From Russia, With (Taliban) Love

October 22, 2021

Image Credit: The Cradle
From Russia, With (Taliban) Love

By Pepe Escobar posted with permission and cross posted with The Cradle

Facing high expectations, a five-man band Taliban finally played in Moscow. Yet the star of the show, predictably, was the Mick Jagger of geopolitics: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Right from the start, Lavrov set the tone for the Moscow format consultations, which boast the merit of “uniting Afghanistan with all neighboring countries.” Without skipping a beat, he addressed the US elephant in the room – or lack thereof: “Our American colleagues chose not to participate,” actually “for the second time, evading an extended troika-format meeting.”

Asia’s powerbrokers dropped an Afghan bombshell in Moscow today: ‘the country’s reconstruction must be paid for by its military occupiers of 20 years.’

Washington invoked hazy “logistical reasons” for its absence.

The troika, which used to meet in Doha, consists of Russia, the US, China and Pakistan. The extended troika in Moscow this week featured Russia, China, India, Iran, Pakistan and all five Central Asian ‘stans.’ That, in essence, made it a Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) meeting, at the highest level.

Lavrov’s presentation essentially expanded on the themes highlighted by the recent SCO Dushanbe Declaration: Afghanistan should be an “independent, neutral, united, democratic and peaceful state, free of terrorism, war and drugs,” and bearing an inclusive government “with representatives from all ethnic, religious and political groups.”

The joint statement issued after the meeting may not have been exactly a thriller. But then, right at the end, paragraph 9 offers the real bombshell:

“The sides have proposed to launch a collective initiative to convene a broad-based international donor conference under the auspices of the United Nations as soon as possible, certainly with the understanding that the core burden of post-conflict economic and financial reconstruction and development of Afghanistan must be shouldered by troop-based actors which were in the country for the past 20 years.”

The West will argue that a donor conference of sorts already happened: that was the G-20 special summit via videoconference earlier in October, which included UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Then, last week, much was made of a European promise of 1 billion euros in humanitarian aid, which, as it stands, remains extremely vague, with no concrete details.

At the G-20, European diplomats admitted, behind closed doors, that the main rift was between the West “wanting to tell the Taliban how to run their country and how to treat women” as necessary conditions in exchange for some help, compared to Russia and China following their non-interference foreign policy mandates.

Afghanistan’s neighbors, Iran and Pakistan, were not invited to the G-20, and that’s nonsensical. It’s an open question whether the official G-20 in Rome, on 30-31 October, will also address Afghanistan along with the main themes: climate change, Covid-19, and a still elusive global economic recovery.

No US in Central Asia

So the Moscow format, as Lavrov duly stressed, remains the go-to forum when it comes to addressing Afghanistan’s serious challenges.

Now we come to the crunch. The notion that the economic and financial reconstruction of Afghanistan should be conducted mainly by the former imperial occupier and its NATO minions – quaintly referred to as “troop-based actors” – is a non-starter.

The US does not do nation-building – as the entire Global South knows by experience. Even to unblock the nearly $10 billion of the Afghan Central Bank confiscated by Washington will be a hard slog. The IMF predicted that without foreign help the Afghan economy may shrink by 30 percent.

The Taliban, led by second Prime Minister Abdul Salam Hanafi, tried to put on a brave face. Hanafi argued that the current interim government is already inclusive: after all, over 500,000 employees of the former administration have kept their jobs.

But once again, much precious detail was lost in translation, and the Taliban lacked a frontline figure capable of capturing the Eurasian imagination. The mystery persists: where is Mullah Baradar?

Baradar, who led the political office in Doha, was widely tipped to be the face of the Taliban to the outside world after the group’s takeover of Kabul on 15 August. He has been effectively sidelined.

The background to the Moscow format, though, offers a few nuggets. There were no leaks – but diplomats hinted it was tense. Russia had to play careful mediator, especially when it came to addressing grievances by India and concerns by Tajikistan.

Everyone knew that Russia – and all the other players – would not recognize the Taliban as the new Afghan government, at least not yet. That’s not the point. The priority once again had to be impressed on the Taliban leadership: no safe haven for any jihadi outfits that may attack “third countries, especially the neighbors,” as Lavrov stressed.

When President Putin casually drops the information, on the record, that there are at least 2,000 ISIS-K jihadis in northern Afghanistan, this means Russian intel knows exactly where they are, and has the capabilities to snuff them, should the Taliban signal help is needed.

Now compare it with NATO – fresh from its massive Afghan humiliation – holding a summit of defense ministers in Brussels this Thursday and Friday to basically lecture the Taliban. NATO’s secretary-general, the spectacularly mediocre Jens Stoltenberg, insists that “the Taliban are accountable to NATO” over addressing terrorism and human rights.

As if this was not inconsequential enough, what really matters – as background to the Moscow format – is how the Russians flatly refused a US request to deploy their intel apparatus somewhere in Central Asia, in theory, to monitor Afghanistan.

First they wanted a “temporary” military base in Uzbekistan or Tajikistan: Putin–Biden actually discussed it at the Geneva summit. Putin counter-offered, half in jest, to host the Americans in a Russian base, probably in Tajikistan. Moscow gleefully played along for a few weeks just to reach an immovable conclusion: there’s no place for any US “counter-terrorism” shenanigans in Central Asia.

To sum it all up, Lavrov in Moscow was extremely conciliatory. He stressed how the Moscow format participants plan to use all opportunities for “including” the Taliban via several multilateral bodies, such as the UN, the SCO – where Afghanistan is an observer nation – and crucially, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), which is a military alliance.

So many layers of ‘inclusiveness’ beckon. Humanitarian help from SCO nations like Pakistan, Russia and China is on its way. The last thing the Taliban need is to be ‘accountable’ to brain-dead NATO.

Europa Scorned and Forsaken

October 8, 2021

By Alastair Crooke

Source

alia however, was a centrepiece to Paris’s strategy for European ‘strategic autonomy’. Macron believed France and the EU had established a position of lasting influence in the heart of the Indo-Pacific. Better still, it had out-manoeuvred Britain, and broken into the Anglophone world of the Five Eyes to become a privileged defence partner of Australia. Biden dissed that. And Commission President von der Leyen told CNN that there could not be “business as usual” after the EU was blindsided by AUKUS.

One factor for the UK being chosen as the ‘Indo-Pacific partner’ very probably was Trump’s successful suasion with ‘Bojo’ Johnson to abandon the Cameron-Osborne outreach to China; whereas the big three EU powers were perceived in the US security world as ambivalent towards China, at best. The UK really did cut links. The grease finally was Brexit, which opened the window for strategic options – which otherwise would have been impossible to the UK.

There may be a heavy price to pay though further down the line – the US security establishment are really pushing the Taiwan ‘envelope’ to the limit (possibly to weaken the CCP). It is extremely high risk. China may decide ‘enough is enough’, and crush the AUKUS maritime venture, which it can do.

The second ‘leg’ to this global inflection point – also triggered around the Afghan pivot into the Russo-Chines axis – was the SCO summit last month. A memorandum of understanding was approved that would tie together China’s Belt and Road Initiative to the Eurasian Economic Community, within the overall structure of the SCO, whilst adding a deeper military dimension to the expanded SCO structure.

Significantly, President Xi spoke separately to members of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (of which China is not a part), to outline its prospective military integration too, into the SCO military structures. Iran was made a full member, and it and Pakistan (already a member), were elevated into prime Eurasian roles. In sum, all Eurasian integration paths combined into a new trade, resource – and military block. It represents an evolving big-power, security architecture covering some 57% of the world’s population.

Having lifted Iran into full membership – Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Egypt may also become SCO dialogue partners. This augurs well for a wider architecture that may subsume more of the Middle East. Already, Turkey after President Erdogan’s summit with President Putin at Sochi last week, gave clear indications of drifting towards Russia’s military complex – with major orders for Russian weaponry. Erdogan made clear in an interview with the US media that this included a further S400 air defence system, which almost certainly will result in American CAATSA sanctions on Turkey.

All of this faces the EU with a dilemma: Allies who cheered Biden’s ‘America is back’ slogan in January have found, eight months later, that ‘America First’ never went away. But rather, Biden paradoxically is delivering on the Trump agenda (continuity again!) – a truncated NATO (Trump mooted quitting it), and the possible US shunning of Germany as some candidate coalition partners edge toward exiting from the nuclear umbrella. The SPD still pays lip service to NATO, but the party is opposed to the 2% defence spending target (on which both Biden and Trump have insisted). Biden also delivered on the Afghanistan withdrawal.

Europeans may feel betrayed (though when has US policy ever been other than ‘America First’? It’s just the pretence which is gone). European grander aspirations at the global plane have been rudely disparaged by Washington. The Russia-China axis is in the driving seat in Central Asia – with its influence seeping down to Turkey and into the Middle East. The latter commands the lions’ share of world minerals, population – and, in the CTSO sphere, has the region most hungry and ripe for economic development.

The point here however, is the EU’s ‘DNA’. The EU was a project originally midwifed by the CIA, and is by treaty, tied to the security interests of NATO (i.e. the US). From the outset, the EU was constellated as the soft-power arm of the Washington Consensus, and the Euro deliberately was made outlier to the dollar sphere, to preclude competition with it (in line with the Washington Consensus doctrine). In 2002, an EU functionary (Robert Cooper) could envisage Europe as a new ‘liberal imperialism’. The ‘new’ was that Europe eschewed hard military power, in favour of the ‘soft’ power of its ‘vision’. Of course, Cooper’s assertion of the need for a ‘new kind of imperialism’ was not as ‘cuddly’ liberal – as presented. He advocated for ‘a new age of empire’, in which Western powers no longer would have to follow international law in their dealings with ‘old fashioned’ states; could use military force independently of the United Nations; and impose protectorates to replace regimes which ‘misgovern’.

This may have sounded quite laudable to the Euro-élites initially, but this soft-power European Leviathan was wholly underpinned by the unstated – but essential – assumption that America ‘had Europe’s back’. The first intimation of the collapse of this necessary pillar was Trump who spoke of Europe as a ‘rival’. Now the US flight from Kabul, and the AUKUS deal, hatched behind Europe’s back, unmissably reveals that the US does not at all have Europe’s back.

This is no semantic point. It is central to the EU concept. As just one example: when Mario Draghi was recently parachuted onto Italy as PM, he wagged his finger at the assembled Italian political parties: “Italy would be pro-European and North Atlanticist too”, he instructed them. This no longer makes sense in the light of recent events. So what is Europe? What does it mean to be ‘European’? All that needs to be thought through.

Europe today is caught between a rock and a hard place. Does it possess the energy (and the humility) to look itself in the mirror, and re-position itself diplomatically? It would require altering its address to both Russia and China, in the light of a Realpolitik analysis of its interests and capabilities.

The Iran-Azerbaijan standoff is a contest for the region’s transportation corridors

October 05, 2021

Sides are forming around the Iran vs Azerbaijan squabble. But this fight is not about ethnicity, religion or tribe – it is mainly about who gets to forge the region’s new transportation routes.

By Pepe Escobar posted with permission and cross-posted with The Cradle

The Iran-Azerbaijan standoff is a contest for the region’s transportation corridors

The last thing the complex, work-in-progress drive towards Eurasian integration needs at this stage is this messy affair between Iran and Azerbaijan in the South Caucasus.

Let’s start with the Conquerors of Khaybar – the largest Iranian military exercise in two decades held on its northwestern border with Azerbaijan.

Among the deployed Iranian military and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) units there are some serious players, such as the 21st Tabriz Infantry Division, the IRGC Ashura 31 battalion, the 65th Airborne Special Forces Brigade and an array of missile systems, including the Fateh-313 and Zulfiqar ballistic missiles with ranges of up to 700 kilometers.

The official explanation is that the drills are a warning to enemies plotting anything against the Islamic Republic.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei pointedly tweeted that “those who are under the illusion of relying on others, think that they can provide their own security, should know that they will soon take a slap, they will regret this.”

The message was unmistakable: this was about Azerbaijan relying on Turkey and especially Israel for its security, and about Tel Aviv instrumentalizing Baku for an intel drive leading to interference in northern Iran.

Further elaboration by Iranian experts went as far as Israel eventually using military bases in Azerbaijan to strike at Iranian nuclear installations.

The reaction to the Iranian military exercise so far is a predictable Turkey–Azerbaijani response: they are conducting a joint drill in Nakhchivan throughout this week.

But were Iran’s concerns off the mark? A close security collaboration between Baku and Tel Aviv has been developing for years now. Azerbaijan today possesses Israeli drones and is cozy with both the CIA and the Turkish military. Throw in the recent trilateral military drills involving Azerbaijan, Turkey and Pakistan – these are developments bound to raise alarm bells in Tehran.

Baku, of course, spins it in a different manner: Our partnerships are not aimed at third countries.

So, essentially, while Tehran accuses Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev of making life easy for Takfiri terrorists and Zionists, Baku accuses Tehran of blindly supporting Armenia. Yes, the ghosts of the recent Karabakh war are all over the place.

As a matter of national security, Tehran simply cannot tolerate Israeli companies involved in the reconstruction of regions won in the war near the Iranian border: Fuzuli, Jabrayil, and Zangilan.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdullahian has tried to play it diplomatically: “Geopolitical issues around our borders are important for us. Azerbaijan is a dear neighbor to Iran and that’s why we don’t want it to be trapped between foreign terrorists who are turning their soil into a hotbed.”

As if this was not complicated enough, the heart of the matter – as with all things in Eurasia – actually revolves around economic connectivity.

An interconnected mess

Baku’s geoeconomic dreams are hefty: the capital city aims to position itself at the key crossroads of two of the most important Eurasian corridors: North-South and East-West.

And that’s where the Zangezur Corridor comes in – arguably essential for Baku to predominate over Iran’s East-West connectivity routes.

The corridor is intended to connect western Azerbaijan to the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic via Armenia, with roads and railways passing through the Zangezur region.

Zangezur is also essential for Iran to connect itself with Armenia, Russia, and further on down the road, to Europe.

China and India will also rely on Zangezur for trade, as the corridor provides a significant shortcut in distance. Considering large Asian cargo ships cannot sail the Caspian Sea, they usually waste precious weeks just to reach Russia.

An extra problem is that Baku has recently started harassing Iranian truckers in transit through these new annexed regions on their way to Armenia.

It didn’t have to be this way. This detailed essay shows how Azerbaijan and Iran are linked by “deep historical, cultural, religious, and ethno-linguistic ties,” and how the four northwestern Iranian provinces – Gilan, Ardabil, East Azerbaijan and West Azerbaijan – have “common geographical borders with both the main part of Azerbaijan and its exclave, the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic; they also have deep and close commonalities based on Islam and Shiism, as well as sharing the Azerbaijani culture and language. All this has provided the ground for closeness between the citizens of the regions on both sides of the border.”

During the Rouhani years, relations with Aliyev were actually quite good, including the Iran‑Azerbaijan‑Russia and Iran‑Azerbaijan‑Turkey trilateral cooperation.

A key connectivity at play ahead is the project of linking the Qazvin‑Rasht‑Astara railway in Iran to Azerbaijan: that’s part of the all-important International North‑South Transport Corridor (INSTC).

Geoeconomically, Azerbaijan is essential for the main railway that will eventually run from India to Russia. No only that; the Iran‑Azerbaijan‑Russia trilateral cooperation opens a direct road for Iran to fully connect with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU).

In an optimal scenario, Baku can even help Iranian ports in the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman to connect to Georgian ports in the Black Sea.

The West is oblivious to the fact that virtually all sections of the INSTC are already working. Take, for instance, the exquisitely named Astara‑Astara railway connecting Iranian and Azerbaijani cities that share the same name. Or the Rasht‑Qazvin railway.

But then one important 130km stretch from Astara to Rasht, which is on the southern shore of the Caspian and is close to the Iranian–Azeri border, has not been built. The reason? Trump-era sanctions. That’s a graphic example of how much, in real-life practical terms, rides on a successful conclusion of the JCPOA talks in Vienna.

Who owns Zangezur?

Iran is positioned in a somewhat tricky patch along the southern periphery of the South Caucasus. The three major players in that hood are of course Iran, Russia, and Turkey. Iran borders the former Armenian – now Azeri – regions adjacent to Karabakh, including Zangilan, Jabrayil and Fuzuli.

It was clear that Iran’s flexibility on its northern border would be tied to the outcome of the Second Karabakh War. The northwestern border was a source of major concern, affecting the provinces of Ardabil and eastern Azerbaijan – which makes Tehran’s official position of supporting Azerbaijani over Armenian claims all the more confusing.

It is essential to remember that even in the Karabakh crisis in the early 1990s, Tehran recognized Nagorno‑Karabakh and the regions surrounding it as integral parts of Azerbaijan.

While both the CIA and Mossad appear oblivious to this recent regional history, it will never deter them from jumping into the fray to play Baku and Tehran against each other.

An extra complicating factor is that Zangezur is also mouth-watering from Ankara’s vantage point.

