهذا السياق السائد. فالغرب عموماً والأميركي خصوصاً يريدان عبر توجيه النقاش نحو تحويل البحث حول سرعة موسكو وبطئها في تحقيق الإنجازات العسكرية من كونه بحثاً تكتيكياً الى عنوان استراتيجي، بل إلى العنوان الاستراتيجي الوحيد الذي يستقطب النقاش.

أولى النتائج الاستراتيجية للحرب هو إظهار معادلة دولية جديدة قوامها، أن دول حلف الناتو المكونة أصلا من أميركا وكندا و29 دولة أوروبية بما فيها تركيا من أصل 48 دولة أوروبية منها روسيا وروسيا البيضاء وعدد من الجزر الصغيرة والفاتيكان وسويسرا والنمسا خارج الحلف، لن تخوض حرباً مع دولة عظمى كروسيا والصين على الأقل إذا تعرضت أية دولة أخرى خارج الحلف لأي عمل عسكري شبيه بالذي تعرّضت له أوكرانيا، التي تمثل بمعيار الأهميّة والقرب الجغرافي من مركز ثقل الحلف في أوروبا، أعلى درجات المخاطر لعدم التدخل، وبالقياس فإن أية دولة خارج الحلف تقع على جوار روسيا والصين، تتعرض لخطر حرب لن تكون تحت مظلة تدخل الحلف الافتراضية. وهذا يعني في الجوار الروسيّ دولاً مثل أوكرانيا هي السويد وفنلندا ومولدوفا وفي جوار الصين دولاً مثل تايوان ولاوس وبورما وتايلاند وفيتنام، والحاصل الاستراتيجيّ لهذه الخلاصة، سيكون حكماً فتح الطريق لإخضاع هذه الدول لمعادلة الاسترضاء للجار القويّ بقوة الردع الذي ينجم عن معادلة الغزو المحتم دون رادع، ولو امتدّت فترة ترقب هذه الدول لما بعد نهاية الحرب، فهي بدأت تقيم حساباتها وتبني استخلاصاتها قبل أن تنتهي الحرب.

ثانية النتائج الاستراتيجية للحرب ثبات حجم التماسك في الحلف الروسي الصيني. والحرب هي أول تجربة جدية ومفصلية يجري خلالها إخضاع هذه العلاقة لامتحان بهذا الوضوح، بوضع الصين بين خياري التعرض للعقوبات أو المشاركة بالعقوبات المفروضة من الغرب على روسيا. وقد صار ثابتاً أن الدولتين تتصرّفان في مواجهة سطوة الغرب الدولية سياسياً واقتصادياً وعسكرياً كحليفين استراتيجيين، يدركان أن أحدهما ركيزة لا غنى عنها لقوة الآخر، وإن استفراد أحدهما ليس إلا مقدمة لاستفراد الآخر، وبالتالي سقوط المعادلة التي صاغها هنري كيسنجر منذ أيام الحرب الباردة تحت عنوان الاستثمار على التنافس الروسي الصيني وتحويله إلى تناقض تأسيسي في المشهد الاستراتيجي، ولهذا الثبات نتائج هائلة على أية قراءة لموازين القوى الدولية السياسية والاقتصادية والعسكرية، فجمع ما تمثله روسيا والصين على هذه الأصعدة، ومن تستطيعان استقطابه للتحالف بينهما، يجعل الحديث عن هيمنة غربيّة على المشهد الدولي حماقة كبرى. وهذا سيجعل الاستقطاب الموضوعي داخل المشهد الدولي محكوماً بظهور متانة هذا الثنائي للمرة الأولى.

ثالثة النتائج الاستراتيجية للحرب أن المكانة المحورية لسوق الطاقة تتغلب على الحسابات السياسية للعداء ومقتضيات الحروب والنزاعات. فموقف أوروبا المتمسّك بالحفاظ على إمدادات النفط والغاز من روسيا، رغم إدراك أن أولى نتائجه تعطيل كل الرهان على فعاليّة العقوبات على روسيا، وأميركا تفتح قنوات تسريع الاتفاق النووي مع إيران، ومثلها رفع الحصار عن فنزويلا أملاً بتسريع انضمامهما إلى سوق النفط والغاز سعياً لتفادي النتائج السلبيّة للعقوبات على روسيا في أسواق الطاقة. وهي تعلم أنها تستجير من الرمضاء بالنار، وتطلق يد قوى تعلم حجم العداء الاستراتيجي الذي يحكم علاقتها بها، وهذا سيفتح عيون الدول المؤثرة في أسواق الطاقة على مكانتها، وخطورة قدرتها على التأثير بعدما تمّ إخضاعها بأكاذيب استغناء العالم عن النفط والغاز، وبدائل موارد الطاقة الجديدة، ويظهر للعرب ودول الخليج خصوصاً، بعد عقود من الكلام عن عدم جواز استخدام النفط كسلاح سياسيّ، أن أصحاب هذا الخطاب يجاهرون بهذا الاستخدام.

رابعة نتائج الحرب على الصعيد الاستراتيجي، ظهور التفكك والارتباك على حلفاء واشنطن في الشرق الأوسط، الذي بدا بوضوح أنه خارج نطاق السيطرة الأميركية، بعد عقود من ظهوره كولاية أميركية منضبطة. فالضغوط التي مورست لضمان التصويت مع مشروع القرار الأميركي لم تحجب حقيقة مشهد التمرّد على المشاركة بالعقوبات على روسيا. والأمر ليس هنا بالحديث عن إيران وسورية ودول كالعراق والجزائر، بل نتحدّث عن تركيا والسعودية والإمارات ومصر و»إسرائيل»، والمعنيون يمثلون وفقاً للقراءة الأميركية وجهات بديلة في السياحة والمصارف لروسيا عن أوروبا، وتحوّل الشرق الأوسط الى خاصرة أميركية رخوة هو بداية مرحلة ستتبلور أكثر مع العودة الأميركية والأوروبية للاتفاق النووي مع إيران، وبدء صعود الحضور الإيراني كقطب جاذب لمعادلات المنطقة، قادر على تشكيل شريك ثالث إقليمي للثنائي الروسي الصيني، ومن أولى النتائج العربية تصدُّر سورية للمشهد كما بدا من زيارة الرئيس السوري بشار الأسد إلى دولة الإمارات قبل أيام قليلة.

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There Is No Cheap Oil

12 April 2021

By: Hamid Reza Naghashian

Media attack and hype regarding Iran and China’s economic cooperation agreement by the domestic and foreign currents, and especially by those who western blood is boiling in their veins and have engaged a country with their imported delusion in their minds despite all rational reasons, assigns one to stand against these mischievous distortions which are seen among the news reports by disclosing the truth in order to make aware the dear and resistant people of this revolutionary country against these mischievous inductions.

TEHRAN (Iran News) – There Is No Cheap Oil. Media attack and hype regarding Iran and China’s economic cooperation agreement by the domestic and foreign currents, and especially by those who western blood is boiling in their veins and have engaged a country with their imported delusion in their minds despite all rational reasons, assigns one to stand against these mischievous distortions which are seen among the news reports by disclosing the truth in order to make aware the dear and resistant people of this revolutionary country against these mischievous inductions. The first induction of doubt regarding this cooperation agreement of the Chinese investment and cooperation with Iranian companies, while it has only been signed in size of an 18-page outline MoU, is being tied to the oil sale which is totally wrong and skeptical. The issues of investment and oil sale are two totally different issues and they are apart.

China today needs to buy oil around 800,000 barrels per day and it does it based on the short term contracts and its payment is through different means. But when it comes to the investment, the issue becomes totally different. The truth is that today in the world there is tough competition over attracting more foreign investment and those countries are more successful that they prepare the domestic grounds for attracting more foreign investment.

Nearly one of the main factors in all countries, that they have improved their economies and industries to reach the industrialist countries in recent decades, has been the success in attracting foreign investment; from China and South Korea to Malaysia and Turkey and even in the Persian Gulf states. The U.S. and European governments have a large number of laws and regulations for easing the attraction of foreign investment. The interesting part is that all efforts of President Hassan Rouhani’s government, which created void and chimerical noise on the JCPOA document, were to pave the grounds for foreign investment from Western countries through anti-security and anti-Islamic threats; more interesting is that the most important goal of the U.S. for imposing economic sanctions against Iran was to hinder foreign investment in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

In this condition it is very strange that some people in the country in tune with enemies of the Islamic establishment interpret foreign investment as selling the country. In the issue of China’s investment there is essentially no issue under the title of oil trade wherein the issue of cheap oil has been raised.

China’s eager for investment abroad is not confined only to the Islamic Republic of Iran. The People’s Republic of China, according to the data published by the American Enterprise Institute, has invested over 2.1 trillions of dollars in different countries worldwide only in the past 15 years; from rich countries like Switzerland and the U.S. to the African countries like Congo. According to the data released by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), in only 6 years (2013 to 2019, China has invested $62b in the railways sector in 34 countries.

