All roads lead to the Battle for Kabul

August 10, 2021

All roads lead to the Battle for Kabul

City after city have fallen from government to Taliban control but Afghanistan’s end-game is still unclear

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

The ever-elusive Afghan “peace” process negotiations re-start this Wednesday in Doha via the extended troika – the US, Russia, China and Pakistan. The contrast with the accumulated facts on the ground could not be starker.

In a coordinated blitzkrieg, the Taliban have subdued no less than six Afghan provincial capitals in only four days. The central administration in Kabul will have a hard time defending its stability in Doha.

It gets worse. Ominously, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has all but buried the Doha process. He’s already betting on civil war – from the weaponization of civilians in the main cities to widespread bribing of regional warlords, with the intent of building a “coalition of the willing” to fight the Taliban.

The capture of Zaranj, the capital of Nimruz province, was a major Taliban coup. Zaranj is the gateway for India’s access to Afghanistan and further on to Central Asia via the International North-South Transportation Corridor (INSTC).

India paid for the construction of the highway linking the port of Chabahar in Iran – the key hub of India’s faltering version of the New Silk Roads – to Zaranj.

At stake here is a vital Iran-Afghanistan border crossing cum Southwest/Central Asia transportation corridor. Yet now the Taliban control trade on the Afghan side. And Tehran has just closed the Iranian side. No one knows what happens next.

The Taliban are meticulously implementing a strategic master plan. There’s no smoking gun, yet – but highly informed outside help – Pakistani ISI intel? – is plausible.

First, they conquer the countryside – a virtually done deal in at least 85% of the territory. Then they control the key border checkpoints, as with Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Iran and Spin Boldak with Balochistan in Pakistan. Finally, it’s all about encircling and methodically taking provincial capitals – that’s where we are now.

Taliban posing with military garb stolen from Dostum’s palace in Sheberghan. Photo: Supplied

The final act will be the Battle for Kabul. This may plausibly happen as early as September, in a warped “celebration” of the 20 years of 9/11 and the American bombing of 1996-2001 Talibanistan.

That strategic blitzkrieg

What’s going on across the north is even more astonishing than in the southwest.

The Taliban have conquered Sheberghan, a heavily Uzbek-influenced area, and took no time to spread images of fighters in stolen garb posing in front of the now-occupied Dostum Palace. Notoriously vicious warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum happens to be the current Afghan vice-president.

The Taliban’s big splash was to enter Kunduz, which is still not completely subdued. Kunduz is very important strategically. With 370,000 people and quite close to the Tajik border, it’s the main hub of northeast Afghanistan.

Kabul government forces have simply fled. All prisoners were released from local jails. Roads are blocked. That’s significant because Kunduz is at the crossroads of two important corridors – to Kabul and Mazar-i-Sharif. And crucially, it’s also a crossroads of corridors used to export opium and heroin.

The Bundeswehr used to occupy a military base near Kunduz airport, now housing the 217th Afghan Army corps. That’s where the few remaining Afghan government forces have retreated.

The Taliban are now bent on besieging the historically legendary Mazar-i-Sharif, the big northern city, even more important than Kunduz. Mazar-i-Sharif is the capital of Balkh province. The top local warlord, for decades, has been Atta Mohammad Noor, who I met 20 years ago.

He’s now vowing to defend “his” city “until the last drop of my blood.” That, in itself, spells out a major civil war scenario.

The Taliban endgame here is to establish a west-east axis from Sheberghan to Kunduz and the also captured Taloqan, the capital of Takhar province, via Mazar-i-Sharif in Balkh province, and parallel to the northern borders with Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

If that happens, we’re talking about an irreversible, logistical game-changer, with virtually the whole north escaping from the control of Kabul. No way the Taliban will “negotiate” this win – in Doha or anywhere else.

An extra astonishing fact is that all these areas do not feature a Pashtun majority, unlike Kandahar in the south and Lashkar Gah in the southwest, where the Taliban are still fighting to establish complete control.

The Taliban’s control over almost all international border crossings yielding customs revenue leads to serious questions about what happens next to the drug business.

Will the Taliban again interdict opium production – like the late Mullah Omar did in the early 2000s? A strong possibility is that distribution will not be allowed inside Afghanistan.

After all, export profits can only benefit Taliban weaponization – against future American and NATO “interference.” And Afghan farmers may earn much more with opium poppy cultivation than with other crops.

NATO’s abject failure in Afghanistan is visible in every aspect. In the past, Americans used military bases in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. The Bundeswehr used the base in Termez, Uzbekistan, for years.

Termez is now used for Russian and Uzbek joint maneuvers. And the Russians left their base in Kyrgzstan to conduct joint maneuvers in Tajikistan. The whole security apparatus in the neighboring Central Asian “stans” is being coordinated by Russia.

China’s main security priority, meanwhile, is to prevent future jihadi incursions in Xinjiang, which involve extremely hard mountain crossings from Afghanistan to Tajikistan and then to a no man’s land in the Wakhan corridor. Beijing’s electronic surveillance is tracking anything that moves in this part of the roof of the world.

This Chinese think tank analysis shows how the moving chessboard is being tracked. The Chinese are perfectly aware of the “military pressure on Kabul” running in parallel to the Taliban diplomatic offensive, but prefer to stress their “posing as an aggressive force ready to take over the regime.”

Chinese realpolitik also recognizes that “the United States and other countries will not easily give up the operation in Afghanistan for many years, and will not be willing to let Afghanistan become the sphere of influence of other countries.”

This leads to characteristic Chinese foreign policy caution, with practically an advice for the Taliban not to “be too big,” and try “to replace the Ghani government in one fell swoop.”

How to prevent a civil war

So is Doha DOA? Extended troika players are doing what they can to salvage it. There are rumors of feverish “consultations” with the members of the Taliban political office based in Qatar and with the Kabul negotiators.

The starter will be a meeting this Tuesday of the US, Russia, Afghanistan’s neighbors and the UN. Yet even before that, the Taliban political office spokesman, Naeem Wardak, has accused Washington of interfering in internal Afghan affairs.

Pakistan is part of the extended troika. Pakistani media is all-out involved in stressing how Islamabad’s leverage over the Taliban “is now limited.” An example is made of how the Taliban shut the key border crossing in Spin Boldak – actually a smuggling haven – demanding Pakistan ease visa restrictions for Afghans.

Now that is a real nest of vipers issue. Most old school Taliban leaders are based in Pakistan’s Balochistan and supervise what goes in and out of the border from a safe distance, in Quetta.

Extra trouble for the extended troika is the absence of Iran and India at the negotiating table. Both have key interests in Afghanistan, especially when it comes to its hopefully new peaceful role as a transit hub for Central-South Asia connectivity.

Moscow from the start wanted Tehran and New Delhi to be part of the extended troika. Impossible. Iran never sits on the same table with the US, and vice-versa. That’s the case now in Vienna, during the JCPOA negotiations, where they “communicate” via the Europeans.

New Delhi for its part refuses to sit on the same table with the Taliban, which it sees as a terrorist Pakistani proxy.

There’s a possibility that Iran and India may be getting their act together, and that would include even a closely connected position on the Afghan drama.

When Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar attended President Ebrahim Raisi’s inauguration last week in Tehran, they insisted on “close cooperation and coordination” also on Afghanistan.

What this would imply in the near future is increased Indian investment in the INSTC and the India-Iran-Afghanistan New Silk Road corridor. Yet that’s not going to happen with the Taliban controlling Zaranj.

Beijing for its part is focused on increasing its connectivity with Iran via what could be described as a Persian-colored corridor incorporating Tajikistan and Afghanistan. That will depend, once again, on the degree of Taliban control.

But Beijing can count on an embarrassment of riches: Plan A, after all, is an extended China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), with Afghanistan annexed, whoever is in power in Kabul.

What’s clear is that the extended troika will not be shaping the most intricate details of the future of Eurasia integration. That will be up to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which includes Russia, China, Pakistan, India, the Central Asian “stans” and Iran and Afghanistan as current observers and future full-members.

So the time has come for the SCO’s ultimate test: how to pull off a near-impossible power-sharing deal in Kabul and prevent a devastating civil war, complete with imperial B-52 bombing.

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The Chinese Miracle, Revisited

The Chinese Miracle, Revisited

June 30, 2021

Western exceptionalists may continue to throw a fit 24/7 ad infinitum: that will not change the course of history.

By Pepe Escobar with permission and widely distributed

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) centennial takes place this week at the heart of an incandescent geopolitical equation.

China, the emerging superpower, is back to the global prominence it enjoyed throughout centuries of recorded history, while the declining Hegemon is paralyzed by the “existential challenge” posed to its fleeting, unilateral dominance.

A mindset of full spectrum confrontation already sketched in the 2017 U.S. National Security Review is sliding fast into fear, loathing and relentless Sinophobia.

Add to it the Russia-China comprehensive strategic partnership graphically exposing the ultimate Mackinderian nightmare of Anglo-American elites jaded by “ruling the world” – for only two centuries at best.

The Little Helmsman Deng Xiaoping may have coined the ultimate formula for what many in the West defined as the Chinese miracle:

“To seek truth from facts, not from dogmas, whether from East or West”.

So this was never about divine intervention, but planning, hard work, and learning by trial and error.

The recent session of the National People’s Congress provides a stark example. Not only it approved a new Five-Year Plan, but in fact a full road map for China’s development up to 2035: three plans in one.

What the whole world saw, in practice, was the manifest efficiency of the Chinese governance system, capable of designing and implementing extremely complex geoeconomic strategies after plenty of local and regional debate on a vast range of policy initiatives.

Compare it to the endless bickering and gridlock in Western liberal democracies, which are incapable of planning for the next quarter, not to mention fifteen years.

The best and the brightest in China actually do their Deng; they couldn’t care less about the politicizing of governance systems. What matters is what they define as a very effective system to make SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound) development plans, and put them in practice.

The 85% popular vote

At the start of 2021, before the onset of the Year of the Metal Ox, President Xi Jinping emphasized that  “favorable social conditions” should be in place for the CCP centennial celebrations.

Oblivious to waves of demonization coming from the West, for Chinese public opinion what matters is whether the CCP delivered. And deliver it did (over 85% popular approval). China controlled Covid-19 in record time; economic growth is back; poverty alleviation was achieved; and the civilization-state became a “moderately prosperous society” – right on schedule for the CCP centennial.

Since 1949, the size of the Chinese economy soared by a whopping 189 times. Over the past two decades, China’s GDP grew 11-fold. Since 2010, it more than doubled, from $6 trillion to $15 trillion, and now accounts for 17% of global economic output.