Arguably, Turkey’s neo-Ottoman President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who never shies away from an opportunity to expands his Turkic-Muslim strategic depth, is looking to use the Azeri connection in Zangezur to reach the Caspian, then Turkmenistan, all the way to Xinjiang, the Uyghur Muslim populated western territory of China. This, in theory, could become a sort of Turkish Silk Road bypassing Iran – with the ominous possibility of also being used as a rat line to export Takfiris from Idlib all the way to Afghanistan.

Tehran, meanwhile, is totally INSTC-driven, focusing on two railway lines to be rehabilitated and upgraded from the Soviet era. One is South-North, from Jolfa connecting to Nakhchivan and then onwards to Yerevan and Tblisi. The other is West-East, again from Jolfa to Nakhchivan, crossing southern Armenia, mainland Azerbaijan, all the way to Baku and then onward to Russia.

And there’s the rub. The Azeris interpret the tripartite document resolving the Karabakh war as giving them the right to establish the Zangezur corridor. The Armenians for their part dispute exactly which ‘corridor’ applies to each particular region. Before they clear up these ambiguities, all those elaborate Iranian and Tukish connectivity plans are effectively suspended.

The fact, though, remains that Azerbaijan is geoeconomically bound to become a key crossroads of trans-regional connectivity as soon as Armenia unblocks the construction of these transport corridors.

So which ‘win-win’ is it?

Will diplomacy win in the South Caucasus? It must. The problem is both Baku and Tehran frame it in terms of exercising their sovereignty – and don’t seem particularly predisposed to offer concessions.

Meanwhile, the usual suspects are having a ball exploiting those differences. War, though, is out of the question, either between Azerbaijan and Armenia or between Azerbaijan and Iran. Tehran is more than aware that in this case both Ankara and Tel Aviv would support Baku. It is easy to see who would profit from it.

As recently as April, in a conference in Baku, Aliyev stressed that “Azerbaijan, Turkey, Russia and Iran share the same approach to regional cooperation. The main area of concentration now is transportation, because it’s a situation which is called ‘win‑win.’ Everybody wins from that.”

And that brings us to the fact that if the current stalemate persists, the top victim will be the INSTC. In fact, everyone loses in terms of Eurasian integration, including India and Russia.

The Pakistan angle, floated by a few in hush-hush mode, is completely far-fetched. There’s no evidence Tehran would be supporting an anti-Taliban drive in Afghanistan just to undermine Pakistan’s ties with Azerbaijan and Turkey.

The Russia–China strategic partnership looks at the current South Caucasus juncture as unnecessary trouble, especially after the recent Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit. This badly hurts their complementary Eurasian integration strategies – the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the Greater Eurasian Partnership.

INSTC could, of course, go the trans-Caspian way and cut off Azerbaijan altogether. This is not likely though. China’s reaction, once again, will be the deciding factor. There could be more emphasis on the Persian corridor – from Xinjiang, via Pakistan and Afghanistan, to Iran. Or Beijing could equally bet on both East-West corridors, that is, bet on both Azerbaijan and Iran.

The bottom line is that neither Moscow nor Beijing wants this to fester. There will be serious diplomatic moves ahead, as they both know the only ones to profit will be the usual NATO-centric suspects, and the losers will be all the players who are seriously invested in Eurasian integration.

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Geopolitical Shifts – A New Future Dawns in the East

September 28, 2021

Geopolitical Shifts – A New Future Dawns in the East

by Peter Koenig for the Saker Blog

A shift in the world’s power base, alliances and economic strength, will undoubtedly happen within the coming years. In fact, it’s already ongoing. But not necessarily according to Klaus Schwab’s (WEF) “The Great Reset”. “Not necessarily”, because We, The People, can stop it. Plus, there are nations and their allies, who do not agree and won’t accept the enslavement of much of the world through the self-anointed powers of an ultra-rich elite.

The Saker, in his blog “Big, huge changes, in the near future (a tentative list)” (26 September 2021)  https://thesaker.is/big-huge-changes-in-the-near-future-a-tentative-list-of-the-major-ones/ has covered most of the geopolitical transformations that are most likely taking place in the foreseeable future.

Consider the SCO – the Shanghai Cooperation Organization – has just integrated Iran as new member. This – in the west – little-talked-about organization, association of eastern countries, created by China and Russia on 15 June 2001, started out with 7 Central and East-Asian members, Republic of Kazakhstan, the People’s Republic of China, the Kyrgyz Republic, the Russian Federation, the Republic of Tajikistan and the Republic of Uzbekistan.

Since then, have joined, India, Pakistan and now Iran. Associated members are Malaysia and Mongolia. Which makes the SCO one of the most powerful, possibly THE most powerful, socioeconomic and defense strategy organizations in the world – with nearly half the world’s population and about one third of the world’s GDP. 

One could undoubtedly ask, what does India have to do in this club? – India is swinging from West to East to West, where ever the crumbs of fortune seem to be larger. Recent photographs of India’s PM Narendra Modi with President Biden, together smiling to the media – speaks for itself.

Well, for sure, there are macro-strategic reasons for keeping Modi’s India in the SCO-Association. The day will come when India will be India again – not just expressed by the will of the people, but also by her leaders.

As well illustrated in The Saker’s essay, the west is destined to break apart and eventually collapse. Its reminiscent of the picture of al falling airplane, where the passengers are arguing and thrashing out on each other, while the rapidly descending plane is breaking apart – and soon hitting the ground. And probably goes up in smoke. It’s most likely not going to be that dramatic – but perhaps close.

Indeed, Europe cannot decide whether they are belonging to the western AngloZion block that has also captured Australia and New Zealand – or to the much stabler, and much more peaceful and congenial mega-continent – Eurasia. Just a couple of figures to dwell about: 55,000,000 km2 (21,000,000 sq mi), and 5.4 billion population, as of October 2019 – about two thirds of the world population.

It’s actually a no-brainer. We will soon see whether Europe, the European Union, eventually will fall apart for not knowing where to belong, or make a last-minute right decision. It’s a pity, that the “system” insinuating ruling the World Order, does not see, or not want to see, that they are betting on a paper tiger – like NATO – to come to its rescue.

Let’s look at AUKUS. It stands for Australia, UK and US and aims at modernizing the primary beneficiary – Australia – over the coming decades to take up security challenges in the Indo-Pacific.

The plan is to give access to cutting edge military technology to Australia by its two partners, including futuristic capabilities like artificial intelligence and quantum technologies. This refers to the recent deal of US/UK built nuclear submarines, canceling the submarine contract Australia had with France.
See this https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/defence/aukus-programme-an-explainer/articleshow/86282058.cms?utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst

This, AUKUS deal for unprepared France, annihilated a US$ 66 billion equivalent Australian contract with French majority state-owned Naval Group to provide 12 conventional diesel-electric submarines for Australia.

And imagine, this is just one of the first “deals” of the rather new AUKUS alliance. What may follow, are more such self-centered, immediate-profit-oriented deals that help further breaking apart the once-upon-a-time so powerful western alliance.

The new AUKUS deal will provide Australia with nuclear powered submarines. But the agreement is so new, neither cost nor time frame are so far public knowledge.

France withdrew its ambassadors to the United States and Australia after U.S. President Joe Biden revealed last week a new tripartite alliance including Australia and Britain that would allow Australia to amass a fleet of at least eight nuclear-powered submarines.

Russia Today (RT) sums it up: It is no surprise, then, that the newly forged Atlantic-Pacific triple alliance between the US, Great Britain, and Australia, known as AUKUS, has caught the eye of Russian leaders and defense chiefs. Announced on 15 September, the pact was presented as targeting China. However, it’s clear its geopolitical implications won’t be felt in Beijing alone.

The New AUKUS nuclear bloc won’t just battle China, it will take the West into confrontation with Russia too, Moscow’s security chief says.

Initially cautious, Moscow’s response has quickly become more critical. Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of Russia’s National Security Council, has denounced AUKUS as the “prototype of an Asian NATO,” set to expand, and directed against both China and Russia.

The essence of AUKUS is not complicated. While it covers various areas, such as cyber and artificial intelligence, its core is the transfer of technology from the USA to Australia. And not just any technology, but that of nuclear-powered submarines, which, until now, have been in the possession of only six states: China, France, Great Britain, Russia, the USA, and – in a complicated manner dependent on Russia – India. And of course, never to be mentioned: Israel.

In conclusion – Moscow may, accordingly, expand its own nuclear submarine fleet in the Pacific. In such a world, the already existing strategic partnership between China and Russia would only get stronger.

In parallel to this AUKUS treason on France, Biden is hosting a Quad summit (Quad Alliance = Quadrilateral Security Dialogue is a strategic dialogue between the United States, India, Japan and Australia). While the topic is not official news yet, it’s not difficult to guess that the subject is how to “contain” – speak “aggress” Russia and China. And again, strangely, prominent SCO member India plays along.
—-

There is the economic impact such a deal may have, not only in figures of hard money, but also as a precedent. No rules are respected. This is the “free market” of the New Brave World, under which not even traditional allies are respected and secure.

It is difficult to predict how France under Macron will act in response. Macron is certainly no DeGaulle. President Macron – or his aids, have insinuated that in response to the abrogation of the Aussi-French nuclear submarine deal, France may exit NATO. We can easily speculate, that’s what DeGaulle would have done. That would be something to be proud of for France and, in the long run for Europe too. But it is unlikely to happen. Macron is “guided” by darker forces.
——
This socioeconomic and political break-up of the so-called western alliance, will certainly hurt a lot of people, but the world, Mother Earth, will survive, and most of those who have not betrayed their believes may too.

It is unfathomable what the onset of covid has destroyed in terms of socioeconomic wealth and simply, wellbeing. People in the Global South, about whom hardly any wester politician speaks, are dying, from hunger, despair, disease – and merely from desperation. According to the World Food Program, close to a billion people are already suffering from famine or are at the verge of seriously suffering from food scarcity.

The imminent break-up of the west will accelerate the shift of economic and political power to the east.

Europe has not much time to decide whether they belong to the Future – the east – or the defunct and decaying past, the west (self-destruction by egocentricity and self-imposed empire). It requires both, the (western) people to wake up and take back their governments, abducted by the dark invisible forces; and the human strength to survive on a level of no-revenge, non-aggression, despite enormous sacrifices that may have to be made to salvage our civilization.

Yes, it’s possible. We can do it.

Peter Koenig is a geopolitical analyst and a former Senior Economist at the World Bank and the World Health Organization (WHO), where he has worked for over 30 years on water and environment around the world. He lectures at universities in the US, Europe and South America. He writes regularly for online journals and is the author of Implosion – An Economic Thriller about War, Environmental Destruction and Corporate Greed; and  co-author of Cynthia McKinney’s book “When China Sneezes: From the Coronavirus Lockdown to the Global Politico-Economic Crisis” (Clarity Press – November 1, 2020)

Peter Koenig is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He is also is a non-resident Sr. Fellow of the Chongyang Institute of Renmin University, Beijing.

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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Big, huge changes, in the near future (a tentative list)

SEPTEMBER 26, 2021

by Andrei for the Saker blog

Note: I will be terminating the fund drive today, and I want to thank ALL those who donated, be it prayers, words of support or money.  You have made a huge difference to us in a difficult moment and I want to thank you all for this!  As for the blog, it is now doing better than ever and I have you all to thank for it.

***

Truly, tectonic changes are happening before our eyes, and today I just want to list some of them but without going to deep into specific analyses, that I plan to do later in the coming weeks.  But just looking at this list is impressive enough, at least for me.  So, here we go:

The Anglos are circling the wagons:

The planned sale of US/UK SSNs to Australia is nothing short of a HUGE game changer.  It is also just the tip of a big iceberg:

  • The US seems to have de-facto given up on Europe, not only because the UK left or because the EU is crashing and unmanageable anyway, but because the political grip the US had on the continent is now clearly slipping: NATO is a paper tiger, the “new Europeans” have outlived their utility and Russia has basically successfully diffused the threat from the West by her titanic effort to develop capabilities which make an attack on Russia suicidal for any country, including the USA, whether nukes are involved or not.
  • By screwing over France, the US has jettisoned a pretty useless ally which had a short hysterical fit, but is already going back to its usual groveling and begging (BTW – those who think that de Gaulle was the last French patriot capable of telling Uncle Shmuel to “take a hike” are wrong, Mitterrand was the last one, but that is a topic for another day).
  • Of course, in political/PR terms, the US will continue to declare itself committed to NATO and the EU, but the “body language” (actions) of the US directly contradicts this notion.
  • For all its immense progress since the 80s and 90s, China still has two major technological weak points: aircraft engines and SSNs.  It just so happens that these are also two real US strong points.  By deploying 8 more SSNs near China, the US is very intelligently maximizing the use of its best assets and hurting China were it will hurt the most.  This does come with some very real risks, however, which I will discuss below.

The BRICS is close to becoming useless:

Brazil is currently run by the US and Israel.  South Africa is in a deep crisis.  As for India, it is doing what it has been doing for decades: trying to play all sides while trying to weaken China.  So it sure looks like the BRICS are becoming the “BRICS” which really leaves us with “only” the “RC” alliance which actually has a real name: the Chinese call it the “Strategic comprehensive partnership of coordination for the new era”.

Again, I don’t think that anybody will formally dissolve what was a rather informal alliance to begin with, but de-facto the BRICS seems to be loosing much of its former glamour and illusions.  As for Russia and China, they are not going to “save” the former BRICS members out of some sense of sympathy especially not against their own will: let them save themselves, or at least try.  Then, maybe.

Also, let’s be honest here, BRICS was an economic concept which was mostly an alliance of weak(er) countries against the big economic and military powers of the North and West.

As for the Russian-Chinese alliance (let’s call it that, even though formally that is not what this is), it is, by itself, already more powerful than BRICS and even more powerful that the united West (US+NATO+EU+etc.).

The SCO is changing (thanks to Uncle Shmuel), fast

If Biden was a secret “Putin agent” (“KGB agent” is the preferred term in the US, at least by those who do not seem to realize that the KGB was disbanded thirty years ago) he could not have done “better” than what he did in Afghanistan.  Now, thanks to this galactic faceplant, the small(er) guys in the SCO (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan) are now getting seriously concerned about what will happen next.  Even better, the (very powerful) Iran will officially become a SCO member this month!  Again, neither Russia not China “need” the SCO for their defense, but it sure makes things easier for them.  Speaking of Afghanistan, Pakistan is already a SCO member, as is India.

It is important to note that the SCO will not become an “Asian NATO” or an “anti-NATO” or anything similar.  Again, why would Russia, China and other want to follow a failed model?  They have repeated ad nauseam that their alliances are of unions of (truly!) sovereign states and that this union will not impede on this sovereignty in any ways (besides, neither Russia not China need to limit the others SCO members sovereignty to begin with).

The EU is slowly committing economic and political suicide

Initially, France had a major hissy fit, but is probably not doing the only thing France should do after what happened: leave NATO and slam the door on it, very loudly.  De Gaulle or Mitterrand would have done so immediately, but Macron?  Being the ultimate spineless fake that he is, it would be miraculous if he did anything meaningful (other than brutally repressing all the riots in France).

At this time of writing the result of the elections in Germany are too close to call, but even if NS2 is allowed to function, the level of russophobic hysteria in Europe is so extreme that the following will almost certainly happen: the EU will continue with its rhetoric until the prices go even further up, at which point they will turn to the only country which the EU desperately need to survive: the much hated and feared Russia.  Don’t quote me on that, but last week I remember the following prices for 1000 cubic meters of gas in Europe (just under 1000 dollars), the Ukraine (1600 dollars) and Belarus (120 dollars).  I might have memorized this wrong (I was traveling), and this might have changed, but the bottom line is this: only Russia can’t give the EU the energy it needs, and she has exactly ZERO reasons to make those russophobic prostitutes any favors (other than symbolic).  And even if my memory played a trick on me, what is certain that the prices for energy are soaring, the EU reserves are very low, and the temperatures falling.  Welcome to the real world 🙂

I won’t even go into the “multiculturalism” “inclusivity” “positivity” and other Woke nonsense which most of the EU countries have accepted as dogmas (even Switzerland caved in).

The US is like an aircraft breaking apart in mid-air

As most of you know, I have decided to stay away from internal US politics (for many different reasons).  So I will just use a metaphor: the US is like an aircraft which, due to pilot incompetence and infighting, is breaking apart in mid-air with its passengers still arguing about who should be the next pilot as that could make any difference.  Some passengers will continue to argue until the hit the ground.  Others are engage in “mid-air fistfights” apparently believing that if they succeed in beating the crap out of the other guy, they will somehow prevent gravity from doing what it does.

The reality is much simpler: a system that is not viable AND which cannot reform itself (too busy with self-worshiping and blaming others for everything) can only do one thing: collapse and, probably, even break-apart.  Only after that can the US, or whatever the successor state(s) will be called, rebuilt itself into something totally different from the US which died chocking on its own arrogance this year (like all the other empires in history, by the way, the latest one being the Soviet one).