The active economic presence of China has not meant expanding its political influence in those countries but the nature of these investments will be a haven for economic security. China’s investments in Africa has led to huge number of analysis  in the media that even experts believe with these investments, the fourth industrial revolution would happen in Africa, and this is said while there are no enough infrastructures for materializing this development. For preparing infrastructure developmental plans for Africa, China and India have turned into macro policies in changing the structures of the agro, industrial and educational services.

The American business magazine Forbes in its different analysis says China is the biggest partner of Africa and its annual trade volume with Africa stands at $200b. Accordingly, over 100,000 Chinese companies are active in Africa. The most exports from Africa to China in 2019 were from Angola, South Africa and Republic of Congo. Africa accounts for 20 percent of China’s need of cotton. Africa possesses half of the world magnesium reserves which is used in the steel industry and Democratic Republic of the Congo by itself possesses half of this amount of magnesium reserves. China needs all of these resources.

The details of Iran-China 25-year document has not been yet revealed. American newspaper The New York Times in an article had claimed that China’s president had offered the proposal for the agreement some five years ago (2016). The draft of this agreement was signed on June 24, 2020 in Beijing. It is said the Chinese are to take $600b of their overseas forex reserves into Iran in the span of 25 years and they are to have the same amount of investment in Iran in cooperation with companies and organizations both in private or public sectors.

The required guarantee for taking capital gains could have been the sale of oil. Now if they want they can take their capital gains in cash otherwise they can buy oil instead of their cash or else, they will be free to invest their profits in expanding their investment in those sectors.

That Iran enjoys having ready infrastructure, independent land, skilful and educated workforce as a valuable guarantee as its oil, has sweetened investment for the Chinese. So inducing the idea of oil for investment of the type of selling cheap oil is a big lie which is used to ruin the agreement and to put the pressure on the public opinion.

Russia opens doors for Iran’s Eurasian integration

Raisi and Putin’s January meeting may have seemed anticlimactic, but Russia is now opening doors for Iran’s Eurasian integration

February 01 2022

By Yeghia Tashjian

On 20 January, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi traveled to meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Moscow, with the express purpose of advancing bilateral ties between both countries at the highest level.

Among the talking points of the two leaders were their shared regional and international issues, the Vienna negotiations for Iran’s nuclear program, and regional cooperation in Eurasia.https://thecradle.co/Article/analysis/6507

Contrary to expectations and to the positive statements made before the meeting, the visit did not end with the announcement of a grand strategic agreement, such as the one that took place between China and Iran a year ago.

Nevertheless, the visit did push negotiations between both parties to a higher level, and facilitated Iran’s economic integration into the Russian-Chinese Eurasian architecture.

Great expectations, not grand declarations

In recent years, both the improvement of relations between Tehran and Moscow, and a focus on a strategic partnership have become particularly important tasks for Iran.

Besides working to boost trade and economic ties – a priority for sanction-laden Iran – an additional impetus may be given to the development of military-political interaction in the future.

In October 2021, quoting Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, Interfax announced that Tehran was ready to forge a strategic partnership with Moscow, and that both parties are expected to sign agreement documents in the coming months.

According to the TASS agency, both sides were close to completing work on a document on comprehensive cooperation for a period of 20 years.

The timing is important for both countries. As the chairman of the Iranian parliamentary committee on national security and foreign policy, Mojtaba Zulnur, told the Mehr News Agency that in order to overcome US sanctions, Iran seeks a partnership agreement with Russia, one that would be analogous to the agreement between Tehran and Beijing.

However, contrary to expectations and to some statements prior to the Iranian leader’s trip to Russia, President Raisi’s visit has, at least for the time being, failed to achieve a major breakthrough on that front. According to sources, this process may take some time and may, at least for Moscow, be linked to the outcome of Iran’s nuclear negotiations.

However, two recent events involving Russia and Iran had significant resonance: the joint naval exercises between Russia, China, and Iran in the Indian Ocean, and Iran’s relations with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) alongside the materialization of the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC).

Will Iran be joining the EAEU anytime soon?

Iranian political analyst and former Fars News Agency (English) chief editor Mostafa Khoshcheshm says, instead, that Russia looks to be pushing for Iran’s entry into the EAEU. “Negotiations,” he reveals, “are already underway.”

In 2019, the preferential trade agreement (PTA), signed between Iran and the EAEU in 2018, entered into force.

The agreement offered lower tariffs on 862 commodity types, of which 502 were Iranian exports to the EAEU. As a result, in the period between October 2019 and October 2020, trade volume increased by more than 84 percent.

According to Vali Kaleji, the Iranian expert on Central Asia and Caucasian Studies, this volume of trade was achieved at a time when the US, under former president Donald Trump, withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in May 2018 and was following the policy of ‘maximum pressure’ against Iran.

In October 2021, Iran and EAEU started negotiating an upgrade of the PTA into a Free Trade Agreement (FTA). If achieved, this will set off a massive increase in the volume of trade between Iran and the EAEU, also known as the Union.

Both Moscow and Tehran have reasons to push for the further integration of Iran in the Union.

For Iran, this opportunity will provide improved access to Eurasian and European markets. It will also provide EAEU member states with increased access to the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea. For this reason, Moscow may be thinking a step ahead.

Moscow views the signing of an FTA agreement with Iran as a crucial step for Iran’s entry into the Union.

Russia has concerns that if Iran reaches an agreement with the US over its nuclear issue, there may be positive Iranian policy shifts towards the west, and this may not serve Russia’s interests in West Asia, especially in Syria.

For Russia, a nuclear Iran is preferable to a pro-western one. For this reason, Russia would be glad to see the acceleration of Iran’s integration into Eurasian regional institutions.

Opening gateways, prudently

Iran’s accession to the nine-member Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) should be viewed from this perspective. Moreover, with Tehran joining the EAEU, neighboring and friendly countries, such as Iraq and Syria may follow.

Russia would then have a direct railway and highway connection via Iran to its Syrian coastal military base in Tartous. This would serve its military goals on a logistic and operational level in case a crisis occurs in the Black Sea and Russia’s navy faces challenges.

On 27 December 2021, Iran and Iraq agreed to build a railway connecting both countries. The 30km railway would be strategically important for Iran, linking the country to the Mediterranean Sea via Iraq and Syria’s railways.

This would be a win-win situation for both China and Russia; one where China through its Belt and Road Initiative, and Russia through its International North-South Transport Corridor, would have direct railway access to the Mediterranean Sea.

This route also would compete with India’s Arab-Mediterranean Corridor connecting India to the Israeli port of Haifa through the various railways of the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan.

So, for China and Russia, consolidating Iran’s geopolitical and geo-economic position in the region is an important step. From a Russian perspective, having a direct land route through the Levant to the Mediterranean will bolster its power base in Syria and extend its soft power through trade and energy deals within neighboring countries.

It was for this reason that Iran acted prudently against the recent Azerbaijani provocations on the Armenian border. Tehran’s concern was that Turkey would have direct access to the Caspian Sea and Central Asia through a possible ‘corridor’ passing from southern Armenia.

This is known as the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route Middle Corridor, connecting Europe to Central Asia through Turkey.

For Iran, this would be equivalent to NATO’s expansion in the Caspian Sea and further towards China. Hence, the west-east trade route would pose a serious threat to Iran and Russia and isolate them in Eurasia.

For the Iranians, this route would not only bypass Iran and Russia but would also impose a serious challenge to the north-south trade route initiated by the Iranians, Russians, and other Asian countries.

According to Khoshcheshm, “animosities by the western block have driven Iran and Eurasia closer to each other and this has given strong motivation for the Russians and Chinese to speed up Iran’s accession to the Eurasian block to hammer joint cooperation in economic and geopolitical areas and prevent US penetration into the region.”

Iran’s entry into the EAEU is therefore a win-win situation for both Moscow and Tehran. Russia would consolidate its geo-economic and geopolitical position in the Middle East, and Iran would have a railway connection to Russia and Europe and further expand Moscow’s influence in the region.

However, this ultimate objective may still need time, and will face challenges from the US and its allies in the region.

Confidence amid uncertainty

Iran’s possible accession to the EAEU would attract investments from neighboring countries to the underdeveloped rail communication between Iran and Russia in the Caucasus region.

The opening of communication channels between Armenia and Azerbaijan, as part of the 9 November trilateral statement, would facilitate trade and cargo transportation in the region as part of the North-South Transport corridor.

In such circumstances, the railway network is very important as the volume of goods transported by rail is far greater and faster than land and truck routes. However, the implementation of these projects is not yet a certainty.