No wonder Western grumbling is irrelevant. Shanghai Capital investment boss Eric Li succinctly describes the governance gap; in the U.S., government changes but not policy. In China, government doesn’t change; policy does.

This is the background for the next development stage – where the CCP will in fact double down on its unique hybrid model of “socialism with Chinese characteristics”.

The key point is that the Chinese leadership, via non-stop policy adjustments (trial and error, always) has evolved a model of “peaceful rise” – their own terminology – that essentially respects China’s immense historical and cultural experiences.

In this case, Chinese exceptionalism means respecting Confucianism – which privileges harmony and abhors conflict – as well as Daoism – which privileges balance – over the boisterous, warring, hegemonic Western model.

This is reflected in major policy adjustments such as the new “dual circulation” drive, which places greater emphasis on the domestic market compared to China as the “factory of the world”.

Past and future are totally intertwined in China; what was done in previous dynasties echoes in the future. The best contemporary example is the New Silk Roads, or Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – the overarching Chinese foreign policy concept for the foreseeable future.

As detailed by Renmin University Professor Wang Yiwei, BRI is about to reshape geopolitics, “bringing Eurasia back to its historical place at the center of human civilization.” Wang has shown how “the two great civilizations of the East and the West were linked until the rise of the Ottoman Empire cut off the Ancient Silk Road”.

Europe moving seaward led to “globalization through colonization”; the decline of the Silk Road; the world’s center shifting to the West; the rise of the U.S.; and the decline of Europe. Now, Wang argues, “Europe is faced with a historic opportunity to return to the world center through the revival of Eurasia.”

And that’s exactly what the Hegemon will go no holds barred to prevent.

Zhu and Xi

It’s fair to argue that Xi’s historical counterpart is the Hongwu emperor Zhu, the founder of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). The emperor was keen to present his dynasty as a Chinese renewal after Mongol domination via the Yuan dynasty.

Xi frames it as “Chinese rejuvenation”: “China used to be a world economic power. However, it missed its chance in the wake of the Industrial Revolution and the consequent dramatic changes, and was thus left behind and suffered humiliation under foreign invasion …we must not let this tragic history repeat itself.”

The difference is that 21st century China under Xi will not retreat inward as it did under the Ming. The parallel for the near future would rather be with the Tang dynasty (618-907), which privileged trade and interactions with the world at large.

To comment on the torrent of Western misinterpretations of China is a waste of time. For the Chinese, the overwhelming majority of Asia, and for the Global South, much more relevant is to register how the American imperial narrative – “we are the liberators of Asia-Pacific” – has now been totally debunked.

In fact Chairman Mao may end up having the last laugh. As he wrote in 1957, “if the imperialists insist on launching a third world war, it is certain that several hundred million more will turn to socialism, and then there will not be much room left on earth for the imperialists; it is also likely that the whole structure of imperialism will utterly collapse.”

Martin Jacques, one of the very few Westerners who actually studied China in depth, correctly pointed out how “China has enjoyed five separate periods when it has enjoyed a position of pre-eminence – or shared pre-eminence – in the world: part of the Han, the Tang, arguably the Song, the early Ming, and the early Qing.”

So China, historically, does represent continuous renewal and “rejuvenation” (Xi). We’re right in the middle of another one of these phases – now conducted by a CCP dynasty that, incidentally, does not believe in miracles, but in hardcore planning. Western exceptionalists may continue to throw a fit 24/7 ad infinitum: that will not change the course of history.

China Looks to the Arctic to Avoid Another Suez Slowdown “ناشونال انترست”: الصين تطلع إلى القطب الشمالي كممر بديل عن قناة السويس

لا تزال الملاحة في القطب الشمالي مقتصرة على كاسحات الجليد.
Navigation in the Arctic is still restricted to icebreakers.

Only time will tell if the Transpolar Route will pan out—if climate change and a shrinking polar ice cap will make this a truly viable maritime superhighway. But Beijing is betting it will.

by Andrew Latham

April 2, 2021 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 2021-03-29T152423Z_2011726512_RC23LM97BH7Z_RTRMADP_3_EGYPT-SUEZCANAL-SHIP.JPG.jpg

As the events in the Suez Canal over the past week have reminded us, the world’s great sea lanes—the arteries through which flows the lifeblood of the global economy—are defined as much by chokepoints as by open waters. Some of these chokepoints are well known: the Panama Canal, the Straits of Gibraltar, the Strait of Hormuz, and the Suez Canal itself. Others figure somewhat less prominently in our collective geographic imagination: the Strait of Molucca, the Turkish Straits, the Bab el-Mandeb or Gate of Tears, and the Lombok Strait. But make no mistake: whether well-known or not, choke points define the world’s seaway, and keeping those chokepoints unobstructed is a core interest of any nation that depends on seaborne trade for its wealth and wellbeing.

Again, as the events of the past week or so have made us keenly aware, accidental blockage of one of these chokepoints is an ever-present risk. There is always the possibility that a container ship or tanker will come to grief and obstruct one of the narrower choke points. But the real danger, the one that keeps both maritime insurance companies and naval strategic planners up at night, is the prospect of the purposeful closure of such choke points by military force, either during war or in conflicts short of war. These choke points can be pinched shut in times of conflict by mines, missiles, or blockades. This is much easier to do than controlling the high seas or denying access to those seas. And even the prospect of heightened tensions in places like the Strait of Hormuz can send maritime insurance rates skyrocketing. Should any of these vital passageways be closed due to a deliberate act of war, the geopolitical and economic consequences could be cataclysmic. And if they are closed by one party to a conflict at the expense of another.

It is against that backdrop that one must view the People’s Republic of China’s recent interest in the Arctic.

In January 2018, China introduced its Arctic Policy, which declared that China is a “Near Arctic” state. The document goes on to call for greater Chinese participation in “resource exploration and exploitation” in the region, and a greater role for China in regional forums. Beyond that document, China has also made clear that it envisions a greater role for the Chinese military in securing China’s polar interests. Simply put, China now sees itself as an active participant and major stakeholder in Arctic affairs. It also recognizes that it needs to develop the power projection capabilities—forces, basing infrastructure, etc.—that would enable it to fulfill its Arctic vocation.

The logic behind this new policy is twofold. On the one hand, there are considerable oil, natural gas, and other natural resources that are becoming increasingly accessible as the Arctic ice melts. Various studies, for example, show that the Arctic contains an estimated 22 percent of the world’s undiscovered fossil fuel resources, with perhaps 90 billion barrels of oil and 1,670 trillion cubic feet of natural gas located beneath the region’s disputed international waters. And the region also contains considerable deposits of rare earth elements (REEs)—minerals essential to cutting-edge military, computing, and environmentally-friendly technologies, such as electric vehicles, wind power turbines, and solar panels. China sees both commercial and strategic opportunities in the Arctic and is positioning itself to exploit those opportunities.

On the other hand, and at least equally importantly, Beijing is interested in the Arctic because it offers a less vulnerable route to the European market. At the moment, the vast majority of China’s trade with the Middle East, Africa, and Europe must pass through at least two of the world’s maritime chokepoints. The route to the Persian Gulf involves transiting both the Strait of Malacca and the Strait of Hormuz. Similarly, to sail from Shanghai to the Mediterranean, a ship must pass through the Strait of Malacca, the Gate of Tears, and the Suez Canal. At each of these chokepoints, transit can be denied by both hostile states and non-state actors.

Recognizing the strategic vulnerability inherent in this situation, Beijing has naturally begun seeking alternatives. One approach has been to invest in alternative overland trade routes through its Belt and Road Initiative. Another has been to build pipelines and transportation infrastructure linking the Pakistani port of Gwadar to Western China. And Beijing has aggressively courted the Panamanian government in order to secure Chinese access to the canal. China has even proposed building a canal through the Kra Isthmus in Thailand with the aim of bypassing the Straits of Molucca. Finally, Beijing has increased the size, capability, and reach of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy and developed the “String of Pearls”—a network of Chinese military and commercial facilities extending from the Chinese mainland to Port Sudan in the Horn of Africa—to support its efforts to keep Chinese maritime trade flowing across the Indo-Pacific region.

But perhaps the most ambitious approach has been to seek a route to Europe and onward that avoids all the major choke points from Shanghai to Piraeus, a route that is far less vulnerable to interdiction by hostile powers. This route, literally running across the top of the world, is the Transpolar or Trans-Arctic Route. Unlike the Northern Sea Route, another alternate Arctic passage that runs along Russia’s Arctic coastline and within Russian waters, the Transpolar Route is almost entirely in international waters. It runs from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean across the center of the Arctic Ocean, passing close to the North Pole. While currently navigable only by heavy icebreakers, and, therefore, not suited to commercial sea traffic, the shrinking of the polar ice cap means that by 2030 it will be passable by commercial vessels.

Such a route has compelling commercial advantages. For journeys between Europe and China, the Northern Sea Route can already be two to three weeks faster than the Suez Canal. By cutting straight across the Arctic, the Transpolar Route could save an additional two days. But it also offers something at least as important: the strategic advantage of not passing through any of the world’s major chokepoints.

Only time will tell if the Transpolar Route will pan out—if climate change and a shrinking polar ice cap will make this a truly viable maritime superhighway. But Beijing is betting it will. And the recent events in the Suez may well result in China doubling down on that bet.

Andrew Latham is a professor of political science at Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota; and a Research Associate with the Centre for Defence and Security Studies, Canada. He has a Ph.D. in Political Science, with a concentration in International Relations and Strategic Studies.

Adaptedly translated into Arabic: Haitham Muzahim

“ناشونال انترست”: الصين تطلع إلى القطب الشمالي كممر بديل عن قناة السويس

الكاتب: أندرو لاثام

المصدر: ذا ناشونال انترست

تراهن بكين على أن تغيّر المناخ وتقلّص الغطاء الجليدي القطبي سيجعلان الطريق عبر القطب الشمالي طريقاً بحرياً سريعاً إلى أوروبا وما بعدها.

لا تزال الملاحة في القطب الشمالي مقتصرة على كاسحات الجليد.
لا تزال الملاحة في القطب الشمالي مقتصرة على كاسحات الجليد

كتب الأستاذ الجامعي والباحث الكندي أندرو لاثام مقالة في مجلة “ذا ناشونال انترست” الأميركية تناول فيها الأزمة الأخيرة في قناة السويس عندما سدّت سفينة شحن الممر المائي العالمي وعطلت مرور السفن التجارية لنحو أسبوع، كاشفاً أن الصين تفكر بممر مائي بديل عبر القطب الشمالي أقصر مسافة وأكثر أمناً، لتجارتها مع أوروبا والأميركيتين.