The Russian elections

The results are in and they are yet another galactic faceplant for the AngloZionist Empire.  The main Kremlin Party took a hit, the Communists did very well, Zhirinovski’s LDPR lost a lot and a new (moderately pro-Kremlin) party made it in for the first time.  Considering the many billions of dollars the West has spent on trying to create a Belarus-like crisis in Russia (Navalnyi, Petrov, Boshirov & Co.), this is yet another truly gigantic failure for the West.  If anything, the rise of the KPRF shows that a lot of people are fed up with two things: 1) what they see as a tepid, if not outright weak, Russian foreign policy towards the West and 2) with the liberal (economically speaking) policies of Putin and his entourage.  Absolutely NOBODY in Russia wants “better relations” or any kind of “dialog” with the rabidly russophobic West.  And to the extend that Russia and the USA simply *have* to talk to each other (being nuclear superpowers) they, of course, will.  But the EU as such is of zero interest to Russia.  And if Russia needs to get something done (like what anyway?), she will talk to the US, not its EU underlings.  For all its problems, the US still matters.  But the clowns of the EU?

[Sidebar: the word “Communist” usually elicits a knee-jerk reaction from brainwashed US Americans.  But for the rest of them, let me just say that while I don’t think the KPRF is what Russia needs and while I have nothing good to say about Ziuganov or most of the KPRF leadership, I will say that KPRF does not mean Gulags, hammers and sickles smashing Ukie babies, Russian tanks in downtown Warsaw or any such nonsense.  There are several “Communist” parties in Russia, and none of them are even remotely similar to the kind of party the bad old CPSU was.  So while US politicians feel very witty to speak of the CCP-virus and that kind of nonsense (Ted Cruz is officially my “favorite idiot” in Congress now), this is so far detached from any reality that I won’t even bother explaining it here.]

The COVID pandemic

Wow, just wow.  Where do I even begin???  Biden’s speech on this topic was hateful declaration of war on all those who don’t fully accept the “official” White House line.  The fact that many (most?) of those who do not accept the official party line DO accept an even dumber version of events does not make it right to force them into choosing between their beliefs and, say, their job, or their right to move around.  Again, after listening to Biden I kept wondering if he was a “Putin agent” as his actions are only accelerating the breakup of the “US aircraft” I mentioned above.  You can say many things about COVID-dissidents, but you can’t deny them two things: 1) a sincere belief in their ideas and 2) an equally sincere belief that their core freedoms, values and rights are trampled upon by pathological liars and crooks (aka politicians + BigPharma).

They will resist and, yes, violently if needed.  Because for them it is a both a matter of personal human dignity and even survival!

At least, and so far, the US still has a powerful Constitution which will make it very hard for the current nutcases in the White House to do what they apparently want to do (force 80M US Americans to obey “or else”).  Furthermore, Federal courts cannot be simply ignored.  Also, US states still have a lot of power.  Finally, most US Americans still hold dear the ideals of freedom, liberty, small government, privacy, etc. But EU countries have no such protections from governmental abuse: true, in the US these are all rights are weakened by the day if not the hour, but at least they have not been *officially* abrogated (yet?).

If you want to see how bad things can get without such rights, just look at the pandemic freak show in Canada, Australia or New Zealand!

Finally, and irrespective of its actual origin (I am still on the fence on that), the COVID pandemic wiped all the make-up and has showed the entire world the true face of the West and its rulers: weak, ignorant, arrogant, hypocritical cowards whose only true concern is to cover their butts and “grab whatever can be grabbed” before the inevitable and final explosion (nuclear, economic or social).

Now back the the Aussie SSNs

The sale/lease of these SSNs is not only a danger for China, but also one for Russia.  Simply put, Russia cannot and will not allow the Anglos to strangle China like they did with Japan before WWII.  The good news is this: the latest Russian SSNs/SSGNs are at least as good as the latest Seawolf/Virginia class, if not better.  Ditto for ASW capabilities.  What Russia does lack is the needed numbers (and Anglo submarine fleets are much lager, even “just” the USN alone) and funds, both of which China has (or can have).  From the Kremlin’s point of view, the Anglos are trying to create an “Asian NATO”, something which neither China nor Russia will allow.  The Chinese already informed the Aussies that they are now a legitimate target for nuclear strikes (apparently, Australia wants to become the “Poland of the Pacific”), while the Russians only made general comments of disapproval.  But take this to the bank: the Russian General Staff and the Chinese (who both probably saw this coming for a while) will jointly deploy the resources needed to counter this latest “brilliant idea” of the Anglos.  In purely military terms, there are many different options to deal with this threat, which ones China and Russia will chose will become apparent fairly soon because it is far better to do something prevent that delivery from actually happening than to deal with eight more advanced attack submarines.

By the way, the Russians are also semi-deploying/semi-testing an advanced SSK, the Lada-class, which has both very advanced capabilities and, apparently, still many problems.  SSKs are not capable of threatening SSNs in open (blue) waters, but in shallower (green/brown) waters such as straits or littorals, they can represent a very real threat, if only by “freeing up” the SNNs to go and hunt into the deep (blue) waters.  Also, the main threat for subs comes from the air, and here, again, China and Russia have some very attractive options.

Conclusion: interesting times for sure…

Like the Chinese curse says, we are living in very interesting times.  The quick collapse of the Empire and the US is, of course, inherently very dangerous for our planet.  But it is also a golden opportunity for Zone B nations to finally kick the Anglos out and regain their sovereignty.  True, the US still has a lot of momentum, just like a falling airliner would, but the fact  remains that 1) they ran from Afghanistan and 2) they are circling their Anglo wagons shows that somebody somewhere does “get it” and even understood that in spite of the huge political humiliation both of these development represent for narcissistic politicians and their followers, this was a price which absolutely HAD to be paid to (try) to survive.

In my article (infamous) analysis ” Will Afghanistan turn out to be US imperialism’s “Last Gleaming”?” (it triggered even more hysterics and insults than usual, at least on the Unz review comments section) I wrote this: “the British Empire had the means of its foreign policies. The US does not.

This is now changing.

Yes, what the Anglos (aka 5 eyes) are doing is a retreat.  But it is a *smart* one.  They are cutting off all the “useless imperial weights” and going for the “smaller but stronger” option.  We might not like it, I certainly don’t, but I have to admit that this is pretty smart and even probably the only option left for the AngloZionist Empire. At the very least, it is now clear that the Anglos have no allies, and never had them.  What they had where colonial coolies who imagined themselves as part of some “community of civilized, democratic and peace-loving, nations”.  These coolies are now left in limbo.

So, who will be the next one to show Uncle Shmuel to the door?  My guess is the Republic of Korea.  And, frankly, since the DPRK is not a country the Empire can take on, and since China will only increase its (already major) influence on both the DPRK and the ROK, the US might as well pack and leave (maybe for Australia or occupied Japan?).

Okay, end of this overview of developments.

Now it’s your time to chime in as I am pretty sure that I missed quite a few things while in a short trip.

Cheers

Andrei

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.

Eurasia takes shape: How the SCO just flipped the world order

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With Iran’s arrival, the SCO member-states now number nine, and they’re focused on fixing Afghanistan and consolidating Eurasia.Photo Credit: The Cradle
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SEPTEMBER 22, 2021

By Pepe Escobar posted with permission and cross-posted with The Cradle

Part 1 of 2 on Eurasia

With Iran’s arrival, the SCO member-states now number nine, and they’re focused on fixing Afghanistan and consolidating Eurasia.

As a rudderless West watched on, the 20th anniversary meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization was laser-focused on two key deliverables: shaping up Afghanistan and kicking off a full-spectrum Eurasian integration.

The two defining moments of the historic 20th anniversary Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Dushanbe, Tajikistan had to come from the keynote speeches of – who else – the leaders of the Russia-China strategic partnership.

Xi Jinping: “Today we will launch procedures to admit Iran as a full member of the SCO.”

Vladimir Putin: “I would like to highlight the Memorandum of Understanding that was signed today between the SCO Secretariat and the Eurasian Economic Commission. It is clearly designed to further Russia’s idea of establishing a Greater Eurasia Partnership covering the SCO, the EAEU (Eurasian Economic Union), ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and China’s Belt and Road initiative (BRI).”

In short, over the weekend, Iran was enshrined in its rightful, prime Eurasian role, and all Eurasian integration paths converged toward a new global geopolitical – and geoeconomic – paradigm, with a sonic boom bound to echo for the rest of the century.

That was the killer one-two punch immediately following the Atlantic alliance’s ignominious imperial retreat from Afghanistan. Right as the Taliban took control of Kabul on August 15, the redoubtable Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of Russia’s Security Council, told his Iranian colleague Admiral Ali Shamkhani that “the Islamic Republic will become a full member of the SCO.”

Dushanbe revealed itself as the ultimate diplomatic crossover. President Xi firmly rejected any “condescending lecturing” and emphasized development paths and governance models compatible with national conditions. Just like Putin, he stressed the complementary focus of BRI and the EAEU, and in fact summarized a true multilateralist Manifesto for the Global South.

Right on point, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev of Kazakhstan noted that the SCO should advance “the development of a regional macro-economy.” This is reflected in the SCO’s drive to start using local currencies for trade, bypassing the US dollar.

Watch that quadrilateral

Dushanbe was not just a bed of roses. Tajikistan’s Emomali Rahmon, a staunch, secular Muslim and former member of the Communist Party of the USSR – in power for no less than 29 years, reelected for the 5th time in 2020 with 90 percent of the vote – right off the bat denounced the “medieval sharia” of Taliban 2.0 and said they had already “abandoned their previous promise to form an inclusive  government.”

Rahmon, who has never been caught smiling on camera, was already in power when the Taliban conquered Kabul in 1996. He was bound to publicly support his Tajik cousins against the “expansion of extremist ideology” in Afghanistan – which in fact worries all SCO member-states when it comes to smashing dodgy jihadi outfits of the ISIS-K mold .

The meat of the matter in Dushanbe was in the bilaterals – and one quadrilateral.

Take the bilateral between Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Chinese FM Wang Yi. Jaishankar said that China should not view “its relations with India through the lens of a third country,” and took pains to stress that India “does not subscribe to any clash of civilizations theory.”

That was quite a tough sell considering that the first in-person Quad summit takes place this week in Washington, DC, hosted by that “third country” which is now knee deep in clash-of-civilizations mode against China.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan was on a bilateral roll, meeting the presidents of Iran, Belarus, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. The official Pakistani diplomatic position is that Afghanistan should not be abandoned, but engaged.

That position added nuance to what Russian Special Presidential Envoy for SCO Affairs Bakhtiyer Khakimov had explained about Kabul’s absence at the SCO table: “At this stage, all member states have an understanding that there are no reasons for an invitation until there is a legitimate, generally recognized government in Afghanistan.”

And that, arguably, leads us to the key SCO meeting: a quadrilateral with the Foreign Ministers of Russia, China, Pakistan and Iran.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Qureshi affirmed: “We are monitoring whether all the groups are included in the government or not.” The heart of the matter is that, from now on, Islamabad coordinates the SCO strategy on Afghanistan, and will broker Taliban negotiations with senior Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara leaders. This will eventually lead the way towards an inclusive government regionally recognized by SCO member-nations.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was warmly received by all – especially after his forceful keynote speech, an Axis of Resistance classic. His bilateral with Belarus president Aleksandr Lukashenko revolved around a discussion on “sanctions confrontation.” According to Lukashenko: “If the sanctions did any harm to Belarus, Iran, other countries, it was only because we ourselves are to blame for this. We were not always negotiable, we did not always find the path we had to take under the pressure of sanctions.”

Considering Tehran is fully briefed on Islamabad’s SCO role in terms of Afghanistan, there will be no need to deploy the Fatemiyoun brigade – informally known as the Afghan Hezbollah – to defend the Hazaras. Fatemiyoun was formed in 2012 and was instrumental in Syria in the fight against Daesh, especially in Palmyra. But if ISIS-K does not go away, that’s a completely different story.

Particular important for SCO members Iran and India will be the future of Chabahar port. That remains India’s crypto-Silk Road gambit to connect it to Afghanistan and Central Asia. The geoeconomic success of Chabahar more than ever depends on a stable Afghanistan – and this is where Tehran’s interests fully converge with Russia-China’s SCO drive.

What the 2021 SCO Dushanbe Declaration spelled out about Afghanistan is quite revealing:

1. Afghanistan should be an independent, neutral, united, democratic and peaceful state, free of terrorism, war and drugs.

2. It is critical to have an inclusive government in Afghanistan, with representatives from all ethnic, religious and political groups of Afghan society.

3. SCO member states, emphasizing the significance of the many years of hospitality and effective assistance provided by regional and neighboring countries to Afghan refugees, consider it important for the international community to make active efforts to facilitate their dignified, safe and sustainable return to their homeland.

As much as it may sound like an impossible dream, this is the unified message of Russia, China, Iran, India, Pakistan and the Central Asian “stans.” One hopes that Pakistani PM Imran Khan is up to the task and ready for his SCO close-up.

That troubled Western peninsula

The New Silk Roads were officially launched eight years ago by Xi Jinping, first in Astana – now Nur-Sultan – and then in Jakarta.

This is how I reported it at the time.

The announcement came close to a SCO summit – then in Bishkek. The SCO, widely dismissed in Washington and Brussels as a mere talk shop, was already surpassing its original mandate of fighting the “three evil forces” – terrorism, separatism and extremism – and encompassing politics and geoeconomics.

In 2013, there was a Xi-Putin-Rouhani trilateral. Beijing expressed full support for Iran’s peaceful nuclear program (remember, this was two years before the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also known as the JCPOA).

Despite many experts dismissing it at the time, there was indeed a common China-Russia-Iran front on Syria (Axis of Resistance in action). Xinjiang was being promoted as the key hub for the Eurasian Land Bridge. Pipelineistan was at the heart of the Chinese strategy – from Kazakhstan oil to Turkmenistan gas. Some people may even remember when Hillary Clinton, as Secretary of State, was waxing lyrical about an American-propelled New Silk Road.

Now compare it to Xi’s Multilateralism Manifesto in Dushanbe eight years later, reminiscing on how the SCO “has proved to be an excellent example of multilateralism in the 21stcentury,” and “has played an important role in enhancing the voice of developing countries.”

The strategic importance of this SCO summit taking place right after the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) in Vladivostok cannot be overstated enough. The EEF focuses of course on the Russian Far East – and essentially advances interconnectivity between Russia and Asia. It is an absolutely key hub of Russia’s Greater Eurasian Partnership.

A cornucopia of deals is on the horizon – expanding from the Far East to the Arctic and the development of the Northern Sea Route, and involving everything from precious metals and green energy to digital sovereignty flowing through logistics corridors between Asia and Europe via Russia.

As Putin hinted in his keynote speech, this is what the Greater Eurasia Partnership is all about: the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU), BRI, India’s initiative, ASEAN, and now the SCO, developing in a harmonized network, crucially operated by “sovereign decision-making centers.”

So if the BRI proposes a very Taoist “community of shared future for human kind,” the Russian project, conceptually, proposes a dialogue of civilizations (already evoked by the Khatami years in Iran) and sovereign economic-political projects. They are, indeed, complementary.

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 this process in depth. His latest book remarkably tells the whole story in its title:  Europe as the Western Peninsula of Greater Eurasia: Geoeconomic Regions in a Multipolar World. It’s not clear whether Eurocrats in Brussels – slaves of Atlanticism and incapable of grasping the potential of Greater Eurasia – will end up exercising real strategic autonomy.

Diesen evokes in detail the parallels between the Russian and the Chinese strategies. He notes how China “is pursuing a three-pillared geoeconomic initiative by developing technological leadership via its China 2025 plan, new transportation corridors via its trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative, and establishing new financial instruments such as banks, payment systems and the internationalization of the yuan. Russia is similarly pursuing technological sovereignty, both in the digital sphere and beyond, as well as new transportation corridors such as the Northern Sea Route through the Arctic, and, primarily, new financial instruments.”

The whole Global South, stunned by the accelerated collapse of the western Empire and its unilateral “rules-based order, now seems to be ready to embrace the new groove, fully displayed in Dushanbe: a multipolar Greater Eurasia of sovereign equals.

عالم ينهار عالم ينهض ومركز ثقل العالم ينتقل إلى الشرق

 محمد صادق الحسيني

«‏العالم ليس سوى غابة… هذه مقولة كنا قد نسيناها

‏لكن الخنجر الذي طعنتنا به أميركا في الظهر

‏يعيد تذكيرنا بها اليوم مجدداً».

‏هذا الكلام لسفير فرنسا السابق في واشنطن ‏(في إشارة إلى إلغاء صفقة الغواصات الأسترالية لفرنسا بضغط من الولايات المتحدة الأميركية).‏

لا يزال العالم يعيش تحت صدمة فسخ صفقة الغواصات التي تعمل بالوقود التقليدي بين أستراليا وفرنسا واستبدالها بأخرى مع أميركا تعمل بالوقود النووي.