The state-owned Russian Railways ceased implementation of its projects in Iran in April 2020 due to fears over US sanctions. Such a decision would affect other programs within the framework of the Russian-Iranian initiative in creating the North-South Transport Corridor.

Both sides would have to wait to overcome US sanctions, as economic routes are always a win-win situation.

By joining the EAEU and integrating into Eurasian regional organizations, Iran would consolidate its geo-economic position into a regional transport hub, opening the West Asian gate for Moscow’s railway access to the eastern Mediterranean.

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

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

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

January 26 2022

By Cynthia Chung

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

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

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

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

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

Rebuilding Syria and linking the Four Seas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reviving routes and expanding ports

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul Rail (ITI).

Within the corridors of cooperation and connectivity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile, Gulf States shun collaboration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hardline US officials removed from Vienna negotiating team: Report

Western media reports allege that divisions have formed within the US team in Vienna over “how firmly to enforce existing sanctions” against Iran

Former State Department Principal Deputy Coordinator for Sanctions Policy Richard Nephew testifies before the Senate Banking Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 4, 2019, during a hearing on “confronting threats from China.” (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

January 25 2022

By News Desk

According to a report published on The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) on 24 January, differences have emerged in the US negotiating team present in Vienna “over how tough to be with [Iran] and when to walk away” from the ongoing sanctions-removal talks.

Citing people familiar with the negotiations, the WSJ claims that Washington’s team in the Austrian capital has become divided over “how firmly to enforce existing sanctions and whether to cut off negotiations.” This division reportedly led to Richard Nephew, the deputy special envoy for Iran, leaving the team.

Nephew is identified as one of the ‘architects’ of the economic sanctions the White House has imposed on Iran since their unilateral withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2018.

He has reportedly not been present in Vienna since early December, having advocated “a tougher posture in the current negotiations.”

Besides Nephew, the WSJ reports that two other members of the US team led by State Department veteran Robert Malley have taken a step back from the talks.

The two unnamed officials reportedly also advocated for a “harder” negotiating stance against Iran.

The report goes on to highlight that these strains have been growing since last summer, with many of them being settled “at the highest levels of the Biden administration.”

Some of these tensions allegedly stemmed from Tehran implementing nuclear counter-measures since 2019, following the US and European breach of their obligations under the JCPOA.

Differences also flared over how “aggressively” to enforce sanctions, especially in regards to China importing Iranian oil.

These revelations came on the same day as Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian announced Tehran’s willingness to possibly hold direct negotiations with the US.

The JCPOA, which provided Iran with sanctions relief in exchange for limiting their nuclear energy program, fell apart in 2018 when then-US president Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the deal and imposed crushing sanctions on Tehran.

Over the past several months, Iran and the P4+1 group of countries (Russia, China, France, and the UK plus Germany) have been taking part in negotiations to remove US sanctions and restore the nuclear deal.

Due to its withdrawal, the US is currently not allowed to directly join the negotiations.

Raisi in Moscow: No Hindrance in Way of Improvement of Iran-Russia Ties

Jan 20 2022

By Staff, Agencies

Sayyed Ebrahim Raisi paid a state visit to Moscow at the invitation of Russia’s Vladimir Putin, in which the Iranian President said there is no hindrance lying in the way of improvement of relations between the Islamic Republic and the Russian Federation.

“We have no limitation for expansion and development of ties with Russia and are after establishment of strategic relations with Moscow,” Raisi said during the meeting on Wednesday.

The Islamic Republic has already signed a strategic partnership treaty with China that has outlined the roadmap for the Sino-Iranian ties for a 20-year-long term. And, right ahead of Raeisi’s visit to the Russian capital, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said that the new administration in Tehran followed a “new road map” to deepen ties with Moscow, adding that Iran and Russia were determined to update a 20-year cooperation treaty that they signed in 2001.

Adding to his remarks, Raisi said, “Documents of strategic cooperation can outline the horizon of the [countries’] relations over 20 years.” “We are after increasing the volume of commercial ties with Russia and will expend much effort in this area,” he noted.

Additionally, Raisi hailed the countries’ anti-terror efforts in support of Syria as “good [common] experience that can serve as a basis for the [Russo-Iranian] relations.”

The Iranian president, meanwhile, said Tehran was in the midst of efforts aimed at removing the United States’ illegal and unilateral sanctions against the country.

“We have been confronting the US for more than 40 years. We hope that [these efforts] would lead to removal of the sanctions,” he said, adding, however, that “the threat of sanctions cannot come in the way of Iran’s progress.”

Iran is after enhancing its diplomatic ties with its neighbors, including Russia, Raisi said, noting that his visit would feature conclusion of some agreements that would contribute to the development of relations between Tehran and Moscow.

He also communicated Leader of the Islamic Revolution His Eminence Imam Sayyed Ali Khamenei’s regards to the Russian head of state, adding that the Leader “lays emphasis on reinforcement of relations with Russia.”

Putin, for his part, expressed delight to meet his Iranian counterpart, hailing that the two sides have been in constant communication since Raeisi’s inauguration last year.

He acknowledged Tehran and Moscow’s contribution to Syria’s “transition past the terrorist threats.”

The countries’ trade relations followed a “positive trend” last year, despite the coronavirus pandemic, Putin said.

Putin further noted how the countries’ officials have been paying “special attention” to the situation in Afghanistan.

“I am inclined for these important issues to be subjected to consultation and to know about your Excellency’s opinion [in these areas]” he told Raisi, according to Fars news agency.

Putin, meanwhile, communicated his regards to Imam Khamenei, asking Raisi to “Communicate my regards and wishes of good health to Imam Khamenei.”

Assad, Syria and China’s new Silk Road

Count on Syria becoming an important West Asian hub in China’s Belt and Road Initiative

December 07 2021

By Matthew Ehret

https://media.thecradle.co/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/Xi-assad.jpg
Photo Credit: The Cradle

Ever since Russia and China began challenging the Anglo-American scorched Earth doctrine in 2011 with their first vetoes against US intervention into Syria, the Gordian knots that have tied up the Arab world in chaos, division and ignorance for decades have finally begun to unravel.

Where just one decade ago the unipolar vision of the ‘new American century’ reigned unchallenged, by 2013 the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) had sprung into life, and the largest purges of China’s deep state on record were launched under Xi Jinping’s watch. This latter crackdown even earned the ire of the American intelligence community, with war hawk John Bolton complaining that Xi’s authoritarianism has made the CIA job of maintaining its spies inside China nearly impossible.

This new operating system, tied closely to Russia’s Eurasian Economic Union, has grown in leaps and bounds. Today, a new multipolar future has emerged; one which plans to actually deliver long-term development for all those who choose to play by its rules.

One of these adherents will be Syria, which is re-emerging onto the world’s stage after having miraculously defended itself from a ten-year military onslaught launched by the old unipolar players.

Of course, the pain and destruction of the war is still deeply felt; illegal US sanctions continue to plague the hungry masses, prevent the reconstruction of basic infrastructure and access to potable water, and cripple schools, hospitals, businesses, and livelihoods.

The BRI and Syria’s new future

On 5 November, China’s President Xi Jinping spoke with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, saying “we welcome the Syrian side’s participation in the Belt and Road Initiative and Global Development Initiative” and calling for reconstruction, development, and the defense of Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The discussion came in the wake of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s whirlwind tour across West Asia and North Africa in July 2021, during which he met the Arab League’s chief to discuss Syria return to the fold.

By the end of this tour – which coincided with Assad’s re-election – China had signed a four-point proposal for solving Syria’s multifaceted crisis with a focus on large scale reconstruction, ending illegal sanctions and respecting Syria’s sovereignty.

Syria, in turn, re-affirmed its support for China’s territorial integrity in the face of western-sponsored separatist movements in Xinjiang, Tibet, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.

China’s interest in West Asian development was first made known in 2017 when Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang stated:

“Too many people in the Middle East are suffering at the brutal hands of terrorists. We support regional countries in forming synergy, consolidating the momentum of anti-terrorism and striving to restore regional stability and order. We support countries in the region in exploring a development path suited to their national conditions and are ready to share governance experience and jointly build the Belt and Road and promote peace and stability through common development.”

In 2018, China offered $28 billion in development aid to Syria while simultaneously coordinating the integration of Iraq into the BRI, made official in September 2019 when then-Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi unveiled the China-Iraq oil for reconstruction program and Iraq’s broader integration into the BRI framework.

Events coordinated by foreign interests did not permit this momentum for long. Mass protests soon toppled Abdul Mahdi’s government and, with it, the oil-for-reconstruction initiative. While recent months have seen a revival of this initiative from Iraq in piecemeal form, progress has been slow.

Instead, the 25 year Comprehensive Strategic Partnership agreement struck between China and Iran in March 2021 has become the main gateway for extending Beijing’s infrastructure and connectivity projects into West Asia.