وقال الكاتب إن الأحداث التي وقعت في قناة السويس خلال الأسبوع الماضي، ذكّرتنا بأن الممرات البحرية الكبرى في العالم – الشرايين التي يتدفق من خلالها شريان الحياة للاقتصاد العالمي – يتم تحديدها من خلال نقاط الاختناق بقدر ما يتم تحديدها من خلال المياه المفتوحة. وأضاف أن بعض هذه الممرات معروفة جيداً على غرار قناة بنما، ومضيق جبل طارق، ومضيق هرمز، وقناة السويس نفسها. بينما ثمة ممرات أخرى أقل بروزاً في خيالنا الجغرافي الجماعي مثل مضيق ملوكا والمضيق التركي وباب المندب أو بوابة الدموع ومضيق لومبوك. 

وقال الكاتب إنه ينبغي ألا نخطئ سواء كانت هذه الممرات معروفة أم لا، فإن نقاط الاختناق تحدد ممر العالم البحري، والحفاظ على تلك النقاط الخانقة من دون عوائق هو مصلحة أساسية لأي دولة تعتمد على التجارة المنقولة بحراً من أجل ثروتها ورفاهيتها.

وأضاف أن أحداث الأسبوع الماضي جعلتنا ندرك جيداً أن الانسداد العرضي لإحدى نقاط الاختناق هذه يمثل خطراً دائماً. فهناك دائماً احتمال أن تتعطل سفينة أو ناقلة حاويات وتعيق إحدى نقاط الاختناق الأضيق. لكن الخطر الحقيقي، الذي يبقي شركات التأمين البحري والمخططين الاستراتيجيين البحريين مستيقظين في الليل، هو احتمال الإغلاق المتعمد لنقاط الاختناق هذه بالقوة العسكرية، إما أثناء الحرب أو في النزاعات من دون الحرب. إذ يمكن إغلاق نقاط الاختناق هذه في أوقات النزاع بواسطة الألغام أو الصواريخ أو الحصار. وهذا أسهل بكثير من السيطرة على أعالي البحار أو منع الوصول إلى تلك البحار. وحتى احتمال تصاعد التوترات في أماكن مثل مضيق هرمز يمكن أن يؤدي إلى ارتفاع شديد في أسعار التأمين البحري. وفي حالة إغلاق أي من هذه الممرات الحيوية بسبب عمل حربي متعمد، قد تكون العواقب الجيوسياسية والاقتصادية كارثية. 

خلفيات اهتمام الصين بالقطب الشمالي

ورأى الباحث أنه في ظل هذه الخلفية، يجب على المرء أن ينظر إلى الاهتمام الأخير لجمهورية الصين الشعبية بالقطب الشمالي. ففي كانون الثاني / يناير، قدمت الصين سياسة القطب الشمالي، والتي أعلنت فيها أن الصين دولة “بالقرب من القطب الشمالي”. وتدعو الوثيقة إلى مشاركة صينية أكبر في “استكشاف الموارد واستغلالها” في المنطقة، وإلى دور أكبر للصين في المنتديات الإقليمية الخاصة بالقطب. وإلى جانب تلك الوثيقة، أوضحت الصين كذلك أنها تتصور دورًا أكبر للجيش الصيني في تأمين المصالح القطبية للصين. وببساطة، ترى الصين نفسها الآن كمشارك نشط وصاحبة مصلحة رئيسية في شؤون القطب الشمالي. كما تدرك أنها بحاجة إلى تطوير قدراتها العسكرية، والبنية التحتية الأساسية، وما إلى ذلك والتي من شأنها أن تمكنها من الوفاء بمهمتها القطبية.

الموارد النفطية والمعدنية في القطب الشمالي

وأضاف الكاتب أن المنطق الكامن وراء هذه السياسة الصينية الجديدة ذو شقين. فهناك، من جهة، قدر كبير من النفط والغاز الطبيعي والموارد الطبيعية الأخرى التي يمكن الوصول إليها بشكل متزايد مع ذوبان الجليد في القطب الشمالي. وتظهر دراسات مختلفة أن القطب الشمالي يحتوي على ما يقدر بنحو 22 في المائة من موارد الوقود الأحفوري غير المكتشفة في العالم، مع ربما 90 مليار برميل من النفط و1670 تريليون قدم مكعب من الغاز الطبيعي، تقع تحت المياه الدولية المتنازع عليها في المنطقة. كما تحتوي المنطقة على رواسب كبيرة من العناصر الأرضية النادرة، وهي معادن ضرورية للتكنولوجيات العسكرية والحاسوبية والصديقة للبيئة المتطورة، مثل المركبات الكهربائية وتوربينات طاقة الرياح والألواح الشمسية. 

وترى الصين هذه الفرص التجارية والاستراتيجية في القطب الشمالي وهي تستعد لاستغلال تلك الفرص.

ومن جهة أخرى، وبنفس القدر من الأهمية على الأقل، تهتم بكين بالقطب الشمالي لأنه يقدم طريقاً أقل عرضة للخطر إلى السوق الأوروبية. في الوقت الحالي، يجب أن تمر الغالبية العظمى من تجارة الصين مع الشرق الأوسط وإفريقيا وأوروبا عبر اثنين على الأقل من الممرات البحرية في العالم. يشمل الطريق المؤدي إلى الخليج عبور كل من مضيق ملقا ومضيق هرمز. 

وللإبحار من مدينة شنغهاي الصينية إلى البحر الأبيض المتوسط​​، يجب أن تمر السفينة عبر مضيق ملقا وبوابة الدموع وقناة السويس. وفي كل من هذه النقاط الخانقة، يمكن أن تمنع كل من الدول المعادية والجهات الفاعلة غير الحكومية العبور.

وقال الكاتب إنه إدراكاً منها لهذا الضعف الاستراتيجي الموجود في هذا الوضع، بدأت بكين البحث عن بدائل. وكان أحد الأساليب هو الاستثمار في طرق التجارة البرية البديلة من خلال “مبادرة الحزام والطريق”. وكان الأسلوب الآخر هو بناء خطوط أنابيب وبنية تحتية للنقل تربط ميناء غوادر الباكستاني بغرب الصين.

كما دأبت بكين على التودد بقوة إلى الحكومة البنمية من أجل تأمين وصول الصين إلى القناة. واقترحت الصين حتى بناء قناة عبر كرا إيثموس في تايلاند بهدف تجاوز مضيق مولوكا. 

وأخيراً، زادت بكين حجم بحرية جيش التحرير الشعبي الصيني وقدراتها ووصولها وطورت “سلسلة اللآلئ” – وهي شبكة من المنشآت العسكرية والتجارية الصينية التي تمتد من البر الرئيسي الصيني إلى بورتسودان (في السودان) في القرن الأفريقي – لدعم جهودها للحفاظ على تدفق التجارة البحرية الصينية عبر منطقة المحيطين الهندي والهادئ.

البحث عن طريق أقصر وأضمن

وأضاف الباحث: قد يكون النهج الأكثر طموحاً هو البحث عن طريق إلى أوروبا وما بعدها يتجنب جميع نقاط الاختناق الرئيسية من شنغهاي إلى بيرايوس، وهو طريق أقل عرضة للاعتراض من قبل القوى المعادية. هذا الطريق، الذي يمتد عبر الجزء العلوي من العالم، هو طريق عبر القطب الشمالي. وعلى عكس طريق البحر الشمالي، وهو ممر قطبي بديل آخر، يمتد على طول ساحل القطب الشمالي لروسيا وداخل المياه الروسية، فإن الطريق العابر للقطب يقع بالكامل تقريباً في المياه الدولية. فهو يمتد من المحيط الأطلسي إلى المحيط الهادئ عبر وسط المحيط المتجمد الشمالي، ويمر بالقرب من القطب الشمالي. وفي حين أن الغطاء الجليدي القطبي لا يمكن ملاحته حاليًا إلا بواسطة كاسحات الجليد الثقيلة، وبالتالي فهو غير مناسب لحركة الملاحة البحرية التجارية، فإن تقلّص الغطاء الجليدي القطبي بحلول عام 2030 سيكون الطريق سالكاً للسفن التجارية.

وتابع أندرو لاثام يقول: مثل هذا الطريق له مزايا تجارية مقنعة. فيمكن أن يكون طريق بحر الشمال للرحلات بين أوروبا والصين، أسرع من قناة السويس بأسبوعين إلى ثلاثة أسابيع. ومن خلال قطع القطب الشمالي مباشرة، يمكن أن يوفر الطريق العابر للقطب يومين إضافيين. كما أن هذا الطريق يقدم شيئاً آخر بنفس الأهمية وهو الميزة الإستراتيجية المتمثلة في عدم المرور عبر أي من نقاط الاختناق الرئيسية في العالم.

وختم الكاتب قائلاً: إن الوقت فقط سيحدد ما إذا تغيّر المناخ وتقلّص الغطاء الجليدي القطبي سيجعلانه طريقاً بحرياً سريعاً قابلاً للتطبيق. لكن بكين تراهن على أنها ستفعل ذلك. وقد تؤدي الأحداث الأخيرة في السويس إلى أن تضاعف الصين رهانها هذا.

*أندرو لاثام أستاذ العلوم السياسية بكلية ماكالستر في سانت بول، مينيسوتا، وهو باحث مشارك في مركز دراسات الدفاع والأمن في كندا. 

نقله إلى العربية بتصرف: هيثم مزاحم

السفينة الانتحارية ومحاولة اغتيال قناة السويس .. الرومانسية الناصرية والحلم

نُشرت بتاريخ 2021/03/28 بواسطة naram.serjoonn

لن عرف الحكاية اذا عرفت بدايتها فقط او نهايتها او جزءا منها .. ومن يظن ان حكاية السفينة العالقة في قناة السويس عابرة فليعلم انه لايعلم .. فحكاية السفينة الانتحارية ايفرغرين التي انتحرت في وسط القناة – مثل اي انتحاري ارهابي يفجر حزامه الناسف لالحاق الاذى بخصومه – لتخريب فكرة قناة السويس .. يعود سرها الى عام 1956 عندما انتحرت سفينة استشهادية لغاية أخرى يقودها الاستشهادي ضابط البحرية السوري المسيحي جول جمال في بورسعيد .. ذلك العمل الاستشهادي كان دفاعا عن قناة السويس المصرية ابان العدوان الثلاثي على مصر .. وكان ذلك اعلانا لاغلاق قناة السويس الى اشعار آخر الى ان تصبح مصرية بالكامل ..