وهو ما اعتبره القادة الفرنسيون خيانة أميركية للشراكة الأطلسية وتواطؤاً بريطانياً ذميماً وانقياداً أسترالياً بغيضاً، سيرمي بظلاله على كل العمل المشترك في حلف الناتو.

وهو ما أثار بالفعل تساؤلات عميقة لدى المتابعين والخبراء والمراقبين على حدّ سواء.

ويعتقد مطلعون أنّ العاصفة الهوجاء من النقد اللاذع التي انطلقت مع هذه الواقعة لدى الفرنسيين لها ما يبرّرها بسبب سوابق أميركية تعود لأيام حكم ترامب.

فقد سبق للأميركيين أن وجهوا انتقادات لاذعة للفرنسيين كما للألمان، متهمين إياهم بأنهم لم يقوموا بواجباتهم كما ينبغي تجاه حلف الأطلسي فيما يدفع الأميركيون من خزانتهم لحماية أوروبا والدفاع عنها، وهو خلاصة الكلام الذي أسمعه ترامب للأوروبيين في اجتماعه الشهير بقادتهم في الأشهر الأخيرة من عهده على هامش اجتماع عالي المستوى في فرنسا.

ومن يومها تحسّس قادة أوروبا رؤوسهم وبدأوا يتحدثون عن ضرورة تشكيل قوة دفاعية خاصة بهم.

واليوم مع القرار المفاجئ لأستراليا بإلغاء ما عُرف بصفقة القرن (ما قيمته 56 مليار دولار) مع فرنسا واستبدالها بأخرى أميركية مع إعلان مفاجئ لجو بايدن عن تحالف ثلاثي يضمّ بلاده وبريطانيا وأستراليا، تكون الرواية الفرنسية عن الخيانة الأميركية تجاه باريس والطعن في الظهر قد اكتملت.

لعلّ من المفيد هنا الإشارة إلى أنّ حلف شمال الأطلسي وهو الحلف القائم بين أميركا وأوروبا إنما تشكل بعد الحرب العالمية الثانية من أجل حماية أوروبا من الاتحاد السوفياتي سابقاً.

الأوروبيون يشعرون بقوة منذ زمن ليس بالقليل بأن واشنطن تعيش موسم الهجرة إلى الصين، وأنها لم تعد ترى في موسكو عدوها الأساس بقدر ما ترى ذلك في الصين، خصوصاً بعد أن انتقل الصراع برأيهم من الميدان والحروب العسكرية إلى الاقتصاد، وهو المجال الذي سبقتهم فيه الصين مسافات طويلة.

بالتالي فإنّ ما بات مطلوباً بالنسبة لواشنطن إنما هو تحالفات جديدة تقوم على ضرورة الانتقال من ضفتي الأطلسي إلى ضفتي الهادئ وبحر الصين.

في هذه الأثناء فإنّ تحوّلاً مهماً آخر أيضاً قد طرأ في موازين القوى العسكرية أيضاً في النطاق الأوروبي.

حيث يجمع المتخصصون والعالمون بتقنيات القوة العسكرية الروسية الراهنة، وهو ما يعرفه جنرالات الناتو وكذلك جنرالات البنتاغون جيداً بأنّ قدرات العسكر الروسي المتطورة جداً باتت قادرة على سحق القوة العسكرية الغربية والسيطرة على الميدان فيها من لينينغراد إلى النورماندي (أقصى غرب فرنسا) خلال 24 ساعة.

وهذا التحول المهم في الموازين هو الذي دفع ألمانيا مبكراً للتوجه شرقاً باتجاه موسكو والتفاهم معها لإنجاز مشروع السيل الشمالي 2 للغاز، لتأمين ألمانيا من الطاقة، والتزام الحذر الشديد تجاه أيّ مخطط مقترح من واشنطن قبل أن يتطابق مع المصلحة القومية الألمانية العليا.‏

واليوم يأتي الدور على فرنسا للتفكير ملياً في ما إذا كان المطلوب منها التفكير جدياً بالتوجه شرقاً في إطار حماية أمنها القومي واستجرار الطاقة مثلاً من الروس أيضاً عبر ألمانيا.

تجدر الإشارة بالطبع هنا إلى أنّ باريس هي الأخرى قامت مع ذلك بترتيب أمورها مبكراً مع الجزائر (المحسوبة حليفاً قوياً لروسيا) لاستجرار خط الغاز من نيجيريا عبر ربط خطوطه بخطوط نقل الغاز الجزائري وهو المشروع الذي تعمل عليه الجزائر منذ مدة والذي يكلف نحو 13 مليار دولار.

في هذه الأثناء جاءت واقعة فرار الأميركيين من أفغانستان وهروبهم المذلّ والمستعجل منها، وكذلك واقعة استكمال تشكل تجمع الشرق الجديد الرباعي في إطار منظمة شانغهاي للتعاون الدولي في العاصمة الطاجيكية قبل أيام (روسيا والصين وإيران وشبه القارة الهندية) بعد الإعلان عن انضمام إيران إليه كعضو كامل الصلاحية، بمثابة القشة التي قد تقصم ظهر البعير الأوروبي الآيل إلى الترهّل والتراجع في الوزن الدولي.

وهو يعني في ما قد يعني تلخيصاً وفي المجمل أنّ العالم بعد التضحية الأميركية بأفغانستان وإلغاء صفقة الغواصات الفرنسية مع أستراليا لصالح واشنطن وتغيير أميركا لعقيدتها العسكرية، يتحوّل عملياً في الموازين العامة نحو آسيا.

‏ وبهذا تكون أميركا قد جمّدت عملياً دور أوروبا في استراتيجيتها العامة ‏مستبدلة الدور الأوروبي الناتوي ضدّ روسيا لصالح ناتو جديد في مواجهة الصين.

‏في هذه الأثناء فإنّ ما سيتعزز في المقابل هو تحالف شانغهاي الآسيوي الجديد وإن لم يكتمل بعد كحلف عسكري رسمياً.

إنها موازين القوى الدولية الجديدة التي تشي بأنّ مركز ثقل العالم ينتقل من الغرب إلى الشرق.

بعدنا طيبين قولوا الله…

Iran – New Member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization

Iran – New Member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization

September 18, 2021

Peter Koenig and PressTV

On 17 September 2021 Iran has become a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). It is an extraordinary achievement and new beginning for US and wester sanction-badgered Iran. On the occasion PressTV interviewed me on what this great move might bring for Iran. See the transcript below.

PressTV Question:

1.       Iran is finally a member of the SCO. It is said this solidifies a block to stand up to the West and US hegemony: will it be able to do that, and is the era of unilateralism over?

PK Reply:

First, my deepest and heartfelt congratulations for this extraordinary event – Iran the latest member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization – SCO.
Bravo!

Yes, this will definitely open new doors, prosperous doors with new relations in the East. SCO with the current membership covers close to 50% of the world population and accounts for about one third of the world’s GDP.

Being a member of this organization, will take a lot of pressure away in terms of western sanctions, western impositions, monetary manipulations via the US dollar as a remedy for payment.
No more.

Iran is now free to deal in her own currency and in Yuan as well as in any currency of the SCO members, because western-type trade currency restrictions do not exist in SCO member countries.

This will drastically reduce the potential for US / western sanctions and will increase on the other hand, Iran’s potential to deal with the East, i.e., especially China and Russia; entering partnership agreements with these and other SCO countries, benefitting from comparative advantages. It may open-up a new socio-economic era for Iran.

Also, in terms of defense strategy – although SCO is not a military defense organization per se, but it offers strategic defense assistance and advice – and as such is a solidifying force for member countries.
SCO also respects countries’ autonomy and sovereignty – and facilitates trade arrangements between member countries.

Having said this, Iran must not lose sight of potentially disrupting internal factors, like the so-called Fifth Columnists – those who will keep pulling towards the west, and they are particularly dangerous as infiltrates in the financial sector, Treasury, Ministry of Finance, Central Bank, and so on. They are everywhere, also in Russia and China. But internal Iranian awareness and caution will help manage the risks and eventually overwhelm it. Russia has gone along way in doing so. And so has China. And so will Iran. I’m confident.

Again, excellent momentum to celebrate. – Congratulations!

——-

2.       Iran will also be part of the different regional bodies in neighborhood regions, including Eurasia, that could spontaneously break the “sanctions wall” and lead to diversified fruitful foreign relations. Does this mean the US sanctions will not be as effective?

PK Reply

Yes, absolutely. Regional bodies and trading arrangements within Eurasia – such as The Eurasian Economic Union – EAEU – has an integrated single market of 180 million people and a GDP of some 5 trillion dollars equivalent and growing. It covers eight countries of which 3 have observer status.

Other than trading with the members of the Eurasian Economic Union, the EAEU also has trading agreements as an entity with other countries, for example with Singapore.

Then there is maybe the most important trade deal in world history, the ten ASEAN countries, plus China, as well as Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand – but not the United States. Thus, no dealings in US dollars, no potential for US sanctions. This Trade Agreement is called The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). It was signed in November 2020 on the occasion of the annual summit of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

RCEP countries have a combined GDP of US$ 26.2 trillion or about 30% of global GDP, and they account for nearly 28% of global trade (based on 2019 figures). Total population of RCEP countries is 2.3 billion, roughly 30% of the world’s inhabitants.

Negotiation of this trade deal took 8 years. The longest ever. And it will of course, take time to reach the full potential of integrating the sovereign countries economies. In contrast to the European Union, RCEP will to the utmost possible preserve each country’s sovereignty. This is important in the long-run, especially for conservation of national cultures, ideologies and national development strategies.

There maybe a good chance for Iran to negotiate early entry into the RCEP Agreement. It will definitely be a blow to US sanctions – and on the other hand a tremendous opportunity for diversification of markets, production and consumption.

Again, congratulations. Being a member of the SCO is an extraordinary achievement. As, I always say – the future is in the East.

Best of luck to Iran, with new partners and new friends.

—–
Peter Koenig is a geopolitical analyst and a former Senior Economist at the World Bank and the World Health Organization (WHO), where he has worked for over 30 years on water and environment around the world. He lectures at universities in the US, Europe and South America. He writes regularly for online journals and is the author of Implosion – An Economic Thriller about War, Environmental Destruction and Corporate Greed; and  co-author of Cynthia McKinney’s book “When China Sneezes: From the Coronavirus Lockdown to the Global Politico-Economic Crisis” (Clarity Press – November 1, 2020)

Peter Koenig is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He is also is a non-resident Sr. Fellow of the Chongyang Institute of Renmin University, Beijing.

Kabul Is Not Saigon : Afghanistan: Drug Trade and Belt and Road

AUGUST 31, 2021

By Peter Koenig for The Saker Blog

All flags are on half-mast in the US of A. The cause are the 13 American soldiers killed in this huge suicide bombing outside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, on Thursday, 26 August.

As it stands, at least 150 people – Afghans, including at least 30 Taliban – plus 13 American military – were killed and at least 1,300 injured, according to the Afghan Health Ministry.

The Islamic State (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the bombing via Amaq Media, the official Islamic State (ISIS) news agency. The perpetrators, the message says, were members of the ISIS-Khorasan, or ISIS-K.

As reported by RT, US military leaders knew “hours in advance” that a “mass casualty event” was planned at Kabul airport. However, accounts from the troops in harm’s way suggest that nothing was done to protect them or the airport. See this https://www.rt.com/usa/533462-pentagon-knew-kabul-suicide-bombing/?utm_source=Newsletter&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=Email .

Rt further reports, “The bombing provoked the US into launching two drone strikes, one targeting an alleged “planner” and “facilitator” with the group responsible, and another supposedly wiping out “multiple” would-be suicide bombers but reportedly annihilating a family and children alongside them.

Why was nothing done to prevent this bloody, atrocious attack? – In fact, the Pentagon announced just yesterday that another massive attack was likely, meaning they have information that another mass-killing may take place?

In the meantime, the US Central Command (CENTCOM) confirmed that the last three US military transport planes have departed the Hamid Karzai Airport just ahead of the August 31, 2021, deadline, officially ending the American withdrawal from Afghanistan.

“The war is over. America’s last troops have just left Kabul airport,” RT’s Murad Gazdiev tweeted from Kabul, adding that the war lasted “19 years, 10 months and 25 days.

What he didn’t say is that the monetary cost of the war was at least 3 trillion dollars, that about 241,000 people have been killed in the Afghanistan and Pakistan war zone since 2001. More than 71,000 of those killed have been civilians. These figures include (through April 2021) 2,448 American service members; 3,846 U.S. contractors, and some 66,000 Afghan national military and police. See this https://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar/costs/human/civilians/afghan .
—-
Twenty years of war – and only ten days to defeat the US military.

Really? – Is this really the end of the US involvement in Afghanistan? Too many strange events and occurrences are pointing in a different direction.

Let’s have a closer look. The Islamic State – ISIS claims responsibility. As we know by now and since quite a while, ISIS is a creation of the CIA. The sophistication of the attack, the Pentagon non-interference, despite their prior knowledge, might, just might – indicate that this attack may have been a well-coordinated “false flag”?

Who benefits? Cui Bono?

On August 19, 2021, the Washington Post, referring to President Trump’s Peace Agreement with Taliban in Doha, Qatar, in February 2020, reports – “As President Donald Trump’s administration signed a peace deal with the Taliban in February 2020, he optimistically proclaimed that “we think we’ll be successful in the end.” His secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, asserted that the administration was “seizing the best opportunity for peace in a generation.”


“Eighteen months later, President Joe Biden is pointing to the agreement signed in Doha, Qatar, as he tries to deflect blame for the Taliban overrunning Afghanistan in a blitz. He says it bound him to withdraw U.S. troops, setting the stage for the chaos engulfing the country.”

“But Biden can go only so far in claiming the agreement boxed him in. It had an escape clause: The U.S. could have withdrawn from the accord if Afghan peace talks failed. They did, but Biden chose to stay in it, although he delayed the complete pullout from May to September.”
See full story: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/was-biden-handcuffed-by-trumps-taliban-deal-in-doha/2021/08/19/a7ee1a50-00a2-11ec-87e0-7e07bd9ce270_story.html

So, again who benefits from such an atrociously deadly attack, like the one of 26 August at Kabul Airport?

President Biden, though unjustified, can and does blame President Trump for the chaos he left behind by negotiating this “irresponsible” Peace Deal. Why “irresponsible”?  Wasn’t it time after 20 years without apparent “success” – whatever that means, or may have meant at some point in time – to end this senseless bloodshed and destruction of a sovereign Afghan society – let alone the killing of hundreds of thousands of people, most of them civilians?

It seems that Mr. Trump may have done the right thing. Peace over war should always win, on the ground as well as in the minds of people, and foremost of politicians. However, there are several reasons, why Peace is not welcome. And chaos and destruction and death as demonstrated by the 26 August suicide attack, and who knows, maybe more to follow, might justify sending back US troops?

There are several other irons in the fire about which hardly anybody talks and the bought anti-Trump and pro-Biden mainstream media are silent.

The Heroin Trade

There is a multi-multi-billion, perhaps up to a trillion-dollar heroin trade at stake, for the US and for the US and European pharma-industry – the huge and deadly opioid-market.

As reported by Michel Chossudovsky on 21 August 2021, One of the key strategic objectives of the 2001 war on Afghanistan was to restore the opium trade following the Taliban government’s successful 2000-2001 drug eradication program which led to a 94% collapse in opium production. This program was supported by the United Nations. (For details, see below)
In the course of the last 19 years following the US-NATO October 2001 invasion, there has been a surge in Afghan opium production. In turn the number of heroin addicts in the US has increased dramatically. Is there a relationship?

There were 189,000 heroin users in the US in 2001, before the US-NATO invasion of Afghanistan.

By 2016 that number went up to 4,500,000 (2.5 million heroin addicts and 2 million casual users).

In 2020, at the height of the covid crisis, deaths from opioids and drug addiction increased threefold.
It’s Big Money for Big Pharma.”
See the full report https://www.globalresearch.ca/the-spoils-of-war-afghanistan-s-multibillion-dollar-heroin-trade/91

The Chinese Belt and Road Initiative

Both, China and Russia have already indicated that they would help the new Taliban regime to gain stability – and to develop towards a newly independent, sovereign state. Afghanistan’s border with China, only about 70 km wide, but it forms a crucial connection to China’s western most Province, the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. It is a vital pivot for China’s Belt and Road, or “One Belt One Road” – OBOR – also called the New Silk Road.

While transit routes already go through Pakistan to the Indian Ocean, an OBOR rail and road transit through Afghanistan would connect China directly with Iran, facilitating among other trade, hydrocarbon transport from Iran to China. OBOR would also be an effective development instrument for war destroyed Afghanistan – a reconstruction and economic development scheme for Afghanistan could bring Afghanistan back to a respected nation state – even through the Taliban.

Furthermore, Afghanistan might be prepared for becoming an active member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), one of the world’s most significant political, economic and strategic defense organization. In addition to China and Russia and the Central Asian former Soviet Republics, India and Pakistan are already full members, while Iran, Malaysia and Mongolia are, so far, in observer and associate status.