The construction of the Iran–Iraq Shalamcheh-Basra rail line is now underway, bringing the two neighboring states into an equal cooperative footing and opening prospects for greater rail and energy corridors extending from Iran through Iraq and into Syria, as a southern branch of the BRI.

In April 2019, Syria was invited to attend the first official BRI summit in Beijing, where President Assad stated:

“We have proposed around six projects to the Chinese government in line with the Belt and Road methodology and we are waiting to hear which project, or projects, will be in line with their thinking … I think when this infrastructure is developed, with time, the Silk Road (Belt and Road Initiative) passing through Syria becomes a foregone conclusion, because it is not a road you only draw on a map.”

So what, specifically, are those projects?

China and Syria are keeping their cards close to their chest when it comes to details for the moment. But it is not impossible to make some educated guesses about Assad’s wish-list by revisiting his earlier strategic vision for Syria.

Specifically, that would be the Five Seas Strategy that Assad had championed from 2004 to 2011, which disappeared from view once Syria was targeted for destruction.

The Five Seas strategy, in brief

The Five Seas strategy involves the construction of rail, roads and energy grids connecting the water systems of the Mediterranean, Persian Gulf, Black Sea, Red Sea and Caspian Sea with Syria. The project serves as a logical node uniting the diverse nations of Mackinder’s world island behind a program of harmonization, integration and win-win industrial cooperation.

In a 2009 interview, President Assad described this project passionately:

“Once the economic space between Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Iran becomes integrated, we would link the Mediterranean, Caspian, Black Sea, and the [Persian] Gulf . . . we aren’t just important in the Middle East . . . Once we link these four seas, we become the unavoidable intersection of the whole world in investment, transport, and more.”

These weren’t empty words. By 2011, Assad had led delegations and signed agreements with Turkey, Romania, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq and Lebanon to begin the Five Seas projects. This was done at a time when Libya’s President Qaddafi was well underway in building the Great Man-Made River, the largest water project in history alongside a coalition of nations that included Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt.

The true reasons for Qaddafi’s killing, the carving up of Sudan in 2009, and the current efforts at US-sponsored regime change in Ethiopia cannot be comprehended without an understanding of this potent, game-changing strategic paradigm that he and others were spearheading.

The need for secrecy

The secrecy of Chinese-West Asian diplomacy in the emerging post-regime change world now emerging should therefore be understood as an obvious necessity.

For the past decade, every time a West Asian or African nation makes a public announcement of a BRI-compatible program, that same nation has been promptly dragged through different degrees of foreign sabotage. Neither Assad nor the Chinese have any intention to replay that trend at this pivotal moment.

Soon after the heads of Syrian and Turkish intelligence agencies met in Baghdad in early September, Assad reportedly told a Lebanese delegation that “many Arab and non-Arab states are communicating with us, but asking us to keep this a secret.”

The nature of this secret diplomacy soon became clear, when the Arab League made its 23 November announcement of Syria’s re-admission into the fold.

Former sworn enemies of Bashar Assad, such as the UAE and Saudi Arabia, have demonstrated their willingness to accept their humiliation, recognize Assad’s legitimacy and adapt to the new powers China and Russia. Unlike decades of Anglo-American promises which treat Arab participants like disposable temporary interests, the China-Russia alliance contains tangible, measurable benefits, like security and development for all participants.

Multipolarity vs the ‘rules-based international order’

While the US wasted the past decade imposing sanctions and punishments on nations, institutions and individuals unaccepting of its global hegemony, China was patiently recruiting West Asian and African states to the BRI: a whopping 17 Arab nations and 46 African nations are taking part today.

NATO member Turkey has also been on the receiving end of Washington’s punishments, and has begun to view China as a potential means to a more independent future – one that comes with the financial resources to mitigate the country’s current economic woes and currency fluctuations.

Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia had once provided vast support for ISIS and Al Qaeda operations across Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, primarily through the purchase of ISIS-controlled oil and the supply of extremist fighters, clandestine funding and arms transfers. Such support has increasingly dried up, leaving ISIS with very little to work outside of what the CIA provides.

Despite US President Joe Biden re-affirming military support in October for the Kurdish-led Syrian Defense Forces (SDF) occupying north-east Syria, the Kurdish hand has also been overplayed. Many are finally recognizing that the Kurds have been duped into serving as a counter-gang to ISIS, and that promises for a Kurdish state have proved to be as illusory as the dream of Assad’s overthrow.

Erdogan may have tried to walk both worlds for some time, but it has increasingly become clear that Turkey’s only chance for survival rests with Russian military cooperation and China’s BRI (which crosses Turkey in the form of the Middle Corridor), both which demand a defense of Syria’s sovereignty.

As this new reality dawns on West Asia, and as the old unipolar order continues to veer towards a systemic collapse of historic proportions, there is good reason to believe that the region, or an important chunk of it, is already locked in and counting on the development and connectivity boom coming its way.

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

مرة أخرى إيران تنجح بوضع الأمور بين خيارين: «الاتفاق أو الاتفاق»

الثلاثاء 30 نوفمبر 2021

ناصر قنديل

ليست العودة إلى مفاوضات فيينا جولة استكشافية، ولا محاولة مفتوحة على احتمالات، فالشهور التي مضت منذ توقف التفاوض كانت هي شهور المفاوضات الفعلية، وساحة الاستكشاف الحقيقية، وميدان اختبار الاحتمالات المتعددة، وقبل سنوات عندما قررت واشنطن استئناف المفاوضات في مثل هذه الأيام من عام 2013 ، بعدما توقفت عام 2012، قلنا إن العودة للمفاوضات هي قرار بالتوصل لاتفاق، لأن ما سبق العودة كان اختبارات كافية للبدائل، وأن الحرب على سورية وتحريك الأساطيل نحوها في آب 2013، كانت سقف هذه الاختبارات، وفي كل مرة كان هناك من يعتقد بأن فرص التوصل للاتفاق تتراجع كنا نقول إن بديل الاتفاق هو الاتفاق، واليوم نعيد أن البدائل التي يتحدث عنها الإسرائيليون هي تلك التي حازوا تفويضاً أميركياً باختبارها ولكن سقفها عمليات التخريب التي لحقت بالمنشآت النووية، والاغتيالات التي استهدفت علماء الملف النووي، وراقب الأميركيون نتائجها فوجدوا ان المشروع النووي الإيراني لا يزال يتقدم، علماً أن الإسرائيلي قبض نقداً وسلفاً ثمن ما قام به، سواء بعمليات التطبيع مع الخليج، أو بأموال عربية مولت هذه العمليات، أما الحرب فقد اختبرها الأميركيون في عهد الرئيس السابق دونالد ترامب، سواء يوم أسقطت إيران طائرتهم التجسسية العملاقة فوق الخليج، أو يوم دكت بصواريخها قاعدة عين الأسد، رداً على اغتيال الجنرال قاسم سليماني.

الاختبارات التي يفترض أن تقرر مصير المفاوضات قد جرت، والبدائل التي يمكن أن يلجأون إليها قد تم اللجوء إليها، ولذلك نكرر وبثقة أن بديل الاتفاق هو الاتفاق، وأن شروط إيران للعودة إلى الاتفاق قد تم فرضها في ساحات الاشتباك التي جعلت مسار فيينا بتوقيت طهران خياراً وحيداً أمام الأميركيين، على رغم كثرة كلامهم عن أن الوقت ينفد من أمام خيار التفاوض، وهم يكررون ذلك طوال ستة شهور، ثم يعودون عندما قررت إيران أن العودة صارت مناسبة، فذلك لأن التفاوض يأتي على خلفية بدائل تم اختبارها، أولها كان في لبنان بمحاولة الإنقلاب على حزب الله من بوابة الأزمة الاقتصادية وتفجير الشارع بوجهه، وقد انتهت بنتيجة صفرية، والثانية بمحاولة دعم الحرب على اليمن ودفعها باتجاه الحسم، عبر تشديد الحصار وحملات التجويع، والقصف التدميري الوحشي، ففاجأتهم مأرب بحضورها وتحول الحرب إلى حسم معاكس يقترب، والثالثة بمحاولة تغيير قواعد الاشتباك في فلسطين، ودفع غزة إلى التنازل طلباً للقمة الخبز، فكان سيف القدس، والتدهور في ميزان الردع الإسرائيلي لحساب ميزان ردع معاكس.