في تلك اللحظة عام 56 ظهرت أسرار القناة .. فالقناة تبين انها عزيزة على قلب بريطانيا وانها احدى اهم جواهر التاج البريطاني .. ولكن أخطر الأسرار ظهرت عندما تبين ان الجغرافيا هي التي تقرر ملكية الطرق الدولية .. في تلك اللحظة المصرية المصيرية الناصرية تنبه البريطانيون الى حقيقة الجغرافيا وهي ان هذه القناة ليست في انكلترة بل في مصر .. ومن يملك الجغرافيا يملك القرار على الجغرافيا .. ولذلك فان البريطانيين لم يمانعوا في ان تقفل او تقتل قناة السويس وتردم اذا لم تكن لبريطانيا او فلتخلق قناة سويس بديلة او استنساخ القناة في النقب الفلسطيني .. وهذا ماكان في صلب التخطيط الغربي .. لذلك ظهرت فجأة منذ الستينات مشاريع شق قناة بديلة من العقبة (ايلات) الى البحر المتوسط عبر النقب في فلسطين المحتلة تحت رعاية اسرائيل ..


العالم الغربي لايحب النوم في العسل كما بعض البسطاء من السياسيين في الشرق .. لأن قرار قتل قناة السويس ظهر ووضع أخرى تحت رعاية اسرائيل يعني ان القناة ستكون نقلت وكأنها صارت في بريطانيا .. لأن اسرائيل مربوطة بالسلاسل الى الغرب ولاتقدر الا ان تكون طوع بنان الغرب لحاجتها اليه .. فهي مخفر متقدم ونواطير من المستوطنين اليهود الذين يرتبط مصيرهم بجرة قلم من أوروبة .. واذا فكرت اسرائيل في التمرد فان الغرب سيتركها لمصيرها في هذا البحر العربي الهائل بل وسيوجهه لتحطيمها .. واذا كان الرئيس الامريكي يقول للملك السعودي انك لن تبقى اسبوعين اذا تخلينا عن دعمك فان نفس الكلام يقال لاسرائيل .. فهذه الاسرائيل ستقع في خمسة ايام اذا قرر الغرب تركها لمصيرها ..
هذه بداية الحكاية .. اي منذ لحظة تحرير القناة وظهور ضابط بحري انتحاري يحول سفينته الى سفينة انتحارية وتغلق القناة الى اشعار آخر .. ولكن مابعد هذه البداية نصل الى وسط الحكاية الذي يبدو مشطوبا وخفيا وجزءا لايراه أحد ولايلتفت اليه أحد بسبب زحمة الاحداث التي غطت بضجيجها على صوت الحكاية الحقيقية .. ففي وسط الحكاية حدثت بداية الانتقام من قناة السويس وبداية الجريمة لاغتيالها .. الى ان نصل الى نهاية القصة التي ظهرت منذ أشهر ..


مشكلة اي جريمة اغتيال انها تحتاج تحضيرا .. وجريمة اغتيال قناة السويس والانتقام منها كانت تحتاج تحضيرا جيدا لمسرح واسع .. وتحضير المسرح يعني تدمير السيطرة المصرية على منظومة الفكر الناصري والقومي التي صنعت ظاهرة جول جمال المواطن المشرقي الذي يستميت من اجل الدفاع عن كل الشرق وهي الظاهرة التي صنعها زمن الضباط الاحرار والرومانسية الناصرية .. وتم كسر الرومانسية الناصرية عام 1967 لاحلال الحلم الساداتي محلها والذي هو باختصار النوم في العسل .. الحلم الساداتي كان يحلم بالرفاه ودولة اللاحرب ولذلك كان عليه تفكيك المنظومة الفكرية الناصرية القومية المشاغبة بطموحها بكل رومانسيتها والتخلص من تلك التركة في مصر وحول مصر .. وبناء منظومة كامب ديفيد .. ونجح الحلم الساداتي في استئصال النزعة العسكرية من نفوس المصريين بمعاهدة كامب ديفيد التي كانت مخدرا قويا فيما يتم انجاز العمل بصمت لتجريد مصر من كل اسلحتها التي كانت تحمي قناة السويس .. وأهم أسلحتها كان القومية العربية التي جعلت ضابطا سوريا مسيحيا يفجر نفسه في سفينة فرنسية (مسيحية) والذي كان يعني ان قناة السويس صارت محمية ب 200 مليون عربي .. وهذا هو رعب الغرب الذي وجد نفسه ان الحلم الرومانسي المصري وضعه وجها لوجه مع كتلة 200 مليون عربي مستعدين للموت..


وبعد 12 سنة فقط من كامب ديفيد تم ضرب العراق حيث تدربت القوات الامريكية في الصحراء المصرية بتسهيلات كامب ديفيد عبر كثير من المناورات على حروب الصحراء في ماسمي بسلسلة (مناورات النجم الساطع) والتي كانت تحاكي حربا في الصحراء وفيها عرفت مشاكل الحروب الحديثة في الصحراء وتم تجنبها كلها في حرب عاصفة الصحراء التي كانت تدريباتها تتم في صحراء مصر .. والمصريون لايعرفون انهم يحضرون مسرحا لقتل العراق ومن ثم اضعاف مصر واغتيال قناة السويس ونهر النيل ..

وبعد عشر سنوات اخرى تم الاجهاز على العراق نهائيا في احتلال مباشر .. فيما محبو منظومة كامب ديفيد في مصر ينامون في العسل ويسمع شخيرهم الى المريخ وهم يحمدون الله ان السادات كان فطنا وذكيا انه جنبهم هذه الصراعات والحروب .. فرغم كل ماقيل عن أسباب حرب العراق فان هناك سببا لم يتم التركيز عليه وهو ان التجارة القادمة من الصين تفكر في طريق بري على طريق الحرير من ايران الى العراق الى سورية .. وهذه قد تكون قناة سويس برية ..

ولذلك وضع اميريكا داعش في وسط الطريق .. وكان المراد قطع الطريق البري .. ليس من أجل قناة السويس بل من أجل الا تموت القناة البديلة الاسرائيلية التي صارت تتحضر بمشروع مدينة نيوم السعودي .. الذي لايوجد اي سبب لبنائها الا انه ليخدم مشروعا اسرائيليا ما ..

بعد تدمير طريق الحرير بما يسمى (الثورة السورية) .. وميناء بيروت .. وتعطيل قناة السويس .. صار الحل الوحيد لتجارة أسيا والغرب في اسرائيل فقط .. فكل الطرق الدولية تمر من اسرائيل .. طريق حيفا – دبي البري .. وقناة ايلات -المتوسط .. وهذه الطرق كلها بيد الغرب طالما هي بيد اسرائيل حيث لايوجد ناصر ولارومانسية ناصرية .. والغرب موجود في الخليج المحتل والذي تم نشر جاليات غير عربية بشكل واسع فيه لاعلان هوية جديدة لاعلاقة لها بمنظومة الناصريين والقوميين العروبيين الذين قد يهددون الطرق الدولية ..


من جديد سيخرج علينا أصحاب النوم في العسل ويسخرون من نظرية المؤامرة لان وظيفتهم هي تطبيع المؤامرة .. اي جعل المنظر التآمري منظرا طبيعيا لا يد للانسان فيه .. فهم يرون ان داعش ليست مؤامرة امريكية لقطع التواصل الجغرافي وقاعدة التنف التي تجثم على الطريق الواصل من العراق الى سورية ليست الا بالصدفة .. والربيع العربي ليس مؤامرة بل بسبب توق الشعوب العربية الى الكرامة والحرية .. وليس لان الشعوب البسيطة صارت لها وظيفة تنفيذ المشاريع الغربية دون ان تدري .. والقذافي قتل بسبب غضب الجماهير وليس لأنه اراد تحقيق فكرة نكروما بالولايات المتحدة الافريقية وصك عملة ذهبية لها ..
واليوم وبعد مرور 130 سنة على افتتاح قناة السويس يتقرر ان باخرة عملاقة تنفذ عملية انتحارية في قناة السويس .. لأن السفن تحركها الامواج وليس الرياح .. فاين هي الامواج في قناة السويس كي تجنح بها سفينة .. ولايمكن ان تحرك الرياح هذا الجبل العملاق الذي طوله 400 متر ويحمل مايعادل 100 الف سيارة .. ليجنح بهذه الزاوية مالم تكن عملية انتحارية للسفينة التي ارتطمت بالضفة الشرقية للقناة .. فما هذه الصدفة في انها حدثت بعد تفجير ميناء بيروت وبعد تفعيل الاتفاق التجاري بين دبي وحيفا؟؟ وبعد تعطل طريق الحرير السوري؟؟
ماذا سيحل المصريون اليوم من مشاكل خلقها لهم الوهم الساداتي والحلم الساداتي الذي كان نوما في العسل؟؟ سد النهضة يسرق مياههم وقناة السويس تسرق منهم ..

النيل سرق في اثيوبية .. وقناة النيل كثرت سكاكينها .. بين حلمين تصارعا .. بين سفينتين انتحاريتين .. سفينة قادها جول جمال الضابط البحري السوري من أجل قناة السويس في الحلم الرومانسي الناصري .. وسفينة انتحارية صنعها زمن الحلم والنوم في عسل كامب ديفيد .. سفينة نعلم ان من أرسلها هو نفسه من أرسل الانتحاريين الى بغداد ودمشق والى ابراج نيويورك .. ونسف موكب الحريري .. ونسف ميناء بيروت .. ومن أراد ان يكسر الشرق .. ويقيد كل جرائمه ضد مجهول ..

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يذكرني هذا الحدث بفيلم مصري لمحمود ياسين (بعنوان وقيدت ضد مجهول) كأنه نبوءة عن اليوم لنوستراداموس .. كان يلعب فيه دور شرطي بسيط للحراسة ولكن في كل حي يحرسه كانت تزداد السرقات فقرر رئيسه وضعه لحراسة الاهرامات .. فلاشيء يسرق هناك .. ولكن الهرم الاكبر يختفي ويسرق .. فيقرر رئيسه وضعه في مناوبة حراسة على كورنيش النيل .. فماذا سيسرق هناك ؟؟ ولكن ينتهي الفيلم بتلفون مفاجئ لرئيس الشرطة ليبلغه بأن نهر النيل سرق !! في رمزية عن سرقة رمزية مصر ..

The art of being a spectacularly misguided oracle

February 22, 2021

The art of being a spectacularly misguided oracle

By Pepe Escobar with permission and first posted at Asia Times

The late Dr. Zbig “Grand Chessboard” Brzezinski for some time dispensed wisdom as an oracle of US foreign policy, side by side with the perennial Henry Kissinger – who, in vast swathes of the Global South, is regarded as nothing but a war criminal.