SCO covers almost half of the world population and controls some 30% of the world’s GDP. Afghanistan would be in a solid and guiding association as an SCO member. Afghanistan’s socioeconomic development and improvement of war-damaged people’s standard of living, could benefit enormously.

Washington however dislikes OBOR with a passion. They see it as Chinese expansionism and competition. It is actually neither. China has in her thousands of years of history never had expansionist trends, or ambitions, and always respected other countries’ sovereignty. OBOR, an ingenious idea of President Xi Jinping, is patterned according to the ancient Silk Road, a trading route of 2100 years ago connecting Asia with Europe and the Middle East.

OBOR is an instrument to help develop and connect the world, while respecting each nation state’s independence and sovereignty.
——

The hugely profitable Heroin Trade and the further development of China’s OBOR – and particularly bringing Afghanistan under the wings of the east through association with the SCO – would spoil America’s multi-multibillion heroin trade, as well as another Middle East country would orient itself to the east – and away from the fangs of the ever weakening and crumbling Anglo-US empire.

Hence, commanding US-created ISIS to sow chaos and death in Afghanistan, blaming the Taliban, might be a good reason for Biden to bring back US troops – to fight a new kind war – fighting for the continuing highly profitable heroin trade and, simultaneously, fighting against OBOR. On top of it all, it would suit the Biden’s and his globalist agenda’s image – and standing in a totally misinformed world.


Peter Koenig is a geopolitical analyst and a former Senior Economist at the World Bank and the World Health Organization (WHO), where he has worked for over 30 years on water and environment around the world. He lectures at universities in the US, Europe and South America. He writes regularly for online journals and is the author of Implosion – An Economic Thriller about War, Environmental Destruction and Corporate Greed; and  co-author of Cynthia McKinney’s book “When China Sneezes: From the Coronavirus Lockdown to the Global Politico-Economic Crisis” (Clarity Press – November 1, 2020)

Peter Koenig is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He is also a a non-resident Sr. Fellow of the Chongyang Institute of Renmin University, Beijing.

Here comes China: Afghanistan, 7 Deadly Sins, Space, Common Prosperity

August 28, 2021

Afghanistan is where the eyes of the world are. In my view, and according to the Chinese media and commentary, China is the inheritor of Afghanistan in terms of possible rebuilding of the country (finance, economy, industry, and trade) and also to ensure that a terrorist problem does not threaten across the border with China. The jury is out in terms of the trajectory here. China though has its embassy open, and this photo possibly says it all.

Afghanistan’s China Town reopens, not disrupted by the deadly blasts in Kabul airport

Vladimir Putin had a telephone conversation with President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping.

In the context of the 20th anniversary of the Treaty of Good-Neighbourliness and Friendly Cooperation, the presidents noted with satisfaction that the Russian-Chinese strategic partnership has been developing progressively and dynamically. The main thing is that both sides are interested in further strengthening cooperation on the entire complex of issues on the bilateral and international agenda.

The leaders had an in-depth discussion on the Afghanistan problem. They expressed readiness to step up efforts to counter the threats of terrorism and drug trafficking emanating from Afghanistan and emphasised the importance of achieving peace as soon as possible and preventing the spread of instability to neighbouring regions. It order to do this, the presidents intend to use the potential of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation as much as possible, among other things. The two leaders also agreed to step up bilateral contacts and close cooperation, above all between the foreign ministries.

On the occasion of the upcoming 76th anniversary of the end of World War II, the relevance of the work to preserve the truth about the events of that period and prevent attempts to falsify history was noted.

The conversation was held in a traditionally friendly and trust-based atmosphere.


From the Chinese media, 7 deadly sins that the US committed in Afghanistan

Sin 1: Warmonger

Sin 2: Machiavellian

Sin 3: Human Rights Abuses

Sin 4: State-Sponsored Terrorism

Sin 5: Heroin Trafficking

Sin 6: Blasphemy

Sin 7: Environment Destruction

http://www.news.cn/english/2021-08/24/c_1310146023.htm


In Afghanistan, China Is Ready to Step Into the Void, by Zhou Bo

This complete article is available on Godfree’s newsletter and this is but a short excerpt.  However, it illustrates the internal view of China on Afghanistan:

Zhou Bo is a senior fellow at the Center for International Security and Strategy at Tsinghua University and a member of the China Forum. He was a senior colonel in the People’s Liberation Army from 2003 to 2020 and is an expert on the Chinese army’s strategic thinking on international security. He directed the Centre for Security Cooperation in the Office for International Military Cooperation at the Ministry of National Defense.

The speed and scope of the Taliban’s takeover in Afghanistan have prompted introspection in the West over what went wrong, and how, after billions of dollars spent on a 20-year war effort, it could all end so ignominiously. China, though, is looking forward. It is ready to step into the void left by the hasty U.S. retreat to seize a golden opportunity.

While Beijing has yet to formally recognize the Taliban as Afghanistan’s new government, China issued a statement on Monday saying that it “respects the right of the Afghan people to independently determine their own destiny” and will develop “friendly and cooperative relations with Afghanistan.”

The message here is clear: Beijing has few qualms about fostering a closer relationship with the Taliban and is ready to assert itself as the most influential outside player in an Afghanistan now all but abandoned by the United States.

Unlike the United States, China brings no baggage to the table in Afghanistan. China has kept a low profile in the country since the U.S. invasion, not wishing to play second fiddle to the United States in any power politics. Beijing watched as Washington’s foray in Afghanistan became a messy and costly morass. In the meantime, China provided Afghanistan millions of dollars in aid for medical assistance, hospitals, a solar power station and more. All the while, Beijing was fostering stronger trade relations, eventually becoming one of Afghanistan’s largest trading partners.

With the U.S. withdrawal, Beijing can offer what Kabul needs most: political impartiality and economic investment. Afghanistan in turn has what China most prizes: opportunities in infrastructure and industry building — areas in which China’s capabilities are arguably unmatched — and access to $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits, including critical industrial metals such as lithium, iron, copper and cobalt. Though critics have raised the point that Chinese investment is not a strategic priority in a less secure Afghanistan, I believe otherwise.


Digital Yuan

Through the ages, money has taken various forms, (shells, stones, beads, various types of coins where the value was inherent in the material that the coin was made from and other that used a worthless material but assured by some kind of backing like gold, or simply trust in sovereign promises).

In terms of paper money, in the 13th century, the Chinese emperor Kublai Khan embarked on a bold experiment. China at the time was divided into different regions, many of which issued their own coins, discouraging trade within the empire. So Kublai Khan decreed that henceforth money would take the form of paper.

This was a huge step and even today we use paper money to an extent, but more and more we use digitized currencies. It is not strange that China again comes up with the major step of disintermediating the current technology of money by the creation of its DCEP. (This is not a cryptocurrency, however, technologically, it functions like one).  Transactions are fast, the basis is cash, and China is building it out as a two tier system (PBC and local banks assuring stable financial infrastructure and supervision, which, in effect, is the ‘backing’), as well as multi-scheme, which is the connection to retailers and third-party payment platforms (think of something like Paypal). Ownership of the currency business is then an open new market economic category.

We see more and more countries following suit but there is no one that is as far along as China on roll-out of digital currency, already trading with it, using it via smart contracts and more and more in cross border trade.

China builds cross-border finance blockchain platform

http://www.news.cn/english/2021-08/25/c_1310148785.htm

As all technology changes, the technology of money will also change and in reality, is in the process of change as we speak. The size of the change in financial technology spearheaded by China could well be of the magnitude, as was the acceptance of paper money, i.e., the whole world, just as Kublai Khan created his system in the 13th century. The prospective use cases of digital money at this level staggers the imagination and the strength of an economic weapon of this kind is routinely underestimated.


While we have money going all digital, why not do the same with the rest:

Following China’s push for a digital currency, the country plans to roll out digital driver’s licenses nationwide by 2022. Nearly 2 million residents have obtained digital driver’s licenses so far, as cited by Xinhua. Digital licenses will have the same legal effect as physical licenses and can be used to rent vehicles, file insurance claims and handle traffic violations. An official mobile app accepts applications for a digital license. 400 million people are licensed to drive in China. Read full article →


Space, yes, one cannot get away from China these days without talking about space.

A Chinese satellite has tested a technology that could offer the most accurate means yet of tracking air traffic from space, in the hope of preventing repeats of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 tragedy. Each aircraft in the sky emits a radio signal, and constantly monitoring all planes over a large area is technically challenging. But Beihang Kongshi 1, a small satellite in near-Earth orbit, can update the status of an aircraft every eight seconds – about twice as fast as American technology, meaning the tracking is more accurate. Read full article  $→

In the mean time the Mars Rover is an unadulterated success. The National Space Administration said on its website Friday that Zhurong completed its 90-day program on August 15 and was in excellent technical condition and fully charged. Read full article →


Technology and Legal

In modern terms, China is a young country and in certain areas, specifically technology, legal structures lag behind technological development. This is not new if you are in technology but given the size and growth of China’s technology sector, may create some problems. In case you’ve been living under a very large rock: Regulators in Beijing have been on a mission to constrain the market dominance of China’s tech behemoths for months now. The principle value in the technological companies is that of building big fast and getting rich fast. But, the common value in the Chinese government is ‘common prosperity’. Wealth inequality is not as pronounced as in the west and China wants to keep it that way.  You may build big fast and get rich fast, but do not forget the country that gave you the platforms to create your behemoth of an industry.  Get rich, but not too rich.

The new legislation has all kinds of knock-on effects.  For example, labor laws (for one) and the value of all work and no play is being shaved. For example, ‘996’ work hours are illegal. “The ‘996’ work culture — a 12-hour, six-day work schedule that had been popular among Chinese tech companies until recently — is a serious violation of Chinese labor law, according to China’s Supreme People’s Court and its Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security.” Read full article →


Defense

The People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force has improved the accuracy and range of its ballistic missile force, the world’s largest, according to a new US Army report. The DF-11, the most widely deployed short-range ballistic missile, was originally designed to hit targets up to 300km away, but newer models have expanded ranges beyond 700km. “Accuracy has also increased, reducing” the intended target point to only 30m, “giving theatre commanders a long-range precision strike capability”, according to the army publication. The DF-11 can employ both conventional and nuclear warheads. The “solid-fuel rocket and mobile transporter-erector-launchers enable rapid launch and reload operations”, it added. Read full article $→

China has successfully tested two short-range conventional missiles designed to take out enemy communications systems. The PLA Rocket Force recently tested two new missiles that can overcome “complex electromagnetic interference” to destroy facilities in a “fast-reaction” operation. “[The missiles] successfully hit the target in an enemy camp equipped with multilayer defences several hundred kilometres away and effectively paralysed the enemy’s key communications node,” CCTV reported. Read full article $→


The legal machinations around Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou house arrest in Canada seem to be drawing to a close, if in fact it will be allowed to draw to a close. Jeff J. Brown provided a solid analysis and background of the story.


To conclude, yes, the elephants are back home but nobody is betting that they will stay home this time. They may at any time decide to again go on a walk-about.

And on Winnie the Pooh:

Selections from Godfree Roberts’ extensive weekly newsletter: Here Comes China. You can get it here: https://www.herecomeschina.com/#subscribe

Further selections and editorial and geopolitical commentary by Amarynth.

Who profits from the Kabul suicide bombing?

August 27, 2021

Who profits from the Kabul suicide bombing?

ISIS-Khorasan aims to prove to Afghans and to the outside world that the Taliban cannot secure the capital

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

The horrific Kabul suicide bombing introduces an extra vector in an already incandescent situation: It aims to prove, to Afghans and to the outside world, that the nascent Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is incapable of securing the capital.

As it stands, at least 103 people – 90 Afghans (including at least 28 Taliban) and 13 American servicemen – were killed and at least 1,300 injured, according to the Afghan Health Ministry.

Responsibility for the bombing came via a statement on the Telegram channel of Amaq Media, the official Islamic State (ISIS) news agency. This means it came from centralized ISIS command, even as the perpetrators were members of ISIS-Khorasan, or ISIS-K.

Presuming to inherit the historical and cultural weight of ancient Central Asian lands that from the time of imperial Persia stretched all the way to the western Himalayas, that spin-off defiles the name of Khorasan.

The suicide bomber who carried out “the martyrdom operation near Kabul airport” was identified as one Abdul Rahman al-Logari. That would suggest he’s an Afghan, from nearby Logar province. And that would also suggest that the bombing may have been organized by an ISIS-Khorasan sleeper cell. Sophisticated electronic analysis of their communications would be able to prove it – tools that the Taliban don’t have.

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The way social media-savvy ISIS chose to spin the carnage deserves careful scrutiny. The statement on Amaq Media blasts the Taliban for being “in a partnership” with the US military in the evacuation of “spies.”

It mocks the “security measures imposed by the American forces and the Taliban militia in the capital Kabul,” as its “martyr” was able to reach “a distance of no less than five meters from the American forces, who were supervising the procedures.”

So it’s clear that the newly reborn Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and the former occupying power are facing the same enemy. ISIS-Khorasan comprises a bunch of fanatics, termed takfiris because they define fellow Muslims – in this case the Taliban – as “apostates.”

Founded in 2015 by emigré jihadis dispatched to southwest Pakistan, ISIS-K is a dodgy beast. Its current head is one Shahab al-Mujahir, who was a mid-level commander of the Haqqani network headquartered in North Waziristan in the Pakistani tribal areas, itself a collection of disparate mujahideen and would-be jihadis under the family umbrella.

Washington branded the Haqqani network as a terrorist organization way back in 2010, and treats several members as global terrorists, including Sirajuddin Haqqani, the head of the family after the death of the founder Jalaluddin.

Up to now, Sirajuddin was the Taliban deputy leader for the eastern provinces – on the same level with Mullah Baradar, the head of the political office in Doha, who was actually released from Guantanamo in 2014.

Crucially, Sirajuddin’s uncle, Khalil Haqqani, formerly in charge of the network’s foreign financing, is now in charge of Kabul security and working as a diplomat 24/7.

The previous ISIS-K leaders were snuffed out by US airstrikes in 2015 and 2016. ISIS-K started to become a real destabilizing force in 2020 when the regrouped band attacked Kabul University, a Doctor Without Borders maternity ward, the Presidential palace and the airport.

NATO intel picked up by a UN report attributes a maximum of 2,200 jihadis to ISIS-K, split into small cells. Significantly, the absolute majority are non-Afghans: Iraqis, Saudis, Kuwaitis, Pakistanis, Uzbeks, Chechens and Uighurs.

The real danger is that ISIS-K works as a sort of magnet for all manners of disgruntled former Taliban or discombobulated regional warlords with nowhere to go.

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The perfect soft target

The civilian commotion these past few days around Kabul airport was the perfect soft target for trademark ISIS carnage.

Zabihullah Mujahid – the new Taliban minister of information in Kabul, who in that capacity talks to global media every day – is the one who actually warned NATO members about an imminent ISIS-K suicide bombing. Brussels diplomats confirmed it.

In parallel, it’s no secret among intel circles in Eurasia that ISIS-K has become disproportionally more powerful since 2020 because of a transportation ratline from Idlib, in Syria, to eastern Afghanistan, informally known in spook talk as Daesh Airlines.

Moscow and Tehran, even at very high diplomatic levels, have squarely blamed the US-UK axis as the key facilitators. Even the BBC reported in late 2017 on hundreds of ISIS jihadis given safe passage out of Raqqa, and out of Syria, right in front of the Americans.

The Kabul bombing took place after two very significant events.

The first one was Mujahid’s claim during an American NBC News interview earlier this week that there is “no proof” Osama bin Laden was behind 9/11 – an argument that I had already hinted was coming in this podcast the previous week.

This means the Taliban have already started a campaign to disconnect themselves from the “terrorist” label associated with 9/11. The next step may involve arguing that the execution of 9/11 was set up in Hamburg, the operational details coordinated from two apartments in New Jersey.

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Nothing to do with Afghans. And everything staying within the parameters of the official narrative – but that’s another immensely complicated story.

The Taliban will need to show that “terrorism” has been all about their lethal enemy, ISIS, and way beyond old school al-Qaeda, which they harbored up to 2001. But why should they be shy about making such claims? After all, the United States rehabilitated Jabhat Al-Nusra – or al-Qaeda in Syria – as “moderate rebels.”

The origin of ISIS is incandescent material. ISIS was spawned in Iraq prison camps, its core made of Iraqis, their military skills derived from ex-officers in Saddam’s army, a wild bunch fired way back in 2003 by Paul Bremmer, the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority.

ISIS-K duly carries the work of ISIS from Southwest Asia to the crossroads of Central and South Asia in Afghanistan. There’s no credible evidence that ISIS-K has ties with Pakistani military intel.

On the contrary: ISIS-K is loosely aligned with the Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP), also known as the Pakistani Taliban, Islamabad’s mortal enemy. TTP’s agenda has nothing to do with the moderate Mullah Baradar-led Afghan Taliban who participated in the Doha process.