بعد الانسحاب من أفغانستان يدرك الأميركيون أنهم خارج سياقات حروب جديدة، وبعد الاتفاق الصيني- الإيراني يدرك الأميركيون أن إيران لم تعد بحاجة حيوية للعودة إلى الاتفاق، بل إن إيران التي قطعت أشواطاً في تطوير برنامجها النووي مستظلة بالانسحاب الأميركي من الاتفاق، فرضت معادلة قوامها أن أميركا خسرت الاتفاق الذي كان يقيد البرنامج النووي الإيراني، ولم تكسب بالمقابل شيئاً في الميادين التي قالت إنها تعترض على عدم تضمينها للاتفاق، وهي البرنامج الصاروخي الإيراني، الذي باتت فروعه منتشرة على ضفاف البحر المتوسط والبحر الأحمر وفوق مياه الخليج، وصولاً لباب المندب، أما الوضع الإقليمي فقد بات حضور قوى المقاومة فيه صاحب اليد العليا في كل ساحات الاشتباك، وكما يقول الروس للأميركيين، لم تعودوا في وضع يهدد إيران بكلفة عدم العودة، بل عليكم أن تقدموا لها حوافز للعودة، ويكفي دليلاً أن إيران ليست راغبة بامتلاك سلاح نووي عودتها للمفاوضات بنية العودة للاتفاق، على رغم بلوغها العتبة النووية.

معادلة فيينا هي العودة للاتفاق أو العودة للاتفاق، وإلا لما تمت العودة إلى فيينا.

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

September 27, 2021

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A recent report published on Al Mayadeen’s website highlights the significance of Iran’s accession to full membership status at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a powerful international body that just grew even bigger.

The report suggests that Iran’s admission into the SCO is part of a broader global shift to a new world order in which the Asian region plays a central role.

Source:  Al Mayadeen (Website)

Date:  September 17, 2021

(Note: Please help us keep producing independent translations by contributing a small monthly amount here )

Transcript:

Iran is a Full Member of the “Shanghai Organization” … Timing and Economic Importance

17 September, 2021

The acceptance of Iran as a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) at this time  indicates(positive) signs (for the Islamic Republic), as it coincides with changes inside and outside the country. (These) changes appear to be in (Iran’s) favor, especially after it broke the US economic embargo by signing a strategic partnership agreement with China.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit began today in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, on the 20th anniversary of the foundation of this organization. The (SCO) defines itself as an international political, economic and security organization with a regional character represented by the Eurasia region. It was founded by China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan in the year 2001.

In 2005, Iran, India and Pakistan joined the organization as observer members, and in 2017, India and Pakistan became permanent members. Afghanistan, Mongolia and Belarus are currently observer member states of the organization, while the countries of Armenia, the Republic of Azerbaijan, Nepal, Cambodia, Turkey and Sri Lanka applied to join the organization in 2015.

However, the role of this organization and its political influence extend beyond the Eurasia region to other regions of the Asian continent, and even beyond (Asia’s) borders, given the economic and military weight enjoyed by its members. It is also gradually expanding outside its narrow scope by including other countries from the Central Asian region, the most important of which are India and Pakistan.


Iran as a Full Member of the Shanghai Organization

In another expansionary step with great significance at various levels, the Organization announced at its meeting today – through the words of Chinese President Xi Jinping – its acceptance to grant Iran full membership after (Tehran) had been an observer member for years. The Chinese president said: “Iran will be considered a full member of the Shanghai Organization at today’s meeting.”


The Significance of the Timing of the Membership

Granting Iran full membership within the Shanghai Organization at this time seems remarkable as it comes after:

1)  The China-Iran strategic agreement, which was signed in Tehran on March 27 (2021), after a regional tour by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi that included the Gulf states and Turkey. The Strategic Partnership Agreement, as it was called, is a 25-year agreement between the two countries covering the political, economic, military and industrial fields.

This agreement serves both countries, as it guarantees the global economic giant (China) further expansion in its role and establishment of its presence on the international scene, especially in the countries that the United States has placed on the list of “forbidden regions” upon which harsh economic sanctions are imposed. It also gives Iran an opportunity to liberate itself from these sanctions and sell its oil products which the US not only refuses to buy, but also prevents other countries from buying by threatening them with sanctions, in an attempt to put economic pressure on Iran to change its political positions.

(According to this agreement), in return for its exported oil, Iran can import what it needs in terms of industrial equipment, machinery and expertise, and prepare (develop) its ports and infrastructure with Chinese assistance. (This step) allows China to use these facilities to export its products via land and sea towards the eastern shores of the Mediterranean, and on to the European continent in the north, and Africa in the south.


2) The complete and rushed US military withdrawal from Afghanistan, the country that has been occupied by the United States and its NATO allies for 20 years.

Afghanistan is located within the borders of the Eurasian region, between the two major countries in the world, China and Russia. The United States sought to prevent the rapprochement (between these two countries) and impede their economic growth, especially China’s, by cutting off the routes for its land and sea exports to the West, and threatening its security by igniting wars and security disturbances.

It is worth noting that it is no coincidence that the organization was formed only 4 months before the date of the American invasion of Afghanistan, and to the sound of the drums of war that the US and Britain started after the September 11 attacks that toppled the World Trade Center in New York and targeted the US Department of Defense (Pentagon).

The US role in obstructing the work of the Shanghai Organization and the growth of China’s economic standing was demonstrated by the rush of the “Taliban” movement leaders – which quickly and gradually seized all the Afghan regions in conjunction with the departure of the occupying (US) forces – to visit China, meet officials in its Foreign Ministry, emphasize China’s pivotal role in the reconstruction of the country exhausted by occupation and conflicts, and reassure (Beijing) that they will not use Afghan territory to target the security of other countries.


3) The election of a new president of Iran last June.

The (former) head of the judiciary and a strongman, Ibrahim Raisi won by a large margin of votes over his remaining rivals, this after the withdrawal of the most famous candidates in his favor, one of which was the former chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili.

Since the beginning of his term, Raisi has sought to enhance his country’s presence and position in the world by strengthening its relations at the regional level, and benefiting from all its capabilities, foremost of which is its geographical location. During his speech at the (Shanghai) summit, the Iranian president stated that “Iran can be a bridge for Eurasia linking the north to the south.”

Before heading to Tajikistan, Raisi said that his country’s participation in the summit “will focus on our economic and cultural relations with Asian countries,” stressing that “cooperation with neighboring countries and the region is a top priority of Iran’s foreign policy.” Last August, Raisi declared that strengthening Iran’s relations with Russia and China, the two main members of the organization, was one of the priorities of his foreign policy.


Creating Economic Opportunities for Iran and Liberating it from the US Embargo

Of the three previous points, the strategic agreement between Iran and China – Beijing forming the most prominent pillar of the organization – is the most important thing that contributed to Iran’s full membership. What occurred appears to be nothing other than the expansion of the official international recognition of Iran’s regional role and presence; a greater facilitation (for Iran) to help it get through the (all-out) US embargo; and the creation of opportunities for Iran in different fields by China and Russia.

President Vladimir Putin stated during his speech at the summit that his country “supports the decision submitted for approval by the Council of Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization regarding the start of procedures for Iran’s admission to the organization,” stressing the mutual importance of its admission by saying that this would “increase the international influence of the organization.”

The first Iranian comment came from the spokesman for the head of the Iranian Parliament, Nizamuddin Mousavi, who said in an interview with ISNA that what we are witnessing is “the establishment of a new world order, where the Eastern Power Quartet (Russia, China, India, Iran) brings together some of the most important international players in this new world order.” He added that “Iran’s admission into this organization, despite Washington’s opposition, proves that the era of unilateral policies is over, and that we are witnessing the establishment of a new world order.”

In economic terms, Mousavi said that his country’s admission “means reaching a market of 3 billion people, and this is a great opportunity that requires a roadmap so that we can benefit from it in the best way.”

This accession was preceded by the nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 states, several rounds of which were conducted in the Austrian capital Vienna in the last months of the term of former President Hassan Rouhani. There was talk of future rounds of negotiations after the formation of the first Iranian government under President Ibrahim Raisi. The accession (of Iran to SCO membership) also came after the positive visit of the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, to Tehran, and his meeting with the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Mohammad Eslami.

All the foregoing factors contribute to the reassurance that Iran feels at the beginning of Ibrahim Raisi presidency, and brings the country closer to an international position that (Tehran) seeks despite the obstacles posed by its enemies. However, to hold on to these gains and take advantage of the new opportunities available, Iran will face major challenges (in the road ahead).