Brzezinski never achieved the same notoriety. At best he claimed bragging rights for giving the USSR its own Vietnam in Afghanistan – by facilitating the internationalization of Jihad Inc., with all its dire, subsequent consequences.

Over the years, it was always amusing to follow the heights Dr. Zbig would reach with his Russophobia. But then, slowly but surely, he was forced to revise his great expectations. And finally he must have been truly horrified that his perennial Mackinder-style geopolitical fears came to pass – beyond the wildest nightmares.

Not only Washington had prevented the emergence of a “peer competitor” in Eurasia, but the competitor is now configured as a strategic partnership between Russia and China.

Dr. Zbig was not exactly versed in Chinese matters. His misreading of China may be found in his classic A Geostrategy for Eurasia published in – where else – Foreign Affairs in 1997:

Building in Beijing

Although China is emerging as a regionally dominant power, it is not likely to become a global one for a long time. The conventional wisdom that China will be the next global power is breeding paranoia outside China while fostering megalomania in China. It is far from certain that China’s explosive growth rates can be maintained for the next two decades. In fact, continued long-term growth at the current rates would require an unusually felicitous mix of national leadership, political tranquility, social discipline, high savings, massive inflows of foreign investment, and regional stability. A prolonged combination of all of these factors is unlikely.

Dr. Zbig added,

Even if China avoids serious political disruptions and sustains its economic growth for a quarter of a century — both rather big ifs — China would still be a relatively poor country. A tripling of GDP would leave China below most nations in per capita income, and a significant portion of its people would remain poor. Its standing in access to telephones, cars, computers, let alone consumer goods, would be very low.

Oh dear. Not only Beijing hit all the targets Dr. Zbig proclaimed were off limits, but the central government also eliminated poverty by the end of 2020.

The Little Helmsman Deng Xiaoping once observed, “at present, we are still a relatively poor nation. It is impossible for us to undertake many international proletarian obligations, so our contributions remain small. However, once we have accomplished the four modernizations and the national economy has expanded, our contributions to mankind, and especially to the Third World, will be greater. As a socialist country, China will always belong to the Third World and shall never seek hegemony.”

What Deng described then as the Third World – a Cold War-era derogatory terminology – is now the Global South. And the Global South is essentially the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) on steroids, as in the Spirit of Bandung in 1955 remixed to the Eurasian Century.

Cold Warrior Dr. Zbig was obviously not a Daoist monk – so he could never abandon the self to enter the Dao, the most secret of all mysteries.

Had he been alive to witness the dawn of the Year of the Metal Ox, he might have noticed how China, expanding on Deng’s insights, is de facto applying practical lessons derived from Daoist correlative cosmology: life as a system of interacting opposites, engaging with each other in constant change and evolution, moving in cycles and feedback loops, always mathematically hard to predict with exactitude.

A practical example of simultaneously opening and closing is the dialectical approach of Beijing’s new “dual circulation” development strategy. It’s quite dynamic, relying on checks and balances between increase of domestic consumption and external trade/investments (the New Silk Roads).

Peace is Forever War

Now let’s move to another oracle, a self-described expert of what in the Beltway is known as the “Greater Middle East”: Robert Kagan, co-founder of PNAC, certified warmongering neo-con, and one-half of the famous Kaganate of Nulands – as the joke went across Eurasia – side by side with his wife, notorious Maidan cookie distributor Victoria “F**k the EU” Nuland, who’s about to re-enter government as part of the Biden-Harris administration.

Kagan is back pontificating in – where else – Foreign Affairs, which published his latest superpower manifesto. That’s where we find this absolute pearl:

That Americans refer to the relatively low-cost military involvements in Afghanistan and Iraq as “forever wars” is just the latest example of their intolerance for the messy and unending business of preserving a general peace and acting to forestall threats. In both cases, Americans had one foot out the door the moment they entered, which hampered their ability to gain control of difficult situations.

So let’s get this straight. The multi-trillion dollar Forever Wars are “relatively low-cost”; tell that to the multitudes suffering the Via Crucis of US crumbling infrastructure and appalling standards in health and education. If you don’t support the Forever Wars – absolutely necessary to preserve the “liberal world order” – you are “intolerant”.

“Preserving a general peace” does not even qualify as a joke, coming from someone absolutely clueless about realities on the ground. As for what the Beltway defines as “vibrant civil society” in Afghanistan, that in reality revolves around millennia-old tribal custom codes: it has nothing to do with some neocon/woke crossover. Moreover, Afghanistan’s GDP – after so much American “help” – remains even lower than Saudi-bombed Yemen’s.

Exceptionalistan will not leave Afghanistan. A deadline of May 1st was negotiated in Doha last year for the US/NATO to remove all troops. That’s not gonna happen.

The spin is already turbocharged: the Deep State handlers of Joe “Crash Test Dummy” Biden will not respect the deadline. Everyone familiar with the New Great Game on steroids across Eurasia knows why: a strategic lily pad must be maintained at the intersection of Central and South Asia to help closely monitor – what else – Brzezinski’s worst nightmare: the Russia-China strategic partnership.

As it stands we have 2,500 Pentagon + 7,000 NATO troops + a whole lot of “contractors” in Afghanistan. The spin is that they can’t leave because the Taliban – which de facto control from 52% to as much as 70% of the whole tribal territory – will take over.

To see, in detail, how this whole sorry saga started, non-oracle skeptics could do worse than check Volume 3 of my Asia Times archives: Forever Wars: Afghanistan-Iraq, part 1 (2001-2004) . Part 2 will be out soon. Here they will find how the multi-trillion dollar Forever Wars – so essential to “preserve the peace” – actually developed on the ground, in total contrast to the official imperial narrative influenced, and defended, by Kagan.

With oracles like these, the US definitely does not need enemies.

Burmese Days, Revisited

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Independent geopolitical analyst, writer and journalist

Pepe Escobar

February 5, 2021

It will be fascinating to watch how the (Dis)United States will deal with post-coup Myanmar as part of their 24/7 “containment of China” frenzy.

The (jade) elephant in the elaborate room housing the military coup in Myanmar had to be – what else – China. And the Tatmadaw – the Myanmar Armed Forces – knows it better than anyone.

There’s no smoking gun, of course, but it’s virtually impossible that Beijing had not been at least informed, or “consulted”, by the Tatmadaw on the new dispensation.

China, Myanmar’s top trade partner, is guided by three crucial strategic imperatives in the relationship with its southern neighbor: trade/connectivity via a Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) corridor; full access to energy and minerals; and the necessity of cultivating a key ally within the 10-member ASEAN.

The BRI corridor between Kunming, in China’s Yunnan province, via Mandalay, to the port of Kyaukphyu in the Gulf of Bengal is the jewel in the New Silk Road crown, because it combines China’s strategic access to the Indian Ocean, bypassing the Strait of Malacca, with secured energy flows via a combined oil and gas pipeline. This corridor clearly shows the centrality of Pipelineistan in the evolution of the New Silk Roads.

None of that will change, whoever runs the politico-economic show in Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Aung San Suu Kyi, locally known as Amay Suu (“Mother Suu”) were discussing the China-Myanmar economic corridor only three weeks before the coup. Beijing and Naypyidaw have clinched no less than 33 economic deals only in 2020.

We just want “eternal peace”

Something quite extraordinary happened earlier this week in Bangkok. A cross-section of the vast Myanmar diaspora in Thailand – which had been ballooning since the 1990s – met in front of the UN’s Asia-Pacific office.

They were asking for the international reaction to the coup to ignore the inevitable, incoming U.S. sanctions. Their argument: sanctions paralyze the work of citizen entrepreneurs, while keeping in place a patronage system that favors the Tatmadaw and deepens the influence of Beijing at the highest levels.

Yet this is not all about China. The Tatmadaw coup is an eminently domestic affair – which involved resorting to the same old school, CIA-style method that installed them as a harsh military dictatorship way back in 1962.

Elections this past November reconfirmed Aung San Suu Kyi and her party, the NLD, in power by 83% of the votes. The pro-army party, the USDP, cried foul, blaming massive electoral fraud and insisting on a recount, which was refused by Parliament.

So the Tatmadaw invoked article 147 of the constitution, which authorizes a military takeover in case of a confirmed threat to sovereignty and national solidarity, or capable of “disintegrating the Union”.

The 2008 constitution was drawn by – who else – the Tatmadaw. They control the crucial Interior, Defense and Border ministries, as well as 25% of the seats in Parliament, which allows them veto power on any constitutional changes.

The military takeover involves the Executive, the Legislative and the Judiciary. A year long state of emergency is in effect. New elections will happen when order and “eternal peace” will be restored.

The man in charge is Army chief Min Aung Hlaing, quite flush after years overseeing juicy deals conducted by Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd. (MEHL). He also oversaw the hardcore response to the 2007 Saffron revolution – which did express legitimate grievances but was also largely co-opted as a by-the-book U.S. color revolution.

More worryingly, Min Aung Hlaing also deployed wasteland tactics against the Karen and Rohingya ethnic groups. He notoriously described the Rohingya operation as “the unfinished work of the Bengali problem”. Muslims in Myanmar are routinely debased by members of the Bamar ethnic majority as “Bengali”.

No raised ASEAN eyebrows

Life for the overwhelming majority of the Myanmar diaspora in Thailand can be very harsh. Roughly half dwell in the construction business, the textile industry and tourism. The other half does not hold a valid work permit – and lives in perpetual fear.

To complicate matters, late last year the de facto military government in Thailand went on a culpability overdrive, blaming them for crossing borders without undertaking quarantine and thus causing a second wave of Covid-19.

Thai unions, correctly, pointed to the real culprits: smuggling networks protected by the Thai military, which bypass the extremely complicated process of legalizing migrant workers while shielding employers who infringe labor laws.

In parallel, part of the – legalized – Myanmar diaspora is being enticed to join the so-called MilkTeaAlliance – which congregates Thais, Taiwanese and Hong Kongers, and lately Laotians and Filipinos as well – against, who else, China, and to a lesser extent, the Thai military government.

ASEAN won’t raise eyebrows against the Tatmadaw. ASEAN’s official policy remains non-interference in the domestic affairs of its 10 members. Bangkok – where, incidentally, the military junta took power in 2014 – has shown Olympic detachment.

In 2021, Myanmar happens to be coordinating nothing less than the China-ASEAN dialogue mechanism, as well as presiding over the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation – which discusses all crucial Mekong matters.

The mighty river, from the Tibetan plateau to the South China Sea, could not be more geo-economically strategic. China is severely criticized for the building of dozens of dams, which reduce direct water flows and cause serious imbalances to regional economies.