SCO to the rescue

The other significant event tied to the Kabul bombing was that it took place only one day after yet another phone call between Presidents Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping.

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The Kremlin stressed the pair’s “readiness to step up efforts to combat threats of terrorism and drug trafficking coming from the territory of Afghanistan”; the “importance of establishing peace”; and “preventing the spread of instability to adjacent regions.”

And that led to the clincher: They jointly committed to “make the most of the potential” of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which was founded 20 years ago as the “Shanghai Five”, even before 9/11, to fight “terrorism, separatism and extremism.”

The SCO summit is next month in Dushanbe – when Iran, most certainly, will be admitted as a full member. The Kabul bombing offers the SCO the opportunity to forcefully step up.

Whichever complex tribal coalition is formed to govern the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, it will be intertwined with the full apparatus of regional economic and security cooperation, led by the three main actors of Eurasia integration: Russia, China and Iran.

The record shows Moscow has all that it takes to help the Islamic Emirate against ISIS-K in Afghanistan. After all, the Russians flushed ISIS out of all significant parts of Syria and confined them to the Idlib cauldron.

In the end, no one aside from ISIS wants a terrorized Afghanistan, just as no one wants a civil war in Afghanistan. So the order of business indicates not only an SCO-led frontal fight against existing ISIS-K terror cells in Afghanistan but also an integrated campaign to drain any potential social base for the takfiris in Central and South Asia.

The Flight from Kabul and the Legacy of General Soleimani

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18 Aug 2021

Source: Al Mayadeen

Mohammad Marandi

Iran has strong reason to believe that the sudden withdrawal of western forces was designed to create instability and chaos in Afghanistan.

Roughly 20 years ago, after the Taliban’s crushing defeat in Afghanistan and the complete withdrawal of support from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia under US pressure, the Quds Force began a dialogue with this seemingly diminished organization. At that time, many thought this to be a meaningless endeavor as the political landscape across the region was changing dramatically. The fact that the Taliban murdered 11 Iranian diplomats and a journalist inside the Iranian consulate in Mazar-i-Sharif, would have made this new direction seem grossly inappropriate in the eyes of many in Tehran, if publicized.

The US invasion of Afghanistan, and subsequently Iraq, forced the Americans to stomach the presence and role of powerful Iranian allies in both countries. The US-led occupation forces lacked a coherent long-term strategy as well as allies, while important opposition leaders and military and political organizations were based in Tehran. In Afghanistan, the US had to turn to a coalition of political parties or the so-called Northern Alliance, which was struggling under tremendous pressure in their resistance against a foreign-backed brutal and ruthless Taliban.

Therefore, when the Taliban was defeated and remnant forces fled the country, Iranian allies took key positions in the Afghanistan government. There seemed to be no need or justification for dialogue with this seemingly spent force. However, General Qasem Soleimani believed that the Taliban continued to have popular support among a significant segment of the Pashtun tribes and populations in southern Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan, and he felt that the only path to long-term regional stability was for all the parties to engage in dialogue.

General Soleimani also believed that under such circumstances, the only force that was prepared to significantly drive up the cost of the US-led occupation, a key strategic Iranian objective, was the Taliban. He knew that under such circumstances the occupation of both Iraq and Afghanistan would gradually become extremely problematic and unpopular in western countries and that ultimately, such a huge burden would hit western economies hard and force them to withdraw their forces from both countries.

The objective of the Quds Force was to create mutual understanding and to encourage the more moderate factions within the fragmented Taliban to gain the upper hand. General Soleimani believed it was inevitable that foreign forces would at some point be forced to leave the country, and that following the country’s liberation, it was essential that Afghanistan isn’t pushed by the withdrawing occupation forces into another devastating civil war.

2011 was a significant turning point in the relationship, and high-ranking delegations began visiting Tehran. As time went by, the relationships became warmer and even personal, so much so that when General Soleimani, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandes and their companions were murdered at Baghdad International Airport by the Trump regime, a high ranking Taliban delegation traveled to Tehran and visited his house to pay condolences to his family.

While accusations of Iranian military support for the Taliban against Afghan government forces are completely baseless, there was one significant and revealing instance where the Taliban asked for Iranian assistance. Both Iranian intelligence and the Taliban knew that US-linked factions within the rapidly collapsing ISIS were extracted from Syria and inserted into Afghanistan. The Taliban asked the Quds Force to help it defeat what it saw to be an existential threat. Iran informed the Afghan government, which wasn’t particularly happy with such cooperation, but they didn’t object.

Ultimately, the Taliban made 4 commitments to the Quds Force. It would maintain stability on the border with Iran, it would not compromise on its opposition to the presence of any foreign forces, it would not target other ethnic groups or sects, and that “brothers wouldn’t kill brothers.” While there are differing factions with very different views within the Taliban, the Iranian have assessed that during these years the current Taliban leadership has been committed to its promises.

This relationship has helped the Islamic Republic of Iran become an effective mediator in recent weeks and months, to ensure that the withdrawal of occupation forces doesn’t lead to civil war, and to prod the new government to be inclusive of all Afghans. Iran has strong reason to believe that the sudden withdrawal of western forces was designed to create instability and chaos in Afghanistan. The US believes that if it can’t have Afghanistan, then the country should become a source of persistent trouble for Iran, China, Russia and even India. Meanwhile, significant sums of money are currently being sent by Saudi Arabia and 2 other regional counties to support extremist takfirist factions within the Taliban. Iran isn’t naive, but doing what it can to prevent tragedy is a responsibility. If that doesn’t work, the Quds Force will vehemently support those resisting extremism and terrorism.

Iran is constantly working and negotiating with the different parties inside Afghanistan as well with neighboring countries, plus China and Russia, to block the efforts of those who are pushing for a return to the dark past. Iran’s imminent membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization will enhance its capability to coordinate international efforts in this regard.

General Soleimani is no longer among us, but his legacy continues to inflict blows on the dying US Empire.  

19 Aug, 2021

Source: Al Mayadeen

Seyed Mohammad Marandi

THE RETURN OF THE TALIBAN 20 YEARS LATER

Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar leaves after signing an agreement with the United States during a ceremony in the Qatari capital Doha on February 29, 2020.
TALIBAN CO-FOUNDER MULLAH ABDUL GHANI BARADAR LEAVES AFTER SIGNING AN AGREEMENT WITH THE UNITED STATES DURING A CEREMONY IN THE QATARI CAPITAL DOHA ON FEBRUARY 29, 2020. (AFP PHOTO)

August 18, 2021

By Vijay Prashad,

Peoples Dispatch.

Vijay Prashad explains the Taliban’s defeat of the US-backed government in Afghanistan following the US troop withdrawal.

On August 15, the Taliban arrived in Kabul. The Taliban’s leadership entered the presidential palace, which Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had vacated when he fled into exile abroad hours before. The country’s borders shut down and Kabul’s main international airport lay silent, except for the cries of those Afghans who had worked for the US and NATO; they knew that their lives would now be at serious risk. The Taliban’s leadership, meanwhile, tried to reassure the public of a “peaceful transition” by saying in several statements that they would not seek retribution, but would go after corruption and lawlessness.

The Taliban’s Entry in Kabul Is a Defeat for the United States

In recent years, the United States has failed to accomplish any of the objectives of its wars. The US entered Afghanistan with horrendous bombing and a lawless campaign of extraordinary rendition in October 2001 with the objective of ejecting the Taliban from the country; now, 20 years later, the Taliban is back. In 2003, two years after the US unleashed a war in Afghanistan, it opened an illegal war against Iraq, which ultimately resulted in an unconditional withdrawal of the United States in 2011 after the refusal by the Iraqi parliament to allow US troops extralegal protections. As the US withdrew from Iraq, it opened a terrible war against Libya in 2011, which resulted in the creation of chaos in the region.

Not one of these wars—Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya—resulted in the creation of a pro-US government. Each of these wars created needless suffering for the civilian populations. Millions of people had their lives disrupted, while hundreds of thousands of people lost their lives in these senseless wars. What faith in humanity can now be expected from a young person in Jalalabad or in Sirte? Will they now turn inward, fearing that any possibility of change has been seized from them by the barbaric wars inflicted upon them and other residents of their countries?

There is no question that the United States continues to have the world’s largest military and that by using its base structure and its aerial and naval power, the US can strike any country at any time. But what is the point of bombing a country if that violence attains no political ends? The US used its advanced drones to assassinate the Taliban leaders, but for each leader that it killed, another half a dozen have emerged. Besides, the men in charge of the Taliban now—including the co-founder of the Taliban and head of its political commission, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar—were there from the start; it would never have been possible to decapitate the entire Taliban leadership. More than $2 trillion has been spent by the United States on a war that it knew could not be won.

Corruption Was the Trojan Horse

In early statements, Mullah Baradar said that his government will focus its attention on the endemic corruption in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, stories spread across Kabul about ministers of Ashraf Ghani’s government attempting to leave the country in cars filled with dollar bills, which was supposed to be the money that was provided by the US to Afghanistan for aid and infrastructure. The drain of wealth from the aid given to the country has been significant. In a 2016 report by the US government’s Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) relating to the “Lessons Learned from the US Experience with Corruption in Afghanistan,” the investigators write, “Corruption significantly undermined the US mission in Afghanistan by damaging the legitimacy of the Afghan government, strengthening popular support for the insurgency, and channeling material resources to insurgent groups.” SIGAR created a “gallery of greed,” which listed US contractors who siphoned aid money and pocketed it through fraud. More than $2 trillion has been spent on the US occupation of Afghanistan, but it went neither to provide relief nor to build the country’s infrastructure. The money fattened the rich in the United States, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

Corruption at the very top of the government depleted morale below. The US pinned its hopes on the training of 300,000 soldiers of the Afghan National Army (ANA), spending $88 billion on this pursuit. In 2019, a purge of “ghost soldiers” in the rolls—soldiers who did not exist—led to the loss of 42,000 troops; it is likely that the number might have been higher. Morale in the ANA has plunged over the past few years, with defections from the army to other forces escalating. Defense of the provincial capitals was also weak, with Kabul falling to the Taliban almost without a fight.

To this end, the recently appointed defense minister to the Ghani government, General Bismillah Mohammadi, commented on Twitter about the governments that have been in power in Afghanistan since late 2001, “They tied our hands behind our backs and sold the homeland. Damn the rich man [Ghani] and his people.” This captures the popular mood in Afghanistan right now.

Afghanistan and Its Neighbors

Hours after taking power, a spokesperson for the Taliban’s political office, Dr. M. Naeem, said that all embassies will be protected, while another spokesperson for the Taliban, Zabihullah Mujahid, said that all former government officials did not need to fear for their lives. These are reassuring messages for now.

It has also been reassuring that the Taliban has said that it is not averse to a government of national unity, although there should be no doubt that such a government would be a rubber stamp for the Taliban’s own political agenda. So far, the Taliban has not articulated a plan for Afghanistan, which is something that the country has needed for at least a generation.

On July 28, Taliban leader Mullah Baradar met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Tianjin, China. The outlines of the discussion have not been fully revealed, but what is known is that the Chinese extracted a promise from the Taliban not to allow attacks on China from Afghanistan and not to allow attacks on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) infrastructure in Central Asia. In return, China would continue its BRI investments in the region, including in Pakistan, which is a key Taliban supporter.

Whether or not the Taliban will be able to control extremist groups is not clear, but what is abundantly clear—in the absence of any credible Afghan opposition to the Taliban—is that the regional powers will have to exert their influence on Kabul to ameliorate the harsh program of the Taliban and its history of support for extremist groups. For instance, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (set up in 2001) revived in 2017 its Afghanistan Contact Group, which held a meeting in Dushanbe in July 2021, and called for a national unity government.

At that meeting, India’s External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar laid out a three-point plan, which achieved near consensus among the fractious neighbors:

“1. An independent, neutral, unified, peaceful, democratic and prosperous nation.

“2. Ceasing violence and terrorist attacks against civilians and state representatives, settle conflict through political dialogue, and respect interests of all ethnic groups, and

“3. Ensure that neighbors are not threatened by terrorism, separatism and extremism.”

That’s the most that can be expected at this moment. The plan promises peace, which is a great advance from what the people of Afghanistan have experienced over the past decades. But what kind of peace? This “peace” does not include the rights of women and children to a world of possibilities. During 20 years of the US occupation, that “peace” was not in evidence either. This peace has no real political power behind it, but there are social movements beneath the surface that might emerge to put such a definition of “peace” on the table. Hope lies there.

Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor and journalist. He is a writing fellow and chief correspondent at Globetrotter. He is the chief editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He is a senior non-resident fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China. He has written more than 20 books, including The Darker Nations and The Poorer Nations. His latest book is Washington Bullets, with an introduction by Evo Morales Ayma.

How Russia-China are stage-managing the Taliban

August 18, 2021

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By Pepe Escobar: The Saker Blog and cross-posted at the Unz Review.

The first Taliban press conference after this weekend’s Saigon moment geopolitical earthquake, conducted by spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, was in itself a game-changer.

The contrast could not be starker with those rambling pressers at the Taliban embassy in Islamabad after 9/11 and before the start of the American bombing – proving this is an entirely new political animal.

Yet some things never change. English translations remain atrocious.

Here is a good summary of the key Taliban statements, and

here (in Russian) is a very detailed roundup.

These are the key takeaways.

– No problem for women to get education all the way to college, and to continue to work. They just need to wear the hijab (like in Qatar or Iran). No need to wear a burqa. The Taliban insists, “all women’s rights will be guaranteed within the limits of Islamic law.”

– The Islamic Emirate “does not threaten anyone” and will not treat anyone as enemies. Crucially, revenge – an essential plank of the Pashtunwali code – will be abandoned, and that’s unprecedented. There will be a general amnesty – including people who worked for the former NATO-aligned system. Translators, for instance, won’t be harassed, and don’t need to leave the country.

– Security of foreign embassies and international organizations “is a priority.” Taliban special security forces will protect both those leaving Afghanistan and those who remain.

– A strong inclusive Islamic government will be formed. “Inclusive” is code for the participation of women and Shi’ites.

– Foreign media will continue to work undisturbed. The Taliban government will allow public criticism and debate. But “freedom of speech in Afghanistan must be in line with Islamic values.”

– The Islamic Emirate of Taliban wants recognition from the “international community” – code for NATO. The overwhelming majority of Eurasia and the Global South will recognize it anyway. It’s essential to note, for example, the closer integration of the expanding SCO – Iran is about to become a full member, Afghanistan is an observer – with ASEAN: the absolute majority of Asia will not shun the Taliban.

For the record, they also stated that the Taliban took all of Afghanistan in only 11 days: that’s pretty accurate. They stressed “very good relations with Pakistan, Russia and China.” Yet the Taliban don’t have formal allies and are not part of any military-political bloc. They definitely “won’t allow Afghanistan to become a safe haven for international terrorists”. That’s code for ISIS/Daesh.

On the key issue of opium/heroin: the Taliban will ban their production. So, for all practical purposes, the CIA heroin rat line is dead.

As eyebrow raising as these statements may be, the Taliban did not even get into detail on economic/infrastructure development deals – as they will need a lot of new industries, new jobs and improved Eurasian-wide trade relations. That will be announced later.

The go-to Russian guy

Sharp US observers are remarking, half in jest, that the Taliban in only one sitting answered more real questions from US media than POTUS since January.

What this first press conference reveals is how the Taliban are fast absorbing essential P.R. and media lessons from Moscow and Beijing, emphasizing ethnic harmony, the role of women, the role of diplomacy, and deftly defusing in a single move all the hysteria raging across NATOstan.

The next bombshell step in the P.R. wars will be to cut off the lethal, evidence-free Taliban-9/11 connection; afterwards the “terrorist organization” label will disappear, and the Taliban as a political movement will be fully legitimized.

Moscow and Beijing are meticulously stage-managing the Taliban reinsertion in regional and global geopolitics. This means that ultimately the SCO is stage-managing the whole process, applying a consensus reached after a series of ministerial and leaders meetings, leading to a very important summit next month in Dushanbe.

The key player the Taliban are talking to is Zamir Kabulov, Russia’s special presidential envoy for Afghanistan. In yet another debunking of NATOstan narrative, Kabulov confirmed, for instance, “we see no direct threat to our allies in Central Asia. There are no facts proving otherwise.”

The Beltway will be stunned to learn that Zabulov has also revealed, “we have long been in talks with the Taliban on the prospects for development after their capture of power and they have repeatedly confirmed that they have no extraterritorial ambition, they learned the lessons of 2000.” These contacts were established “over the past 7 years.”

Zabulov reveals plenty of nuggets when it comes to Taliban diplomacy: “If we compare the negotiability of colleagues and partners, the Taliban have long seemed to me much more negotiable than the puppet Kabul government. We proceed from the premise that the agreements must be implemented. So far, with regard to the security of the embassy and the security of our allies in Central Asia, the Taliban have respected the agreements.”