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

SEPTEMBER 24, 2021

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

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

Part 1 is here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remember the Scythians

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Revenge of the Heartland

Glenn Diesen, Professor at the University of South-Eastern Norway and an editor at the Russia in Global Affairs journal, is among the very few top scholars who are analyzing the process of Eurasia integration in depth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

العودة إلى الاتفاق النووي… بلا شروط

 ناصر قنديل

  رغم الكلام الفارغ الصادر عن المسؤولين الأميركيين، تحت عنوان أنّ واشنطن لن تواصل التفاوض حول الملف النووي الإيراني إلى ما لا نهاية، وعن خيار التخلي عن الاتفاق النووي، أو عن وجود بدائل للعودة إلى الاتفاق، يعرف كل مسؤول في واشنطن وتل أبيب والرياض وباريس ولندن وبرلين أن ليس في جعبتهم شيء غير العودة إلى الاتفاق، وأنّ كلّ الطلبات الإضافية كأثمان للعودة، سواء في الملفات الإقليمية أو ملف الصواريخ أو إبقاء بعض العقوبات، سيعني عدم العودة، كما يعرفون أنه عندما تقول إيران إنها لن تواصل التفاوض إلى ما لا نهاية وإن لديها بدائل للاتفاق، فيجب أن يأخذوا كلامها على محمل الجد، ذلك أن الزمن يفعل لصالح إيران، وفقاً لما يقوله الأميركيون والإسرائيليون وما قاله بالأمس مدير عام الوكالة الدولية للطاقة الذرية، عن أنّ إيران تستثمر الوقت لمراكمة المزيد من اليورانيوم المخصّب بنسب عالية يجعلها أقرب لما يسمّونه بالحظة النووية الحرجة، وهي لحظة امتلاك ما يكفي لإنتاج قنبلة نووية.

بالتوازي لا يملك الأميركيون والأوروبيون سوى إغواء رفع العقوبات لتحفيز إيران لقبول العودة، والالتزام بموجباتها المنصوص عليها في الاتفاق، خصوصاً أن إيران التزمت منفردة لسنتين بالاتفاق في ظل الانسحاب الأميركي بلا سبب أو مبرّر كما يقول جميع الشركاء الآخرين بمن فيهم الأوروبيون ووكالة الطاقة الذرية والأمم المتحدة عدا عن الصين وروسيا، والعودة عن العقوبات اليوم هي إعلان العودة إلى الاتفاق من الجانب الأميركي لامتلاك مشروعية مطالبة إيران بالعودة المماثلة، ووفقاً لما يقوله الأميركيون و»الإسرائيليون» أيضاً فإنّ رفع العقوبات عن إيران لم يعد يملك ذات السحر الذي كان يملكه قبل ست سنوات يوم توقيع الاتفاق في مثل هذه الأيام، حيث كانت العقوبات صادرة عن الأمم المتحدة، وهذا قد سقط إلى غير رجعة، وفتح أمام إيران الطريق لحلول اقتصادية ومالية عديدة، لم تنجح العقوبات الأميركية بتعطيلها، فالمتاجرة بين إيران وروسيا والصين وتركيا وباكستان واليابان وكوريا الجنوبية والعراق  وسواها من الدول، بقيت تجد بدائل لها تتفادى العقوبات الأميركية، فيما نجحت إيران بتطوير صناعات نفطية أضعفت حاجتها لتصدير النفط الخام، كما نجحت بتطوير اقتصادها لتفادي حجم الاقتصاد الاستهلاكي والريعي لحساب الإنتاج.

عندما تقول واشنطن إنها تستعجل العودة إلى الاتفاق النووي تسهيلاً للتفرغ لمواجهة الصين، فهل تنتظر من الصين أن تقف مكتوفة الأيدي، وهي تعلم وتقول إنها تعلم، أن الاتفاق الاستراتيجي الاقتصادي بين الصين وإيران أفقد العقوبات الأميركية فعاليتها، وأسقط قيمة العودة للاتفاق النووي بالنسبة لإيران، وجعل عائداته مجرد مكاسب إضافية لا يجوز إضاعتها، لكنها لا تستحق القتال من أجلها، فيما تعرف واشنطن أن الضفة الدولية الموازية للاهتمام الأميركي بالمواجهة التي تمثلها موسكو باتت شريكاً استراتيجياً لطهران في العديد من السياسات الإقليمية، التي تجعل الحفاظ على إيران قوية موضع اهتمام صيني- روسي، لا يمكن للأميركي تبديله لا بالإغراءات ولا بالتهديدات لكل من الصين وروسيا.

الكلام الأميركي عن بدائل يعني شيئاً واحداً هو العودة إلى خطة الرئيس السابق دونالد ترامب التي صعد الرئيس جو بايدن على قاعدة القول بأنها خطأ جسيم، وأنه في ظلها طوّرت إيران نظام الصواريخ وطوّرت قوى المقاومة مزيداً من الحضور، وتمّ اختصار المسافة عن اللحظة النووية الحرجة من سنة إلى بضعة أسابيع كما قال كل من وزير الخارجية الأميركية أنتوني بلينكن ومستشار الأمن القومي الأميركي جايك سوليفان والمبعوث الأميركي الخاص روبرت مالي مراراً، أما الرهان على الخيار العسكري، فهل من عاقل يتخيّل أنّ أحداً يأخذه على محمل الجد في ضوء المشهد الأفغاني، والتلويح بالاعتماد على ضربات «إسرائيلية» يبدو مجرد مزحة سمجة في ضوء الكلام «الإسرائيلي» والمؤيد أميركياً بأن إيران وقوى المقاومة في وضع تفوّق استراتيجي، وفائض قوة يتيح تحويل أي تحرش «إسرائيلي» جدي إلى مبرر لمواجهة شاملة لن تكون نهايتها في صالح «إسرائيل».

مرة أخرى كما كانت الحال عليه قبل ست سنوات، لا بديل للاتفاق مع إيران إلا الاتفاق مع إيران، ومضمون الاتفاق عودة غير مشروطة عن العقوبات، على قاعدة الالتزام المتبادل بالاتفاق الأصلي من دون الرهان على متغيرات وتحوّلات، هي في غير صالح الثنائي الأميركي «الإسرائيلي».

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إيران والطالبان وشيعة افغانستان

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منذ أيام أتابع الجدل في مختلف الاوساط عن مستقبل شيعة أفغانستان في ظلّ دولة طالبان، وما هو دور إيران؟ وبعد تتبعٍ دقيقٍ، ومحاورات معتمدة مع جهات عالمة نعرض إليكم التالي :

لا ريب في أنّ إيران ضدّ الأمريكان , والأمريكان لا يخفون عداوتهم لإيران وعموم التشيّع , وأنّ الأمريكان أصحاب مشروع لا يمكن أن يمضي في المنطقة – كما يرون هم – في ظلّ وجود الصحوة والنهضة الاسلامية والمقاومة، وهذا الأمر واضحٌ للجميع , كما أنّ إيران تريد أنْ تصل إلى قمّة التطوّر الحضاريّ، وتتموضع هي والشيعة في العالم في قلب التطورات , وأنْ لا يبقي الشيعة خارج الحدث، فيأتي الغربيون ليمزّقوا المنطقة كما حصل في سايكس بيكو وغيرها والمسلمون يتفرجون.

وإيران لا تقبل أنْ يبقى العالم الإسلاميّ متفرّجاً على ما تفعله أمريكا في العالم الإسلاميّ، وتلك ثوابت لا يمكن النقاش فيها بالنسبة لإيران .

وفق هذه المقدّمة لا نعني أنّ إيران سعت أو ساعدت على تسليم أفغانستان بيد الطالبان، بل الذي حصل باختصار هو ما يلي :الأمريكان قبل خمس سنوات دخلوا بمفاوضات عبر قطر مع الطالبان، دون علم إيران، بل ومن دون علم الحكومة الأفغانية المنتخبة , وهم الذين خططوا لاستيلاء الطالبان مجددا على البلاد لأسبابٍ كثيرةٍ، وهنا تتعدد القراءات حتى داخل إيران.

إنّ إيران أدركت أنّ ثمّة حواراً ( أمريكيّاً – طالبانيّاً ) فلا بدّ لها أنْ تدخل على الخطّ، وتعدّ العدّة لتدارك الخطر، وتوجيه الموقف داخل أفغانستان، وتؤثّر على طالبان بما يجعل تأثيرهم أقلّ خطورةً على الشيعة في أفغانستان، وحتّى على إيران؛ لأنّ الطالبان مكوّن كبيرٌ ومؤثّر مجاورٌ لإيران، وهنا تمكّنت الحكمة الإيرانية من استيعاب واحتواء وترويض الطالبان حقناً للدماء، ونزعاً لفتيل الفتنة التي يخطط لها الأمريكان مع أنّ ما حصل ليس خيارهم الاختياري .

نعم، إنّ إيران دخلت – بحكم التكليف الشرعيّ، وما تقتضيه الحكمة التي لابدّ من ممارستها في هذا الظرف الحسّاس – لمنع الحرب الأفغانية ودفع مشكلة تدفق الملايين من الأفغان لإيران مجددا , فإنها بالكاد تمكّنت من أنْ تعيد (4) مليون أفغانيّ مهاجر إليها أبان الحرب والأحداث في فترة حكم طالبان الأولى قبل 20 عاماً.