Myanmar is also coordinating a supremely sensitive geopolitical issue: the interminable negotiations to establish the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, which pit China against Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia, Brunei and non-ASEAN Taiwan.

The Tatmadaw does not seem to be losing sleep over post-coup business problems. Erik Prince, former Blackwater honcho and now the head of Hong Kong-based Frontier Services Group (FSG) – financed, among others, by powerful Chinese conglomerate Citic – is about to hit Naypyidaw to “securitize” local companies.

A juicier dossier involves what’s going to happen with the drug trade: arguably Tatmadaw getting a bigger piece of the pie. Cartels in Kachin state, in the north, export opium to China’s Yunnan province to the east, and India to the west. Shan state cartels are even more sophisticated: they export via Yunnan to Laos and Vietnam to the east, and also to India to the northwest.

And then there’s a gray area where no one really knows what’s going on: the weapons highway between China and India that runs through Kachin state – where we also find Lisu and Lahu ethnic groups.

The dizzying ethnic tapestry

The Myanmar electoral commission is a very tricky business, to say the least. They are designated by the Executive, and had to face a lot of criticism – internal, not international – for their censorship of opposition parties in the November elections.

The end result privileged the NLD, whose support is negligible in all border regions. Myanmar’s majority ethnic group – and the NLD’s electoral base – is the Bamar, Buddhist and concentrated in the central part of the country.

The NLD frankly does not care about the 135 ethnic minorities – which represent at least one third of the general population. It’s been a long way down since Suu Kyi came to power, when the NLD actually enjoyed a lot of support. Suu Kyi’s international high profile is essentially due to the power of the Clinton machine.

If you talk to a Mon or a Karen, he or she will tell you they had to learn the hard way how much of an intolerant autocrat is the real Suu Kyi. She promised there would be peace in the border regions – eternally mired in a fight between the Tatmadaw and autonomous movements. She could not possibly deliver because she had no power whatsoever over the military.

Without any consultation, the electoral commission decided to cancel voting, totally or partially, in 56 cantons of Arakan state, Shan state, Karen state, Mon state and Kachin state, all of them ethnic minorities. Nearly 1.5 million people were deprived of voting.

There were no elections, for instance, in the majority of Arakan state; the electoral commission invoked “security reasons”. The reality is the Tatmadaw is in a bitter fight against the Arakan Army, which want self-determination.

Needless to add, the Rohingyas – which live in Arakan – were not allowed to vote. Nearly 600,000 of them still barely survive in camps and closed villages in Arakan.

In the 1990s, I visited Shan state, which borders China’s strategic Yunnan province to the east. Nothing much changed over two decades: the guerrilla has to fight the Tatmadaw because they clearly see how the army and their business cronies are obsessed to capture the region’s lavish natural resources.

I traveled extensively in Myanmar in the second part of the 1990s – before being blacklisted by the military junta, like virtually every journalist and analyst working in Southeast Asia. Ten years ago, photojournalist Jason Florio, with whom I’ve been everywhere from Afghanistan to Cambodia, managed to be sneaked into Karen rebel territory, where he shot some outstanding pictures.

In Kachin state, rival parties in the 2015 elections this time tried to pool their efforts. But in the end they were badly bruised: the electoral mechanism – one round only – favored the winning party, Suu Kyi’s NLD.

Beijing does not interfere in the dizzyingly complex Myanmar ethnic maze. But questions remain over the murky support for Chinese who live in Kachin state in northern Myanmar: it’s possible they may be used as leverage in negotiations with the Tatmadaw.

The basic fact is the guerrillas won’t go away. The top two are the Kachin Independence Army and the United Wa State Army (Shan). But then there’s the Arakan Liberation Army, the China National Army, the Karenni Army (Kayah), the Karen National Defense Organization and the Karen National Liberation, and the Mon National Liberation Army.

What this weaponized tapestry boils down to, in the long run, is a tremendously (Dis)United Myanmar, bolstering the Tatmadaw’s claim that no other mechanism is capable of guaranteeing unity. It doesn’t hurt that “unity” comes with the extra perks of controlling crucial sectors such as minerals, finance and telecom.

It will be fascinating to watch how the (Dis)United Imperial States will deal with post-coup Myanmar as part of their 24/7 “containment of China” frenzy. The Tatmadaw are not exactly trembling in their boots.

The Russia-China vote

The Russia-China vote

November 03, 2020

by Pepe Escobar with permission and cross-posted with Asia Times

Whatever the geopolitical and geoeconomic consequences of the spectacular US dystopia, the Russia-China strategic partnership, in their own slightly different registers, have already voted on their path forward.

Here is how I framed what is at the heart of the Chinese 2021-2025 five-year plan approved at the plenum in Beijing last week.

Here is a standard Chinese think tank interpretation.

And here is some especially pertinent context examining how rampant Sinophobia is impotent when faced with an extremely efficient made in China model of governance. This study shows how China’s complex history, culture, and civilizational axioms simply cannot fit into the Western, Christian hegemonic worldview.

The not so hidden “secret” of China’s 2021-2025 five-year plan – which the Global Times described as “economic self-reliance” – is to base the civilization-state’s increasing geopolitical clout on technological breakthroughs.

Crucially, China is on a “self-driven” path – depending on little to no foreign input. Even a clear – “pragmatic” – horizon has been set: 2035, halfway between now and 2049. By this time China should be on a par or even surpassing the US in geopolitical, geoeconomic and techno power.

That is the rationale behind the Chinese leadership actively studying the convergence of quantum physics and information sciences – which is regarded as the backbone of the Made in China push towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The five-year plan makes it quite clear that the two key vectors are AI and robotics – where Chinese research is already quite advanced. Innovations in these fields will yield a matrix of applications in every area from transportation to medicine, not to mention weaponry.

Huawei is essential in this ongoing process, as it’s not a mere data behemoth, but a hardware provider, creating platforms and the physical infrastructure for a slew of companies to develop their own versions of smart cities, safe cities – or medicines.

Big Capital – from East and West – is very much in tune with where all of this is going, a process that also implicates the core hubs of the New Silk Roads. In tune with the 21st century “land of opportunity” script, Big Capital will increasingly move towards East Asia, China and these New Silk hubs.

This new geoeconomic matrix will mostly rely on spin offs of the Made in China 2025 strategy. A clear choice will be presented for most of the planet: “win win” or “zero sum”.

The failures of neoliberalism

After observing the mighty clash, enhanced by Covid-19, between the neoliberal paradigm and “socialism with Chinese characteristics”, the Global South is only beginning to draw the necessary conclusions.

No Western propaganda tsunami can favorably spin what is in effect a devastating, one-two, ideological collapse.

Neoliberalism’s abject failure in dealing with Covid-19 is manifestly evident all across the West.

The US election dystopia is now sealing the abject failure of Western liberal “democracy”: what kind of “choice” is offered by Trump-Biden?

This is happening just as the ultra-efficient, relentlessly demonized “Chinese Communist Party” rolls out the road map for the next five years. Washington cannot even plan what happens the day ahead.

Trump’s original drive, suggested by Henry Kissinger before the January 2017 inauguration, was to play – what else – Divide and Rule, seducing Russia against China.

This was absolute anathema for the Deep State and its Dem minions. Thus the subsequent, relentless demonization of Trump – with Russiagate topping the charts. And then Trump unilaterally chose to sanction and demonize China anyway.

Assuming a Dem victory, the scenario will veer towards Russia demonization on steroids even as hysterical Hybrid War on China will persist on all fronts – Uighurs, Tibet, Hong Kong, South China Sea, Taiwan.

Now compare all of the above with the Russian road map.

That was clearly stated in crucial interventions by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and President Putin at the recent Valdai Club discussions.

Putin has made a key assertion on the role of Capital, stressing the necessity of “abandoning the practice of unrestrained and unlimited consumption – overconsumption – in favor of judicious and reasonable sufficiency, when you do not live just for today but also think about tomorrow.”

Putin once again stressed the importance of the role of the state: “The state is a necessary fixture, there is no way […] could do without state support.”

And, in concert with the endless Chinese experimentation, he added that in fact there are no economic rules set in stone: “No model is pure or rigid, neither the market economy nor the command economy today, but we simply have to determine the level of the state’s involvement in the economy. What do we use as a baseline for this decision? Expediency. We need to avoid using any templates, and so far, we have successfully avoided that.”

Pragmatic Putin defined how to regulate the role of the state as “a form of art”.

And he offered as an example, “keeping inflation up by a bit will make it easier for Russian consumers and companies to pay back their loans. It is economically healthier than the deflationary policies of western societies.”

As a direct consequence of Putin’s pragmatic policies – which include wide-ranging social programs and vast national projects – the West ignores that Russia may well be on the way to overtake Germany as the fifth largest economy in the world.

The bottom line is that combined, the Russia-China strategic partnership is offering, especially to the Global South, two radically different approaches to the standard Western neoliberal dogma. And that, for the whole US establishment, is anathema.

So whatever the result of the Trump-Biden “choice”, the clash between the Hegemon and the Top Two Sovereigns is only bound to become more incandescent.

Iron Curtain still separates Russia and the EU

Iron Curtain still separates Russia and the EU

October 21, 2020

by Pepe Escobar with permission and first posted at Asia Times

Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s Foreign Minister, is the world’s foremost diplomat. The son of an Armenian father and a Russian mother, he’s just on another level altogether. Here, once again, we may be able to see why.

Let’s start with the annual meeting of the Valdai Club, Russia’s premier think tank. Here we may follow the must-watch presentation of the Valdai annual report on “The Utopia of a Diverse World”, featuring, among others, Lavrov, John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago, Dominic Lieven of the University of Cambridge and Yuri Slezkine of UCLA/Berkeley.

It’s a rarity to be able to share what amounts to a Himalayan peak in terms of serious political debate. We have, for instance, Lieven – who, half in jest, defined the Valdai report as “Tolstoyian, a little anarchical” – focusing on the current top two, great interlocking challenges: climate change and the fact that “350 years of Western and 250 years of Anglo-American predominance are coming to an end.”

As we see the “present world order fading in front of our eyes”, Lieven notes a sort of “revenge of the Third World”. But then, alas, Western prejudice sets in all over again, as he defines China reductively as a “challenge”.

Mearsheimer neatly remembers we have lived, successively, under a bipolar, unipolar and now multipolar world: with China, Russia and the US, “Great Power Politics is back on the table.”

He correctly assesses that after the dire experience of the “century of humiliation, the Chinese will make sure they are really powerful.” And that will set the stage for the US to deploy a “highly-aggressive containment policy”, just like it did against the USSR, that “may well end up in a shooting match”.