Faithful to its adherence to international law, and not the “rules-based international order”, Moscow is always keen to emphasize the responsibility of the UN Security Council: “We must make sure that the new government is ready to behave conditionally, as we say, in a civilized manner. That’s when this point of view becomes common to all, then the procedure [of removing the qualification of the Taliban as a terrorist organization] will begin.”

So while the US/EU/NATO flee Kabul in spasms of self-inflicted panic, Moscow practices – what else – diplomacy. Zabulov: “That we have prepared the ground for a conversation with the new government in Afghanistan in advance is an asset of Russian foreign policy.”

Dmitry Zhirnov, Russia’s ambassador to Afghanistan, is working overtime with the Taliban. He met a senior Taliban security official yesterday. The meeting was “positive, constructive…The Taliban movement has the most friendly; the best policy towards Russia… He arrived alone in one vehicle, with no guards.”

Both Moscow and Beijing have no illusions that the West is already deploying Hybrid War tactics to discredit and destabilize a government that isn’t even formed and hasn’t even started working. No wonder Chinese media is describing Washington as a “strategic rogue.”

What matters is that Russia-China are way ahead of the curve, cultivating parallel inside tracks of diplomatic dialogue with the Taliban. It’s always crucial to remember that Russia harbors 20 million Muslims, and China at least 35 million. These will be called to support the immense project of Afghan reconstruction – and full Eurasia reintegration.

The Chinese saw it coming

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi saw it coming weeks ago. And that explains the meeting in Tianjin in late July, when he hosted a high-level Taliban delegation, led by Mullah Baradar, de facto conferring them total political legitimacy. Beijing already knew the Saigon moment was inevitable. Thus the statement stressing China expected to “play an important role in the process of peaceful reconciliation and reconstruction in Afghanistan”.

What this means in practice is China will be a partner of Afghanistan on infrastructure investment, via Pakistan, incorporating it into an expanded China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) bound to diversify connectivity channels with Central Asia. The New Silk Road corridor from Xinjiang to the port of Gwadar in the Arabian Sea will branch out: the first graphic illustration is Chinese construction of the ultra-strategic Peshawar-Kabul highway.

The Chinese are also building a major road across the geologically spectacular, deserted Wakhan corridor from western Xinjiang all the way to Badakhshan province, which incidentally, is now under total Taliban control.

The trade off is quite straightforward: the Taliban should allow no safe haven for the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), and no interference in Xinjiang.

The overall trade/security combo looks like a certified win-win. And we’re not even talking about future deals allowing China to exploit Afghanistan’s immense mineral wealth.

Once again, the Big Picture reads like the Russia-China double helix, connected to all the “stans” as well as Pakistan, drawing a comprehensive game plan/road map for Afghanistan. In their multiple contacts with both Russians and Chinese, the Taliban seem to have totally understood how to profit from their role in the New Great Game.

The extended New Axis of Evil

Imperial Hybrid War tactics to counteract the scenario are inevitable. Take the first proclamation of a Northern Alliance “resistance”, in theory led by Ahmad Masoud, the son of the legendary Lion of the Panjshir killed by al-Qaeda two days before 9/11.

I met Masoud father – an icon. Afghan insider info on Masoud son is not exactly flattering. Yet he’s already a darling of woke Europeans, complete with a glamour pose for AFP, an impromptu visit in the Panjshir by professional philosopher swindler Bernard-Henri Levy, and the release of a manifesto of sorts published in several European newspapers, exhibiting all the catchphrases: “tyranny”, “slavery”, “vendetta”, “martyred nation”, “Kabul screams”, “nation in chains”, etc.

The whole set up smells like a “son of Shah” [of Iran] gambit. Masoud son and his mini-militia are completely surrounded in the Panjshir mountains and can’t be de facto effective even when it comes to regimenting the under 25s, two-thirds of the Afghan population, whose main worry is to find real jobs in a nascent real economy.

Woke NATOstan “analyses” of Taliban Afghanistan don’t even qualify as irrelevant, insisting that Afghanistan is not strategic and even lost its tactical importance for NATO. It’s a sorry spectacle illustrating how Europe is hopelessly behind the curve, drenched in trademark neo-colonialism of the White Man’s Burden variety as it dismisses a land dominated by clans and tribes.

Expect China to be one of the first powers to formally recognize the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, alongside Turkey and, later on, Russia. I have already alluded to the coming of a New Axis of Evil: Pakistan-Taliban-China. The axis will inevitably be extended to Russia-Iran. So what? Ask Mullah Baradar: he couldn’t care less.

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan back with a bang

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August 16, 2021

Source

The US ‘loss’ of Afghanistan is a repositioning and the new mission is not a ‘war on terror,’ but Russia and China

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

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Taliban fighters stand guard along a roadside near the Zanbaq Square in Kabul on August 16, 2021, after a stunningly swift end to Afghanistan’s 20-year war, as thousands of people mobbed the city’s airport trying to flee the group’s feared hardline brand of Islamist rule. Photo: AFP /

Wakil Kohsar

Wait until the war is over
And we’re both a little older
The unknown soldier
Breakfast where the news is read
Television children fed
Unborn living, living, dead
Bullet strikes the helmet’s head
And it’s all over
For the unknown soldier

The Doors, “The Unknown Soldier”

In the end, the Saigon moment happened faster than any Western intel “expert” expected. This is one for the annals: four frantic days that wrapped up the most astonishing guerrilla blitzkrieg of recent times. Afghan-style: lots of persuasion, lots of tribal deals, zero columns of tanks, minimal loss of blood.

August 12 set the scene, with the nearly simultaneous capture of Ghazni, Kandahar and Herat. On August 13, the Taliban were only 50 kilometers from Kabul. August 14 started with the siege of Maidan Shahr, the gateway to Kabul.

Ismail Khan, the legendary elder Lion of Herat, struck a self-preservation deal and was sent by the Taliban as a top-flight messenger to Kabul: President Ashraf Ghani should step out, or else.

Still on Saturday, the Taliban took Jalalabad – and isolated Kabul from the east, all the way to the Afgan-Pakistan border in Torkham, gateway to the Khyber Pass. By Saturday night, Marshal Dostum was fleeing with a bunch of military to Uzbekistan via the Friendship Bridge in Termez; only a few were allowed in. The Taliban duly took over Dostum’s Tony Montana-style palace.

By early morning on August 15, all that was left for the Kabul administration was the Panjshir valley – high in the mountains, a naturally protected fortress – and scattered Hazaras: there’s nothing there in those beautiful central lands, except Bamiyan.

Exactly 20 years ago, I was in Bazarak getting ready to interview the Lion of the Panjshir, commander Masoud, who was preparing a counter-offensive against … the Taliban. History repeating, with a twist. This time I was sent visual proof that the Taliban – following the classic guerrilla sleeping cell playbook – were already in the Panjshir.

And then mid-morning on Sunday brought the stunning visual re-enactment of the Saigon moment, for all the world to see: a Chinook helicopter hovering over the roof of the American embassy in Kabul.

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A US military helicopter flying above the US embassy in Kabul on August 15, 2021. Photo: AFP / Wakil Kohsar

‘The war is over’

Still on Sunday, Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem proclaimed: “The war is over in Afghanistan,” adding that the shape of the new government would soon be announced.

Facts on the ground are way more convoluted. Feverish negotiations have been going on since Sunday afternoon. The Taliban were ready to announce the official proclamation of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan in its 2.0 version (1.0 was from 1996 to 2001). The official announcement would be made inside the presidential palace.

Yet what’s left of Team Ghani was refusing to transfer power to a coordinating council that will de facto set up the transition. What the Taliban want is a seamless transition: they are now the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Case closed.

By Monday, a sign of compromise came from Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen. The new government will include non-Taliban officials. He was referring to an upcoming “transition administration,” most probably co-directed by Taliban political leader Mullah Baradar and Ali Ahmad Jalali, a former minister of internal affairs who was also, in the past, an employee of Voice of America.

In the end, there was no Battle for Kabul. Thousands of Taliban were already inside Kabul – once again the classic sleeper-cell playbook. The bulk of their forces remained in the outskirts. An official Taliban proclamation ordered them not to enter the city, which should be captured without a fight, to prevent civilian casualties.

The Taliban did advance from the west, but “advancing,” in context, meant connecting to the sleeper cells in Kabul, which by then were fully active. Tactically, Kabul was encircled in an “anaconda” move, as defined by a Taliban commander: squeezed from north, south and west and, with the capture of Jalalabad, cut off from the east.

At some point last week, high-level intel must have whispered to the Taliban command that the Americans would be coming to “evacuate.” It could have been Pakistan intelligence, even Turkish intelligence, with Erdogan playing his characteristic NATO double game.

The American rescue cavalry not only came late, but was caught in a bind as they could not possibly bomb their own assets inside Kabul. The horrible timing was compounded when the Bagram military base – the NATO Valhalla in Afghanistan for nearly 20 years – was finally captured by the Taliban.

That led the US and NATO to literally beg the Taliban to let them evacuate everything in sight from Kabul – by air, in haste, at the Taliban’s mercy. A geopolitical development that evokes suspension of disbelief.

Ghani versus Baradar

Ghani’s hasty escape is the stuff of “a tale told by an idiot, signifying nothing” – without the Shakespearean pathos. The heart of the whole matter was a last-minute meeting on Sunday morning between former President Hamid Karzai and Ghani’s perennial rival Abdullah Abdullah.

They discussed in detail who they were going to send to negotiate with the Taliban – who by then not only were fully prepared for a possible battle for Kabul, but had announced their immovable red line weeks ago – they want the end of the current NATO government.

Ghani finally saw the writing on the wall and disappeared from the presidential palace without even addressing the potential negotiators. With his wife, chief of staff and national security adviser, he escaped to Tashkent, the Uzbek capital. A few hours later, the Taliban entered the presidential palace, the stunning images duly captured.

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A screengrab from a video showing Taliban leader Mullah Baradar Akhund, front, center, with his fellow insurgents, in Kabul on August 15. Born in 1968, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, also called Mullah Baradar Akhund, is the co-founder of the Taliban in Afghanistan. He was the deputy of Mullah Mohammed Omar. Photo: AFP / Taliban / EyePress News

Commenting on Ghani’s escape, Abdullah Abdullah did not mince his words: “God will hold him accountable.” Ghani, an anthropologist with a doctorate from Columbia, is one of those classic cases of Global South exiles to the West who “forget” everything that matters about their original lands.

Ghani is a Pashtun who acted like an arrogant New Yorker. Or worse, an entitled Pashtun, as he was often demonizing the Taliban, who are overwhelmingly Pashtun, not to mention Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras, including their tribal elders.

It’s as if Ghani and his Westernized team had never learned from a top source such as the late, great Norwegian social anthropologist Fredrik Barth (check out a sample of his Pashtun studies here).

Geopolitically, what matters now is how the Taliban have written a whole new script, showing the lands of Islam, as well as the Global South, how to defeat the self-referential, seemingly invincible US/NATO empire.

The Taliban did it with Islamic faith, infinite patience and force of will fueling roughly 78,000 fighters – 60,000 of them active – many with minimal military training, no backing of any state – unlike Vietnam, which had China and the USSR – no hundreds of billions of dollars from NATO, no trained army, no air force and no state-of-the-art technology.

They relied only on Kalashnikovs, rocket-propelled grenades and Toyota pick-ups – before they captured American hardware these past few days, including drones and helicopters.

Taliban leader Mullah Baradar has been extremely cautious. On Monday he said: “It is too early to say how we will take over governance.” First of all, the Taliban wants “to see foreign forces leave before restructuring begins.”

Abdul Ghani Baradar is a very interesting character. He was born and raised in Kandahar. That’s where the Taliban started in 1994, seizing the city almost without a fight and then, equipped with tanks, heavy weapons and a lot of cash to bribe local commanders, capturing Kabul nearly 25 years ago, on September 27, 1996.

Earlier, Mullah Baradar fought in the 1980s jihad against the USSR, and maybe – not confirmed – side-by-side with Mullah Omar, with whom he co-founded the Taliban.

After the American bombing and occupation post-9/11, Mullah Baradar and a small group of Taliban sent a proposal to then-President Hamid Karzai on a potential deal that would allow the Taliban to recognize the new regime. Karzai, under Washington pressure, rejected it.

Baradar was actually arrested in Pakistan in 2010 – and kept in custody. Believe it or not, American intervention led to his freedom in 2018. He then relocated to Qatar. And that’s where he was appointed head of the Taliban’s political office and oversaw the signing last year of the American withdrawal deal.

Beware of a peasant guerrilla army

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Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada posing for a photograph at an undisclosed location in 2016. Photo: AFP / Afghan Taliban

The collapse of the Afghan National Army (ANA) was inevitable. They were “educated” the American military way: massive technology, massive airpower, next to zero local ground intel.

The Taliban is all about deals with tribal elders and extended family connections – and a peasant guerrilla approach, parallel to the communists in Vietnam. They were biding their time for years, just building connections – and those sleeper cells.

Afghan troops who had not received a salary for months were paid not to fight them. And the fact they did not attack American troops since February 2020 earned them a lot of extra respect: a matter of honor, essential in the Pashtunwali code.

It’s impossible to understand the Taliban – and most of all, the Pashtun universe – without understanding Pashtunwali. As well as the concepts of honor, hospitality and inevitable revenge for any wrongdoing, the concept of freedom implies no Pashtun is inclined to be ordered by a central state authority – in this case, Kabul. And no way will they ever surrender their guns.

In a nutshell, that’s the “secret” of the lightning-fast blitzkrieg with minimal loss of blood, inbuilt in the overarching geopolitical earthquake. After Vietnam, this is the second Global South protagonist showing the whole world how an empire can be defeated by a peasant guerrilla army.

And all that accomplished with a budget that may not exceed $1.5 billion a year – coming from local taxes, profits from opium exports (no internal distribution allowed) and real estate speculation. In vast swaths of Afghanistan, the Taliban were already, de facto, running local security, local courts and even food distribution.

Taliban 2021 is an entirely different animal compared with Taliban 2001. Not only are they battle-hardened, they had plenty of time to perfect their diplomatic skills, which were recently more than visible in Doha and in high-level visits to Tehran, Moscow and Tianjin.

They know very well that any connection with al-Qaeda remnants, ISIS/Daesh, ISIS-Khorasan and ETIM is counter-productive – as their Shanghai Cooperation Organization interlocutors made very clear.

Internal unity, anyway, will be extremely hard to achieve. The Afghan tribal maze is a jigsaw puzzle, nearly impossible to crack. What the Taliban may realistically achieve is a loose confederation of tribes and ethnic groups under a Taliban emir, coupled with very careful management of social relations.

Initial impressions point to increased maturity. The Taliban are granting amnesty to employees of the NATO occupation and won’t interfere with businesses activities. There will be no revenge campaign. Kabul is back in business. There is allegedly no mass hysteria in the capital: that’s been the exclusive domain of Anglo-American mainstream media. The Russian and Chinese embassies remain open for business.

Zamir Kabulov, the Kremlin special representative for Afghanistan, has confirmed that the situation in Kabul, surprisingly, is “absolutely calm” – even as he reiterated: “We are not in a rush as far as recognition [of the Taliban] is concerned. We will wait and watch how the regime will behave.”

The New Axis of Evil

Tony Blinken may blabber that “we were in Afghanistan for one overriding purpose – to deal with the folks who attacked us on 9/11.”

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Photo: AFP / Patrick SemanskyEvery serious analyst knows that the “overriding” geopolitical purpose of the bombing and occupation of Afghanistan nearly 20 years ago was to establish an essential Empire of Bases foothold in the strategic intersection of Central and South Asia, subsequently coupled with occupying Iraq in Southwest Asia.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Every serious analyst knows that the “overriding” geopolitical purpose of the bombing and occupation of Afghanistan nearly 20 years ago was to establish an essential Empire of Bases foothold in the strategic intersection of Central and South Asia, subsequently coupled with occupying Iraq in Southwest Asia.

Now the “loss” of Afghanistan should be interpreted as a repositioning. It fits the new geopolitical configuration, where the Pentagon’s top mission is not the “war on terror” anymore, but to simultaneously try to isolate Russia and harass China by all means on the expansion of the New Silk Roads.

Occupying smaller nations has ceased to be a priority. The Empire of Chaos can always foment chaos – and supervise assorted bombing raids – from its CENTCOM base in Qatar.

Iran is about to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization as a full member – another game-changer. Even before resetting the Islamic Emirate, the Taliban have carefully cultivated good relations with key Eurasia players – Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran and the Central Asian ‘stans. The ‘stans are under full Russian protection. Beijing is already planning hefty rare earth business with the Taliban.

On the Atlanticist front, the spectacle of non-stop self-recrimination will consume the Beltway for ages. Two decades, $2 trillion, a forever war debacle of chaos, death and destruction, a still shattered Afghanistan, an exit literally in the dead of night – for what? The only “winners” have been the Lords of the Weapons Racket.

Yet every American plotline needs a fall guy. NATO has just been cosmically humiliated in the graveyard of empires by a bunch of goat herders – and not by close encounters with Mr Khinzal. What’s left? Propaganda.