إيران أمام مخططٍ أمريكيٍّ خطيرٍ لا يمكن النظر إليه بسطحيةٍ؛ فإنّ كلّ الاحتمالات ممكنة، إلا أنها تدرك أنّ الواقع يفرض التوجّه منها نحو الاحتواء لترويض طالبان والسير بهم إلى تقبّل أنْ يكون هناك تعايش وسلام، وأنْ تنتقل طالبان من عقلية القبيلة والتفرّد إلى عقليةٍ واقعيةٍ لتأسيس نظام سياسيّ، وليس نظاما قبليّاً .

خلال متابعاتنا للأحداث نجد أنّ التصريحات الطالبانية والمواقف تتجه إلى نوعٍ من تقبّل الآخر، ويبدو أنّ الطالبان اليوم أكثر لينا من قبلُ؛ لأسبابٍ كثيرةٍ , وهذا ما تفيده الوقائع والمجالس الحسينية والشعائر والدخول السلميّ لعموم المدن الأفغانية, أمّا ما يعرض من صورٍ للإرهاب فهي قديمة وتوجد فعلا بعض الثغرات .

الطالبان اليوم لا يمتلكون حرية العودة إلى الإرهاب لأسبابٍ كثيرةٍ؛ كونهم يدركون أنّهم محاصرون من الروس والصين وإيران، فليس أمامهم إلّا أنْ يلبسوا ثوب التعايش، ويمارسوا عقلية العمل السياسيّ، لا القبليّ , وهذا ما أكّدته المواقف المتعددة الى الان والتصريحات .

الطالبان بدل أنْ يستثمرهم الأمريكيّ والسعوديّ كشوكةٍ ضدّ التشيّع ولأجل إرباك الموقف في آسيا؛ فإنّ إيران تسعى جادّة لترويضهم و((بقفازات)) في غاية الدقّة، ورسم مخرجات الحكم بيدها لا بيد الأمريكان , فكان المؤتمر الأوّل الذي رعته إيران بقيادة وزير الخارجية الإيراني السابق السيّد ظريف، وعشرات اللقاءات السرية، وسوف تستمر .

الطالبان قوّة متواجدة على الأرض الآن ومستقبلا , وبدلاً من أنْ يكونوا أداةً طيّعةً بيد الإرهاب والمخططات الصهيونية، فإنّ إيران تسعى أنْ يكونوا متعايشين مع الواقع، وهذا ما تتجه إليه الأحداث، ولكنّ كلّ شيء محتملٌ، وعلى الحكيم أنْ يمارس حكمته في كلّ الأحوال.

طالبان اليوم المحرّك الأوّل لهم هو دولة قطر؛ لأنها تريد أنْ تُوجِدَ ضدّاً نوعيّاً للسعودية والإمارات، وهذا أمر مهم بالنسبة للشيعة لتفكيك قوي التحالف الطائفي .

طالبان بحكم الواقع محاصرون جغرافياً، وهذا مصدر ضعفهم الذي يجعل من إيران تُدرك إمكانية احتوائهم وفق الحقائق التالية :

(أ). إنّهم محاصرون من الروس وإيران والصين وباكستان، وأغلب هذه الدول تختلف معهم، وتخافُ من الإرهاب وهذا الأمر يمنع على الطالبان العودة إلى الارهاب .

(ب) . الأفغان لا منفذ جغرافي لهم ولا تصدير ولا توريد إلّا عبر هذه الدول، وإيران هي الأقرب لهم .

(ج). الصين لديها مشروع الحرير، والروس لها تاريخ من الدماء في أفغانستان، وهذا الأمر حساس يحدد طبيعة السلوك الطالباني.

(د). مقايسة الأفغان بين إيران والروس والصين حتما يختارون الصين وإيران أوّلاً.

(هـ). الشيعة الأفغان وإنْ كانوا أقلّية في الداخل إلّا أنّ وجود إيران المجاورة لهم يمنح الشيعة الأفغان عمقاً وقوّة.

(و) إيران لديها تحالف صيني حول خطّ الحرير، وتفاهم مع الروس حول المنطقة، ومستقبل الغاز، ومياه البحر المتوسّط، وقزوين وسوريا, فلا بدّ أنْ تخرج طالبان من أيدولوجية الإرهاب وفق الواقع الدولي .

هذا هو الواقع المنطقيّ، علما أنّ إيران لم تتخلَّ عن المسلمين في البوسنة والهرسك، ولا الشعب الفلسطينيّ، ولا شيعة العراق ولبنان، وهي من دافعت عن سورية، وبالتأكيد أنّها ستقف مع شيعة ومسلمي وقوميات أفغانستان، وكلّ هذا يحتاج إلى جهد وصبر طويل، لأنها لاتريد ان تخسر حلفائها.

اقتبس مايلي من تصريح :اعتقد ان (الكيان الأمريكي) بمسمياته المختلفة مخترق،وبعيد عن واقع المنطقة،وقد استطاع القطريون التأثير عليه بالتنسيق مع زلماى كما أثر الاماراتيون على الإدارة السابقة.

وضع الشيعة ليس سهلا و هناك مساع للمحافظة على مكتسباتهم السابقة ونسأل الله التوفيق .

ايران الجديدة من شانغهاي إلى ما بعد عصر الدولار

أغسطس 14 2021

 محمد صادق الحسيني

علامات ومؤشرات عديدة تفيد بقوة بأن ايران باتت تتجه بقوة نحو خيار الشرق اولاً.

وانّ عهد الرئيس الإيراني الجديد، سيكون عهد الإفلات والانفكاك من الحصار الغربي لا سيما الاميركي.

 وطبقاً  لمصادر متطابقة من طهران وموسكو ودوشنبه فان تاريخ 16 و 17 ايلول/ سبتمر المقبل سيكون نقطة تحول جديدة في العلاقات الايرانية الاوراسيوية حيث ستحضر إيران رسمياً كعضو كامل الصلاحية قمة منظمة شانغهاي للتعاون، بحضور السيد ابراهيم رئيسي في العاصمة الطاجيكية دوشنبه، وذلك بعد تلقي الأخير دعوة رسمية بهذا الخصوص.

وتأتي هذه الخطوة المتقدمة للتعاون بين ايران ودول المنظمة، باقتراح رسمي من القيادة الروسية لتكون البند الاول على جدول اعمال القمة المقبلة.

تجدر الاشارة الى ان منظمة شانغهاي للتعاون منظمة دولية سياسية اقتصادية امنية لعموم منطقة اوراسيا، تأسست في 15 حزيران/ يونيو العام 2001 في  مدينة شانغهاي الصينية، وتضم في عضويتها اضافة للصين وروسيا كلا من الهند والباكستان وكازاخستان وقرقيزستان وطاجيكستان واوزبكستان، وكانت ايران حتى الآن عضواً مراقباً فيها.

ويأتي اقتراح الرئيس الروسي فلاديمير بوتين اعتماد إيران كعضو كامل العضوية في قمة طاجيكستان المقبلة، في اطار تعزيز التعاون الاقليمي الذي تسعى اليه كل من موسكو وحليفاتها وطهران، وهو ما من شأنه ان يغيّر الكثير من معادلات الصراع والمواجهة بين طهران والغرب على الصعد المختلفة، من بينها الاطاحة بما تبقى لواشنطن من خيارات الحصار او استخدام سلاح الدولار لتركيع الارادة الايرانية المستقلة…!

ولعلّ النقطة الاكثر حساسية هي التوافق المنتظر بين دول منظمة شانغهاي للاستغناء التدريجي عن عملة الدولار في تعاملاتهم البينية تماماً كما هو الوضع حالياً بين موسكو وبكين. ..!

هذا الانتقال النوعي للعلاقة بين طهران ودول منظمة شانغهاي للتعاون سيفتح الباب واسعاً امام تطبيق الاتفاقيات المتعددة بين طهران وبكين في إطار التعاون الاستراتيجي الشهير لمدة ٢٥ عاماً، وكذلك للاتفاقية الاستراتيجية الطويلة الأمد بين طهران وموسكو لمدة ٢٠ عاماً والتي تشمل اتفاقيات المعلوماتية المتطورة وصولاً الى اتفاقيات التسلح من الصواريخ الى الفضاء الى الفرط صوتية وما بينهما من مشاريع عابرة للقارات مثل التعاون في المحيطات ومشروع طريق واحد حزام واحد الصيني الشهير…!

مراقبون متابعون لهذا الملف يعتقدون بقوة بان العالم يتقدم بسرعة نحو عصر ما بعد الدولار، وان مركز ثقل التوازن الدولي ينتقل رويداً رويداً  من الغرب الى الشرق.

بعدنا طيبين قولوا الله..