“I trust Arnold more than the EU”

Lavrov, in his introductory remarks, had explained that in realpolitik terms, the world “cannot be run from one center alone.” He took time to stress the “meticulous, lengthy and sometimes ungrateful” work of diplomacy.

It was later, in one of his interventions, that he unleashed the real bombshell (starting at 1:15:55; in Russian, overdubbed in English): “When the European Union is speaking as a superior, Russia wants to know, can we do any business with Europe?”

He mischievously quotes Schwarzenegger, “who in his movies always said ‘Trust me’. So I trust Arnold more than the European Union”.

And that leads to the definitive punch line: “The people who are responsible for foreign policy in the West do not understand the necessity of mutual respect in dialogue. And then probably for some time we have to stop talking to them.” After all, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen had stated, on the record, that for the EU, “there is no geopolitical partnership with modern Russia”.

Lavrov went even further in a stunning, wide-ranging interview with Russian radio stations whose translation deserves to be carefully read in full.

Here is just one of the most crucial snippets:

Lavrov: “No matter what we do, the West will try to hobble and restrain us, and undermine our efforts in the economy, politics, and technology. These are all elements of one approach.”

Question: “Their national security strategy states that they will do so.”

Lavrov: “Of course it does, but it is articulated in a way that decent people can still let go unnoticed, but it is being implemented in a manner that is nothing short of outrageous.”

Question: You, too, can articulate things in a way that is different from what you would really like to say, correct?”

Lavrov: “It’s the other way round. I can use the language I’m not usually using to get the point across. However, they clearly want to throw us off balance, and not only by direct attacks on Russia in all possible and conceivable spheres by way of unscrupulous competition, illegitimate sanctions and the like, but also by unbalancing the situation near our borders, thus preventing us from focusing on creative activities. Nevertheless, regardless of the human instincts and the temptations to respond in the same vein, I’m convinced that we must abide by international law.”

Moscow stands unconditionally by international law – in contrast with the proverbial “rules of the liberal international order” jargon parroted by NATO and its minions such as the Atlantic Council.

And here it is all over again, a report extolling NATO to “Ramp Up on Russia”, blasting Moscow’s “aggressive disinformation and propaganda campaigns against the West, and unchecked adventurism in the Middle East, Africa, and Afghanistan.”

The Atlantic Council insists on how those pesky Russians have once again defied “the international community by using an illegal chemical weapon to poison opposition leader Alexei Navalny. NATO’s failure to halt Russia’s aggressive behavior puts the future of the liberal international order at risk.”

Only fools falling for the blind leading the blind syndrome don’t know that these liberal order “rules” are set by the Hegemon alone, and can be changed in a flash according to the Hegemon’s whims.

So it’s no wonder a running joke in Moscow is “if you don’t listen to Lavrov, you will listen to Shoigu.” Sergey Shoigu is Russia’s Minister of Defense, supervising all those hypersonic weapons the US industrial-military complex can only dream about.

The crucial point is even with so much NATO-engendered hysteria, Moscow could not give a damn because of its de facto military supremacy. And that freaks Washington and Brussels out even more.

What’s left is Hybrid War eruptions following the RAND corporation-prescribed non-stop harassment and “unbalancing” of Russia, in Belarus, the southern Caucasus and Kyrgyzstan – complete with sanctions on Lukashenko and on Kremlin officials for the Navalny “poisoning”.

“You do not negotiate with monkeys”

What Lavrov just made it quite explicit was a long time in the making. “Modern Russia” and the EU were born almost at the same time. On a personal note, I experienced it in an extraordinary fashion. “Modern Russia” was born in December 1991 – when I was on the road in India, then Nepal and China. When I arrived in Moscow via the Trans-Siberian in February 1992, the USSR was no more. And then, flying back to Paris, I arrived at a European Union born in that same February.

One of Valdai’s leaders correctly argues that the daring concept of a “Europe stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok” coined by Gorbachev in 1989, right before the collapse of the USSR, unfortunately “had no document or agreement to back it up.”

And yes, “Putin searched diligently for an opportunity to implement the partnership with the EU and to further rapprochement. This continued from 2001 until as late as 2006.”

We all remember when Putin, in 2010, proposed exactly the same concept, a common house from Lisbon to Vladivostok, and was flatly rebuffed by the EU. It’s very important to remember this was four years before the Chinese would finalize their own concept of the New Silk Roads.

Afterwards, the only way was down. The final Russia-EU summit took place in Brussels in January 2014 – an eternity in politics.

The fabulous intellectual firepower gathered at the Valdai is very much aware that the Iron Curtain 2.0 between Russia and the EU simply won’t disappear.

And all this while the IMF, The Economist and even that Thucydides fallacy proponent admit that China is already, in fact, the world’s top economy.

Russia and China share an enormously long border. They are engaged in a complex, multi-vector “comprehensive strategic partnership”. That did not develop because the estrangement between Russia and the EU/NATO forced Moscow to pivot East, but mostly because the alliance between the world’s neighboring top economy and top military power makes total Eurasian sense – geopolitically and geoeconomically.

And that totally corroborates Lieven’s diagnosis of the end of “250 years of Anglo-American predominance.”

It was up to inestimable military analyst Andrey Martyanov, whose latest book I reviewed as a must read, to come up with the utmost deliciously devastating assessment of Lavrov’s “We had enough” moment:

“Any professional discussion between Lavrov and former gynecologist [actually epidemiologist] such as von der Leyen, including Germany’s Foreign Minister Maas, who is a lawyer and a party worm of German politics is a waste of time. Western “elites” and “intellectuals” are simply on a different, much lower level, than said Lavrov. You do not negotiate with monkeys, you treat them nicely, you make sure that they are not abused, but you don’t negotiate with them, same as you don’t negotiate with toddlers. They want to have their Navalny as their toy – let them. I call on Russia to start wrapping economic activity up with EU for a long time. They buy Russia’s hydrocarbons and hi-tech, fine. Other than that, any other activity should be dramatically reduced and necessity of the Iron Curtain must not be doubted anymore.”

As much as Washington is not “agreement-capable”, in the words of President Putin, so is the EU, says Lavrov: “We should stop to orient ourselves toward European partners and care about their assessments.”

Not only Russia knows it: the overwhelming majority of the Global South also knows it.

الصين تسرّع الخطى عالميّاً فهل يُسرّع لبنان؟

ناصر قنديل

رسمت الصين كقوة صاعدة على المستوى الاقتصادي الدوليّ مشروعها للانتقال خارج الحدود من خلال ما عُرف بخطة الحزام والطريق، الذي يتوزع على محاور عدة أبرزها خطوط سكك حديد وجسور بريّة ضخمة، وطرق بحريّة حديثة بمرافئ مجهزة، تؤمن ربط الصين بأجزاء القارة الآسيويّة كلها وصولاً إلى أوروبا من نوافذ متعددة أهمها روسيا وتركيا، وبمشاركة دولتين أوروبيتين هما اليونان وإيطاليا انضمّتا إلى الخطة الصينية، وفتحتا الباب لاستثمارات صينية تعبيراً عن ذلك، وتقع باكستان آسيوياً في قلب الخطة الصينية عبر استثمار يقارب مئة مليار دولار في مرفأ غوادر، بينما جاء الاتفاق الموقع بين الصين والعراق والذي بلغت قيمته خمسمئة مليار دولار، تطال بناء كل شيء في العراق من الجامعات إلى المستشفيات وسكك الحديد والكهرباء ومحطات المياه وخطوط النفط والغاز، والتي شكلت وفقاً للخبراء سبباً لتحريك الضغوط تحت عنوان ثورة الشارع على حكومة الرئيس عادل عبد المهدي وصولاً لاستقالته، ولا يتبرأ الأميركيّون من مسؤوليتهم عن إسقاطها، من دون أن يتمكن خليفته مصطفى الكاظمي من التبرؤ من الاتفاق الذي وقعه سلفه.

مع غموض مصير الاتفاق الصيني العراقي وبقائه فوق الطاولة، يثبت اتفاقان صينيان كبيران، كل منهما بخمسمئة مليار دولار، واحد مع إيران والآخر مع روسيا، وفيهما عناوين في حقول الطاقة وصناعة الطائرات المدنيّة، وصناعة تكنولوجيا الاتصالات، وتجهيز المرافئ وبناء شبكات متطوّرة لسكك الحديد ومدن سياحية، وعبرهما تصل الصين إلى حدود أوروبا من خلال روسيا، وإلى مياه الخليج وحدود المتوسط عبر إيران، ومن خلالها نحو العراق أو تركيا أو كليهما، بينما يتشارك الروس والإيرانيّون في تشجيع الصين على الاستثمار في سورية، خلافاً لكل التحليلات التي تتحدث عن تضارب مصالح على هذا الصعيد.

يناقش بعض اللبنانيين الانفتاح على الصين بسذاجة وجهل، متخيلين أن الحديث يجري عن دولة نامية، حيث يقع هذا البعض في أوهام ماضي التفوق الأوروبي التقني والصناعي، والتفوق الأميركي الاقتصادي، متجاهلين معنى انضمام إيطاليا لمبادرة الحزام والطريق الصينية، ومتجاهلين معنى نشر أبراج شركة هواوي الصينية في سويسرا وبريطانيا وألمانيا، لاستثمار تقنية الجيل الخامس من أجهزة الاتصالات، الذي يشكل محور الثورة العالمية في التكنولوجيا، ونقطة الارتكاز في الاقتصادات الرقمية الحديثة، ومتجاهلين أن صناعة الدواء العالمي، بما في ذلك الأميركي والأوروبي تتم بنسبة 90% في المصانع الصينية، وأن شركات أميركية عملاقة مثل أبل تصنّع هواتفها الذكية في الصين، وأن مرافئ عالمية كبرى مثل بوسطن وأمستردام تعمل بمعدات صينية بنسبة 80%، وأن اكبر مخزون عالمي من السلع والأموال والمعدات الصناعيّة موجود لدى الصين، وأن الاستثمار الأكبر في سندات الخزينة الأميركية هو الاستثمار الصيني بقيمة تزيد عن ثلاثة تريليونات دولار.

لبنان الذي يملك قيمة استراتيجية في موقعه على البحر المتوسط، وكان الصينيون قد أعربوا عن اهتمامهم بمرفأ طرابلس وبخطوط سكك الحديد وبناء مدن صناعية حرة، يملك أيضاً قيمة مضافة يمثلها القطاع المصرفي الذي ورّطه أصحابه والقيّمون عليه سياسياً ومالياً بعملية تدمير ذاتي، يمكن أن يشكل مصدر اهتمام صيني عبر عن نفسه بسعي الصين ضمن عروضهم للبنان بامتلاك مصرف ومؤسسة مالية، هذا بالإضافة لتوافر أجيال من خبراء بالتقنيات الحديثة في المعلوماتية والاتصالات بين متخرجي الجامعات من اللبنانيين، يندر وجود مثله في العالم العربي يؤهل لبنان لتشكيل منصة تقنية متقدمة للعالم العربي في مجال اقتصاد المعرفة.