So meet the new fall guy: the New Axis of Evil. The axis is Taliban-Pakistan-China. The New Great Game in Eurasia has just been reloaded.

طالبان اليوم ليست داعش ولا القاعدة ولكن…!


أغسطس 14 2021

 محمد صادق الحسيني

طالبان جمع طالب باللغة المحلية، وهي إشارة الى جماعة من الطلبة الأفغان الذين درسوا او تدرّبوا في مدارس مولوي جلال الدين حقاني صاحب «شبكة حقاني» العسكرية القتالية السلفية الباكستانية في منطقة وزيرستان المحاذية لأفغانستان..!

والمعروف انّ حركة طالبان السلفية الجهادية قد تشكلت في العام ١٩٩٤ في شرق أفغانستان على يد الملا محمد عمر الشهير.

في حقبة الملا عمر برز الجانب المتشدّد المعروف لطالبان وكلّ من عداه من المؤسسين ظلّ مغموراً بمن فيهم واحداً من أهمّ مساعديه وقادة التأسيس الحركي الملا عبد الغني برادر…!

وقد اشتهر في أروقة الديبلوماسيين والسياسيين للدول المحيطة بأفغانستان يومها بأن هذه الحركة الأفغانية المتشددة، قد تمّت رعايتها بشكل ملحوظ وبارز من قبل الاستخبارات العسكرية الباكستانية.

كما عرف ولا يزال معروفاً بأنّ باكستان ظلت على علاقة وثيقة بالحركة، وانها لطالما استخدمتها كورقة قوية في علاقاتها الإقليمية ومفاوضاتها حول مستقبل أفغانستان والمنطقة.

ثمة واقعة مهمة حصلت قبل نحو ١٠ سنوات لا بدّ من ذكرها هنا لعلها شكلت محطة مهمة وعلامة فارقة فيما جرى وربما لا يزال يجري في أفغانستان.

في العام ٢٠١٠ وفي عملية مشتركة للمخابرات الأميركية والباكستانية يتمّ القبض على أحد أهمّ الرموز الطالبانية التي كانت تطاردها واشنطن بعد موت ملا عمر الا وهو ملا عبد الغني برادر الزميل الحميم لبن لادن.

وبعد اختفاء تامّ للرجل لمدة ٨ سنوات أسيراً لدى الأميركيين، وبعد مفاوضات شاقة أجرتها الحركة وبوساطة قطرية ملحة، يتمّ إطلاق سراحه في العام ٢٠١٨…!

وبسرعة يتقدم الملا عبد الغني برادر، ليصبح مديراً للمكتب السياسي للحركة وممثلها في الدوحة، ومن ثم يصبح كما هو الآن الرجل الأول للحركة بلا منازع، وهو الذي قاد كل المفاوضات الأخيرة مع الأميركيين، وعقد كلّ الاتفاقيات العلنية والسرية معهم، وهو الذي يشرف حالياً على كلّ التطورات الأمنية والعسكرية والسياسية لحركة طالبان، وهو الذي يفترض أنه دخل كابول فاتحاً…

لا احد من المتابعين الجديين يعتقد ان طالبان ستسلم مقاليد البلاد بولاياتها الـ ٣٤ للأميركيين ومخططاتهم المستجدة بسهولة فهم قاتلوا طوال العقدين الماضيين من اجل اهداف حركتهم وقدموا آلاف الشهداء في هذا الطريق…!

والاغلب انهم سيلعبون على التناقضات الاميركية وتوظيفها لفرض امارتهم الاسلامية كامر واقع بدون قرقعة سلاح…!

في هذه الأثناء وكما تقول مصادر أفغانية متابعة فإنّ الأميركيين من جهتهم، عملوا ما استطاعوا الى ذلك سبيلاً خلال العقدين الماضيين – وعلى طريقة إعداد الخطة «ب» والخطة «ج» لكلّ مخطط – في القضاء او الامحاء او الازاحة لكل الرموز الطالبانية المتشددة، لتظهر «طالبان» جديدة، ديمقراطية، تعددية، تقدمية معتدلة، عاقلة، مسالمة، تتربّع عرش كابول لتكون واجهة أفغانية (پشتونية) كاملة الدسم، مطعّمة ببعض من الوان الطيف الافغاني من الطاجيك الى الاوزبك الى الهزارة الى الدرانيين او النورستانيين وذلك عندما تحين لحظة الانسحاب التي لا بدّ منها، وها هو زمانها قد حان…!

وهذا يعني في ما يعني انّ العقدين الماضيين كانا كفيلين في بلورة نسخة جديدة من طالبان غير نسخة طالبان الأولى الملتصقة بذهن الناس بملا عمر وبن لادن…!

طالبان الجديدة هي طالبان السنية الحنفية السلفية القوية، لكنها غير الوهابية التكفيرية، طالبان المنفتحة على العالم الخارجي بكل تلاوينه ولكن:

 طالبان التي ستشكل كما يتمنى الأميركيون بالطبع جداراً يشبه سور الصين العظيم بوجه كلّ من بكين وموسكو وطهران…!

جدار يمنع التحام الثنائي الصيني الروسي العملاق، مع القطب الإيراني الصاعد والواعد…!

لم يكن ذلك ممكناً بدون تحوّل حقيقي في طالبان نفسها، ورجل المرحلة لم يكن سوى ملا عبد الغني برادر، ومساعديه الذين يملأون الشاشات اليوم ويقودون المفاوضات والحوارات في كل من طهران وموسكو وبكين بالإضافة الى الدوحة…!

موقع أفغانستان الجيوبوليتيكي والجيواستراتيجي بمثابة نقطة تقاطع التاريخ والجغرافيا بين الحضارات والمدنيات الشرقية وحتى الغربية منها، كفيل بنظر الاميركيين اذا ما ظلّ قلقاً وغير مستقراً على ان يكون كفيلاً بزعزعة مشروع «حزام واحد طريق واحد» الصيني وجعله يتعثر، وطريق الحرير الحديدي الشرقي مقطوع عند النقطة الافغانية، وان يشاغب قدر الإمكان على منتدى او منظمة شانغهاي للتعاون وهي المنظمة الأمنية السياسية الاقتصادية التي تضم نحو عشر دول أهمّها الصين وروسيا والهند والتي يفترض ان تصبح إيران رئيسي الدولة الجديدة كاملة العضوية فيها في ١٧ من آب المقبل…

 واذا ما استحضرنا المشهد التلمودي والهوليودي الأميركي الى واجهة الأحداث الجارية حالياً في أفغانستان ومحيطها، فإنّ ثمة من يجزم في أفغانستان وفي محيطها من الباحثين، بأنّ الأميركي الذي طالما ناور بداعش والقاعدة واستعملهما بطريقة تدوير النفايات، فإنه سرعان ما سيلجأ الى خلط الأوراق قريباً، لتنطلق دورات عنف متعددة تشعل كل آسيا الوسطى والقوقاز انطلاقاً من أفغانستان لتصل الى داخل روسيا والصين من خلال تحريك الأقليات العرقية المجنّدة بالآلاف تحت الرعاية الاستخبارية الأميركية..!

وهذا هدف أميركي معلن ومعروف، وتتمّ الدعاية له على طول الخط، تحت عنوان مخادع وهو الدفاع عن حقوق الإنسان وحرية المعتقد ومحاربة الديكتاتوريات والأنظمة الشمولية!

طبعاً يحصل هذا في إطار المخطط الأميركي الذي يحاول دوماً ان يحوّل هزيمته المرة الى نصر مزيف…!

انها معركة عالمية جديدة أميركا بحاجة ماسّة لها، في خطتها لوقف الصعود الصيني المتسارع في كلّ شيء، والقوة العسكرية الروسية المتفوّقة على أميركا بالأسلحة التقليدية وغير التقليدية، وما تسمّيه بالنفوذ الإيراني المتعاظم والذي بدأ يشكل تهديداً وجودياً لقاعدتها المتقدمة في المنطقة التي اسمها «إسرائيل»…!

الإيرانيون والروس والصينيون يدركون تماماً دلالات ما حصل ويحصل في أفغانستان من هزيمة منكرة للأميركيين، ومن خبث في نسخهم الجديدة في المواجهة، ولكنهم يعرفون أيضا لا سيما الايرانيين، كيف تخاض معارك الحروب الناعمة وهم الأبرع في لعبة الشطرنج…!

ووادي پنج شير وقاسم سليماني مع احمد شاه مسعود… يشهد لهم…

وفيلق فاطميون يشهد لهم، وأمور اخرى تبقى قيد المفاجآت ستكشف مدى سطحية وسذاجة الأميركي، وكيف ان اليانكي الكاوبوي سيلدغ من نفس الجحر مرتين…!

كلّ هذه التحليلات متحركة بانتظار موقف طالبان الحقيقي الذي ننتظره بفارغ الصبر من «إسرائيل» وسيدها الأميركي!

بعدنا طيبين قولوا الله…

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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..

A Saigon moment looms in Kabul

August 13, 2021

See the source image
Vietnam Civilians try to board a US helicopter at the US Embassy in Saigon, 1975

August 12, 2021 will go down as the day the Taliban avenged America’s invasion and struck the blow that brought down its man in Kabul

A Saigon moment looms in Kabul

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

August 12, 2021. History will register it as the day the Taliban, nearly 20 years after 9/11 and the subsequent toppling of their 1996-2001 reign by American bombing, struck the decisive blow against the central government in Kabul.

In a coordinated blitzkrieg, the Taliban all but captured three crucial hubs: Ghazni and Kandahar in the center, and Herat in the west. They had already captured most of the north. As it stands, the Taliban control 14 (italics mine) provincial capitals and counting.

First thing in the morning, they took Ghazni, which is situated around 140 kilometers from Kabul. The repaved highway is in good condition. Not only are the Taliban moving closer and closer to Kabul: for all practical purposes they now control the nation’s top artery, Highway 1 from Kabul to Kandahar via Ghazni.

That in itself is a strategic game-changer. It will allow the Taliban to encircle and besiege Kabul simultaneously from north and south, in a pincer movement.

Kandahar fell by nightfall after the Taliban managed to breach the security belt around the city, attacking from several directions.

In Ghazni, provincial governor Daoud Laghmani cut a deal, fled and then was arrested. In Kandahar, provincial governor Rohullah Khanzada – who belongs to the powerful Popolzai tribe – left with only a few bodyguards.

He opted to engage in an elaborate deal, convincing the Taliban to allow the remaining military to retreat to Kandahar airport and be evacuated by helicopter. All their equipment, heavy weapons and ammunition should be transferred to the Taliban.

Afghan Special Forces represented the cream of the crop in Kandahar. Yet they were only protecting a few select locations. Now their next mission may be to protect Kabul. The final deal between the governor and the Taliban should be struck soon. Kandahar has indeed fallen.

In Herat, the Taliban attacked from the east while notorious former warlord Ismail Khan, leading his militia, put up a tremendous fight from the west. The Taliban progressively conquered the police HQ, “liberated” prison inmates and laid siege to the governor’s office.

Game over: Herat has also fallen with the Taliban now controlling the whole of Western Afghanistan, all the way to the borders with Iran.

Tet Offensive, remixed

Military analysts will have a ball deconstructing this Taliban equivalent to the 1968 Tet Offensive in Vietnam. Satellite intel may have been instrumental: it’s as if the whole battlefield progress had been coordinated from above.

Yet there are some quite prosaic reasons for the success of the onslaught apart from strategic acumen: corruption in the Afghan National Army (ANA); total disconnect between Kabul and battlefield commanders; lack of American air support; the deep political divide in Kabul itself.

In parallel, the Taliban had been secretly reaching out for months, through tribal connections and family ties, offering a deal: don’t fight us and you will be spared.

Add to it a deep sense of betrayal by the West felt by those connected with the Kabul government, mixed with fear of Taliban revenge against collaborationists.

A very sad subplot, from now on, concerns civilian helplessness – felt by those who consider themselves trapped in cities that are now controlled by the Taliban. Those that made it before the onslaught are the new Afghan IDPs, such as the ones who set up a refugee camp in the Sara-e-Shamali park in Kabul.

A new generation of IDPs in Afghanistan. Image: Supplied

Rumors were swirling in Kabul that Washington had suggested to President Ashraf Ghani to resign, clearing the way for a ceasefire and the establishment of a transitional government.

On the record, what’s established is that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin promised Ghani to “remain invested” in Afghan security.

Reports indicate the Pentagon plans to redeploy 3,000 troops and Marines to Afghanistan and another 4,000 to the region to evacuate the US Embassy and US citizens in Kabul.

The alleged offer to Ghani actually originated in Doha – and came from Ghani’s people, as I confirmed with diplomatic sources.

The Kabul delegation, led by Abdullah Abdullah, the chairman of something called the High Council for National Reconciliation, via Qatar mediation, offered the Taliban a power-sharing deal as long as they stop the onslaught. There’s been no mention of Ghani resigning, which is the Taliban’s number one condition for any negotiation.

The extended troika in Doha is working overtime. The US lines up immovable object Zalmay Khalilzad, widely mocked in the 2000s as “Bush’s Afghan.” The Pakistanis have special envoy Muhammad Sadiq and ambassador to Kabul Mansoor Khan.

The Russians have the Kremlin’s envoy to Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov. And the Chinese have a new Afghan envoy, Xiao Yong.

Russia-China-Pakistan are negotiating with a Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) frame of mind: all three are permanent members. They emphasize a transition government, power-sharing, and recognition of the Taliban as a legitimate political force.

Diplomats are already hinting that if the Taliban topple Ghani in Kabul, by whatever means, they will be recognized by Beijing as the legitimate rulers of Afghanistan – something that will set up yet another incendiary geopolitical front in the confrontation against Washington.

As it stands, Beijing is just encouraging the Taliban to strike a peace agreement with Kabul.

The Pashtunistan riddle

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has minced no words as he stepped into the fray. He confirmed the Taliban leadership told him there’s no negotiation with Ghani in power – even as he tried to persuade them to reach for a peace deal.

Khan accused Washington of regarding Pakistan as “useful” only when it comes to pressing Islamabad to use its influence over the Taliban to broker a deal – without considering the “mess” the Americans left behind.

Khan once again said he “made it very clear” there will be no US military bases in Pakistan.

This is a very good analysis of how hard it is for Khan and Islamabad to explain Pakistan’s complex involvement with Afghanistan to the West and also the Global South.

The key issues are quite clear:

1. Pakistan wants a power-sharing deal and is doing what it can in Doha, along the extended troika, to reach it.

2. A Taliban takeover will lead to a new influx of refugees and may encourage jihadis of the al-Qaeda, TTP and ISIS-Khorasan kind to destabilize Pakistan.

3. It was the US that legitimized the Taliban by striking an agreement with them during the Donald Trump administration.

4. And because of the messy withdrawal, the Americans reduced their leverage – and Pakistan’s – over the Taliban.

The problem is Islamabad simply does not manage to get these messages across.

And then there are some bewildering decisions. Take the AfPak border between Chaman (in Pakistan’s Balochistan) and Spin Boldak (in Afghanistan).

The Pakistanis closed their side of the border. Every day tens of thousands of people, overwhelmingly Pashtun and Baloch, from both sides cross back and forth alongside a mega-convoy of trucks transporting merchandise from the port of Karachi to landlocked Afghanistan. To shut down such a vital commercial border is an unsustainable proposition.

All of the above leads to arguably the ultimate problem: what to do about Pashtunistan?

The absolute heart of the matter when it comes to Pakistan’s involvement in Afghanistan and Afghan interference in the Pakistani tribal areas is the completely artificial, British Empire-designed Durand Line. 

Islamabad’s definitive nightmare is another partition. Pashtuns are the largest tribe in the world and they live on both sides of the (artificial) border. Islamabad simply cannot admit a nationalist entity ruling Afghanistan because that will eventually foment a Pashtun insurrection in Pakistan.

And that explains why Islamabad prefers the Taliban compared to an Afghan nationalist government. Ideologically, conservative Pakistan is not that dissimilar from the Taliban positioning. And in foreign policy terms, the Taliban in power perfectly fit the unmovable “strategic depth” doctrine that opposes Pakistan to India.

In contrast, Afghanistan’s position is clear-cut. The Durand Line divides Pashtuns on both sides of an artificial border. So any nationalist government in Kabul will never abandon its desire for a larger, united Pashtunistan.

As the Taliban are de facto a collection of warlord militias, Islamabad has learned by experience how to deal with them. Virtually every warlord – and militia – in Afghanistan is Islamic.

Even the current Kabul arrangement is based on Islamic law and seeks advice from an Ulema council. Very few in the West know that Sharia law is the predominant trend in the current Afghan constitution.

Closing the circle, ultimately all members of the Kabul government, the military, as well as a great deal of civil society come from the same conservative tribal framework that gave birth to the Taliban.

Apart from the military onslaught, the Taliban seem to be winning the domestic PR battle because of a simple equation: they portray Ghani as a NATO and US puppet, the lackey of foreign invaders.

And to make that distinction in the graveyard of empires has always been a winning proposition.

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