إنزالات الأطلسيّ لفكّ التحالف الروسيّ الصينيّ الإيرانيّ

10 July 2021

 محمد صادق الحسينيّ

لا بدّ لأيّ محلل سياسيّ، ينتهج أسلوب البحث العلمي الموضوعي والمستند الى المنطق، ان يعود قليلاً بالذاكرة الى الوراء، كي يتمكن من تقديم تحليل موضوعيّ وتقدير موقف دقيق للمناورات البحرية الواسعة النطاق، التي تجريها القوات البحرية لدول حلف شمال الأطلسي، الى جانب قوات بحرية إسرائيلية ومن أربع دول عربية هي: مصر، المغرب، الإمارات وتونس! منذ 28/6/2021 وتُختتم اليوم 10/7/2021، خاصة أنّ المهمة، التي تتدرب هذه القوات البحرية على تنفيذها، تتمثل أساساً في:

أولا: عمليات إنزال بحرية على ارض العدو.

ثانيا: تنفيذ عمليات برية على أرض العدو. وهذا يعني في العلم العسكري القيام بعمليات الإنزال البحري لإقامة رؤوس جسور للقوات المدرّعة والمشاة الميكانيكية، التي سيتم إبرارها من سفن الإنزال، بعد نجاح تثبيت رؤوس الجسور على أرض العدو (وهي في هذه الحالة روسيا بلا أدنى شك لأنها البلد الوحيد في حوض البحر الأسود، التي تتعامل معها الولايات المتحدة وحلف الأطلسي كبلد عدو).

ثالثا: عمليات بحرية تنفذها وحدات من الضفادع البشرية، التابعة لدول حلف الأطلسي (وهي بالتأكيد عمليات زراعة ألغام بحرية في طرق تحرّكات الأساطيل الروسية المدنية والحربية في البحر الاسود، إضافة الى القيام بعمليات تخريب لمنشآت عسكرية بحرية روسية في موانئ البحر الأسود.

رابعا: التدرّب على حرب الغواصات.

خامسا: التدرّب على عمليات الدفاع الجوي وعمليات القوات الخاصة. (وهذا يعني، من الناحية العسكرية، إنزال قوات خاصة تابعة لحلفخامس الأطلسي خلف خطوط العدو وتقديم الغطاء الجوي لها لتمكينها من تنفيذ العمليات المكلفة بها من دون أن تتعرّض لنيران المقاتلات الروسية في ارض المعركة. بالاضافة الى تأمين الغطاء الجوي لعمليات الانزال البحري وللسفن الحربية الاطلسية المشاركة في العمليات ايضاً، وذلك حسب ما أعلن على الصفحة الرسمية لسلاح البحرية الأميركي، قبيل بدء المناورات.

 إذن فإن الهدف من هذه المناورات هو التدرب، وعلى مقربة شديدة من الأهداف الروسية، على عمليات عسكرية اطلسية تُشنُ على أراضي جمهورية روسيا الاتحادية، بحراً وجواً.

علماً أن خطة المناورات، التي تجري حالياً في البحر الأسود، هي نسخة طبق الأصل عن خطة عسكرية بريطانية فرنسية، جرى البدء بالتخطيط لها في شهر 12/1939 وأنجزت في شهر 1/1940، وأطلق عليها اسم: عملية الرمح – Operation Pike – وتمثلت أهداف الخطة آنذاك في:

أ) قصف كافة آبار النفط السوفياتية، في منطقة القوقاز الشمالي، خاصة في باكو وغروزني، وتدميرها تدميراً كاملاً.

ب) أسندت قيادة العمليّة لجنرال سلاح الجو البريطاني، سيدني كوتون، والذي بدأ بإعداد أول الصور الجوية لمناطق الحقول المستهدفة في شهري آذار ونيسان 3 و4/1940.

ج) بعد استكمال عمليات الاستطلاع الأخيرة للأهداف بدأت قيادة العملية، تحت إشراف وزارتي الحرب البريطانية والفرنسية، بنقل ثلاثة أسراب من الطائرات المقاتلة البريطانيّة الى الموصل، في العراق، وستة أسراب جوية فرنسيّة الى سورية. وقد ضمّت هذه الأسراب طائرات من طراز: فامرمان / ف 221 / طائرات مارتن ميري لاند ، وطائرات فيكرز . بحيث أصبح العدد الإجمالي، لطائرات القوة الجوية البريطانية الفرنسية، المكلفة بتدمير آبار النفط السوفياتية، هو 117 طائرة.

د) وفي الوقت نفسة تابعت القيادة العامة للعملية استكمال بعض التفاصيل الميدانية على أن يبدأ تنفيذ عمليات القصف الجوي لموانئ كل من: باكو / باتومي / باتو / على البحر الأسود، إضافة الى مدينة غروزني في جمهورية الشيشان، في نهاية شهر حزيران 1940.

ه) لكن قيام الجيش الألماني الهتلري بشن هجومه على فرنسا، بتاريخ 20/5/1940 واحتلالها بسرعة قياسية، وعثور فرقة الدبابات التاسعة الألمانية، بتاريخ 16/6/1940، على خطة العملية البريطانية الفرنسية، في هيئة أركان الجيش الفرنسي في ناحية La Charité – sur Loire، قد كشف العملية.

و) ومن الجدير بالذكر أن الماريشال هيرمان غويرينغ ، وهو وزير الطيران الحربي الألماني الهتلريّ، قد أكد في محكمة نورينبيرغ، التي حوكم فيها من بقي على قيد الحياة من القادة النازيين، أن قيادة الاستطلاع الاستراتيجي الألمانية كانت قد سجلت تحشيداً جوياً، بريطانياً فرنسياً، استعداداً لتنفيذ عملية السهم.

كان الهدف المعلن في خطط هيئة الأركان، من قبل لندن وباريس، لهذه العملية هو حرمان ألمانيا النازية من الموارد النفطية السوفياتية، خاصة بعد توقيع اتفاقية التعاون الاقتصادي السوفياتية الألمانية، في صيف 1939، حسب الوثائق السرية المتعلقة بهذا الموضوع والتي رفعت عنها السرية قبل فترة وجيزة.

لكن الأهداف الحقيقية من وراء ذلك كانت مختلفةً عما تضمنتة وثائق هيئة الأركان الفرنسية والبريطانية. إذ إنهما كانتا تهدفان الى البدء بتدمير موارد النفط السوفياتية تمهيداً للبدء بعمليات هجوميّة بحرية وجوية ضد أراضي الاتحاد السوفياتي، تحت حجة التعاون السوفياتي الألماني. أي ابتزاز الاتحاد السوفياتي تحت تهديد العدوان العسكري بهدف إلغاء اتفاقياته مع ألمانيا.

 وفي هذا الإطار قام السفير البريطاني في موسكو ريتشارد ستافورد كريبس ، في شهر 10/1940، بتقديم عرض لوزير الخارجية السوفياتي، مولوتوف ينص على تخلي بريطانيا عن عمليات تدمير حقول النفط السوفياتية مقابل أن يتخذ الاتحاد السوفياتي موقفاً محايداً في الحرب الألمانية البريطانية.

وهذه هي السياسة نفسها، التي تمارسها الولايات المتحدة الأميركية مستخدمة حلف الاطلسي ومجموعة من الدول العميلة لها، في ابتزاز القيادة الروسية الآن لتقديم تنازلات سياسية، سواء على الصعيد الاستراتيجي الدولي او في مواضيع إقليمية تهم الأمن القومي الروسي، كموضوع العلاقة مع إيران وسورية وغيرها من المواضيع والملفات.

إلا أن هدف واشنطن الاستراتيجي الاول، من وراء مواصلة الضغط العسكري على روسيا، من خلال التحركات العسكرية الاستفزازية، لواشنطن وحلف الاطلسي على حدود روسيا الشمالية الغربية وفي البحر الأسود، انما هو محاولة لوقف التعاون الصيني الروسي، على الصعيد الاستراتيجي الدولي، خاصة في مجال الدفاع المشترك، او ما تسميه واشنطن منع تشكل وتعمق الحلف العسكري الروسي الصيني المتنامي، الذي “يهدّد” الأمن القومي الأميركي.

وهو ما يؤكد أن سياسة الدول الاستعمارية الغربية هي السياسة العدوانية التوسعية نفسها، القائمة على الابتزاز وفرض الهيمنة، وتهديد السلم الدولي. ولكن موازين القوى الدولية الحاليّة ومنطق حركية (ديناميكية) العلاقات الدولية الحاليّة، بما في ذلك وجود محور مقاومة معادٍ للسياسة التوسعية الأميركية، ومستنداً الى دعم سياسي ودبلوماسي، وعسكري في بعض المواقع، من كل من جمهورية الصين الشعبية وروسيا الاتحادية، نقول إن كل ذلك سيفشل النسخة الجديدة من السياسة الاستعمارية الغربية، التي تجمع بين التهديد العسكري والعدوان الاقتصادي المباشر، عبر فرض العقوبات الاقتصادية والمالية على العديد من الدول وعلى رأسها الصين وروسيا وكوريا الشمالية وإيران وسورية وفنزويلا.

بعدنا طيبين قولوا الله…

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