الغباء وحده قد يحول دون إفادة لبنان من الفرصة الصينية، بما فيها ما سيحصل عليه إذا وضع ذلك شرطاً لاتفاق اقتصادي استراتيجي، لجهة طلب توظيف صيني برقم قد يصل إلى عشرين مليار دولار في سندات الخزينة اللبنانية بفائدة منخفضة ولمدة تزيد عن عشر سنوات، ما يؤهل لبنان السيطرة على أزمة الديون، والسيطرة على سعر الصرف، فهل يملك اللبنانيون شجاعة الإقدام، أم أن لدعوات الحياد علاقة بمسعى تعطيل هذا التوجّه، تحت شعار الهوية الدينية مرة والثقافية مرة؟

Selected Articles: The Pentagon’s “Anti-China Weapons” and “The New Silk Roads”

By Global Research News

Global Research, July 13, 2020

We hope that by publishing diverse view points, submitted by journalists and experts dotted all over the world, the website can serve as a reminder that no matter what narrative we are presented with, things are rarely as cut and dry as they seem.

If Global Research has been a resource which has offered you some solace over the past few months, we ask you to make a financial contribution to our running costs so that we may keep this important project alive and well! We thank you for your support!

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Busted: 11 COVID Assumptions Based on Fear Not Fact

By Makia Freeman, July 13, 2020

COVID assumptions – the assumptions people make about COVID, how dangerous it is, how it spreads and what we need to do to stop it – are running rampant, running far more wildly than the supposed virus SARS-CoV2 itself. The coldly calculated campaign of propaganda surrounding this ‘pandemic’ has achieved its aim. Besieged with a slew of contradictory information coming from all angles, people in general have succumbed to confusion. Some have given up trying to understand the situation and found it is just easier to obey official directives, even if it means giving up long-held rights. Below is a list of commonly held COVID assumptions which, if you believe them, will make you much more likely to submit to the robotic, insane and abnormal conditions of the New Normal – screening, testing, contact tracing, monitoring, surveillance, mask-wearing, social distancing, quarantine and isolation, with mandatory vaccination and microchipping to come.

Congress Wants More Unnecessary Anti-China Weapons Programs in Annual Defense Bill

By Michael T. Klare, July 13, 2020

Cotton’s proposal, stuffed with lucrative giveaways to the defense industry — $1.6 billion for “logistics and security enablers,” $775 million for “building national resilience to space weather,” among others — bears little apparent relevance to the military equation in Asia and is unlikely to be embraced by a majority of Senators. However, many of his proposed budgetary add-ons have been incorporated into other measures aimed at boosting U.S. military might in the Asia-Pacific region.

75 Years Ago: When Szilard Tried to Halt Dropping Atomic Bombs Over Japan

By Greg Mitchell, July 13, 2020

On July 3, 1945, the great atomic scientist Leo Szilard finished a letter/petition that would become the strongest (virtually the only) real attempt at halting President Truman’s march to using the atomic bomb–still almost two weeks from its first test at Trinity–against Japanese cities.

We rarely hear that as the Truman White House made plans to use the first atomic bombs against Japan in the summer of 1945, a large group of atomic scientists, many of whom had worked on the bomb project, raised their voices, or at least their names, in protest. They were led by the great physicist Szilard who, among things, is the man who convinced Albert Einstein to write his famous yes-it-can-be-done letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, setting the bomb project in motion.

As the Arctic Burns, Trump Bailouts Fossil Fuel Industry with Billions

By Andy Rowell, July 13, 2020

The Arctic is once again on fire. And the extremely warm temperatures in the region — and concurrent wildfires — are another urgent reminder that we need to divest from fossil fuels as soon as possible.

They are a pressing reminder that any post COVID-19 bailout should be focused on an immediate just recovery toward industry workers, renewables, and clean energy.

The UK Reading Stabbings: Al Qaeda LIFG Terrorists Supported by UK. Product of British Foreign Policy

By Tony Cartalucci, July 12, 2020

It should surprise no one paying attention that the suspect in the recent stabbing spree in Reading, UK was not only known to British security agencies as an extremist and security threat, but that he comes from the pool of extremists the British aided Washington in funding, arming, training, and providing air support for during the 2011 overthrow of the Libyan government and have harbored before and ever since.

Looks Like Sweden Was Right After All

By Mike Whitney, July 12, 2020

Why is the media so fixated on Sweden’s coronavirus policy? What difference does it make?

Sweden settled on a policy that they thought was both sustainable and would save as many lives as possible. They weren’t trying to ‘show anyone up’ or ‘prove how smart they were’. They simply took a more traditionalist approach that avoided a full-scale lockdown. That’s all.

Iran and China Turbo-charge the New Silk Roads

By Pepe Escobar, July 12, 2020

Two of the US’s top “strategic threats” are getting closer and closer within the scope of the New Silk Roads – the leading 21st century project of economic integration across Eurasia. The Deep State will not be amused.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi blasted as “lies”  a series of rumors about the “transparent roadmap” inbuilt in the evolving Iran-China strategic partnership.The original source of this article is Global ResearchCopyright © Global Research News, Global Research, 2020

Iran-China pact turbocharges the New Silk Roads

Source

July 11, 2020

Iran-China pact turbocharges the New Silk Roads

China will invest $400 billion in Iran energy and infrastructure but nothing in strategic pact allows for a Chinese troop presence or island handover

By Pepe Escobar republished from Asia Times by permission of author

Two of the US’s top “strategic threats” are getting closer and closer within the scope of the New Silk Roads – the leading 21st century project of economic integration across Eurasia. The Deep State will not be amused.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi blasted as “lies” a series of rumors about the “transparent roadmap” inbuilt in the evolving Iran-China strategic partnership.

That was complemented by President Rouhani’s chief of staff, Mahmoud Vezi, who said that “a destructive line of propaganda has been initiated and directed from outside Iran against the expansion of Iran’s relations with neighbors and especially (with) China and Russia.”

Vezi added, “this roadmap in which a path is defined for expansion of relations between governments and the private sectors is signed and will continue to be signed between many countries.”

To a great extent, both Mousavi and Vezi were referring to a sensationalist report which did not add anything that was not already known about the strategic partnership, but predictably dog-whistled a major red alert about the military alliance.

The Iran-China strategic partnership was officially established in 2016, when President Xi visited Tehran. These are the guidelines.

Two articles among the 20 listed in the agreement are particularly relevant.

Item 7 defines the scope of the partnership within the New Silk Roads vision of Eurasia integration: “The Iranian side welcomes ‘the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road’ initiative introduced by China. Relying on their respective strengths and advantages as well as the opportunities provided through the signing of documents such as the “MOU on Jointly Promoting the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road’ and ‘MOU on Reinforcement of Industrial and Mineral Capacities and Investment’, both sides shall expand cooperation and mutual investments in various areas including transportation, railway, ports, energy, industry, commerce and services.”

And item 10 praises Iran’s membership of the AIIB: “The Chinese side appreciates Iran’s participation as a ‘Founding Member’ of the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank. Both sides are willing to strengthen their cooperation in the relevant areas and join their efforts towards the progress and prosperity of Asia.”

So what’s the deal?

The core of the Iran-China strategic partnership – no secret whatsoever since at least last year – revolves around a $400 billion Chinese investment in Iran’s energy and infrastructure for the next 25 years. It’s all about securing a matter of supreme Chinese national interest: a steady supply of oil and gas, bypassing the dangerous bottleneck of the Strait of Malacca, secured with a median 18% discount, and paid in yuan or in a basket of currencies bypassing the US dollar.

Beijing will also invest roughly $228 billion in Iranian infrastructure – that’s where the AIIB comes in – over 25 years, but especially up to 2025. That ranges from building factories to badly needed energy industry renovation, all the way to the already in progress construction of the 900 km-long electric rail from Tehran to Mashhad.

Tehran, Qom and Isfahan will also be linked by high-speed rail – and there will be an extension to Tabriz, an important oil, gas and petrochemical node and the starting point of the Tabriz-Ankara gas pipeline.

All of the above makes total sense in New Silk Road terms, as Iran is a key Eurasian crossroads. High-speed rail traversing Iran will connect Urumqi in Xinjiang to Tehran, via four of the Central Asian “stans” (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan) all the way to West Asia, across Iraq and Turkey, and further on to Europe: a techno revival of the Ancient Silk Roads, where the main language of trade between East and West across the heartland was Persian.

The terms of aerial and naval military cooperation between Iran and China and also Russia are still not finalized – as Iranian sources told me. And no one has had access to the details. What Mousavi said, in a tweet, was that “there is nothing [in the agreement] about delivering Iranian islands to China, nothing about the presence of military forces, and other falsehoods.”

The same applies to – totally unsubstantiated – speculation that the PLA would be granted bases in Iran and be allowed to station troops in Iranian territory.

Last Sunday, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif stressed Iran and China had been negotiating “with confidence and conviction” and there was “nothing secret” about the agreement.

Iranian, Chinese and Russian negotiators will meet next month to discuss terms of the military cooperation among the top three nodes of Eurasia integration. Closer collaboration is scheduled to start by November.

Geopolitically and geoeconomically, the key take away is that the US relentless blockade of the Iranian economy, featuring hardcore weaponized sanctions, is impotent to do anything about the wide-ranging Iran-China deal. Here is a decent expose of some of the factors in play.

The Iran-China strategic partnership is yet another graphic demonstration of what could be deconstructed as the Chinese brand of exceptionalism: a collective mentality and enough organized planning capable of establishing a wide-ranging, win-win, economic, political and military partnership.

It’s quite instructive to place the whole process within the context of what State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi stressed at a recent China-US Think Tanks meeting, attended, among others, by Henry Kissinger:

“One particular view has been floating around in recent years, alleging that the success of China’s path will be a blow and threat to the Western system and path. This claim is inconsistent with facts, and we do not agree with it. Aggression and expansion are never in the genes of the Chinese nation throughout its 5,000 years of history. China does not replicate any model of other countries, nor does it export its own to others. We never ask other countries to copy what we do. More than 2,500 years ago, our forefathers advocated that ‘All living things can grow in harmony without hurting one another, and different ways can run in parallel without interfering with one another’”.

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