The Sultan 2.0 will heavily tilt east

May 31 2023

Photo Credit: The Cradle

It’s not that Erdogan has a scheme to head east at the west’s expense. It’s just that the world’s grandest infrastructure, development, and geopolitical projects are all in the east today.

By Pepe Escobar

The collective west was dying to bury him – yet another strategic mistake that did not take into account the mood of Turkish voters in deep Anatolia.

In the end, Recep Tayyip Erdogan did it – again. Against all his shortcomings, like an aging neo-Ottoman Sinatra, he did it “my way,” comfortably retaining Turkiye’s presidency after naysayers had all but buried him.

The first order of geopolitical priority is who will be named Minister of Foreign Affairs. The prime candidate is Ibrahim Kalin – the current all-powerful Erdogan press secretary cum top adviser.

Compared to incumbent Cavusoglu, Kalin, in theory, may be qualified as more pro-west. Yet it’s the Sultan who calls the shots. It will be fascinating to watch how Turkiye under Erdogan 2.0 will navigate the strengthening of ties with West Asia and the accelerating process of Eurasia integration.

The first immediate priority, from Erdogan’s point of view, is to get rid of the “terrorist corridor” in Syria. This means, in practice, reigning in the US-backed Kurdish YPG/PYD, who are effectively Syrian affiliates of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) – which is also the issue at the heart of a possible normalization of relations with Damascus.

Now that Syria has been enthusiastically welcomed back to the Arab League after a 12-year freeze, a Moscow-brokered entente between the Turkish and Syrian presidents, already in progress, may represent the ultimate win-win for Erdogan: allowing control of Kurds in north Syria while facilitating the repatriation of roughly 4 million refugees (tens of thousands will stay, as a source of cheap labor).

The Sultan is at his prime when it comes to hedging his bets between east and west. He knows well how to profit from Turkiye’s status as a key NATO member – complete with one of its largest armies, veto power, and control of the entry to the uber-strategic Black Sea.

And all that while exercising real foreign policy independence, from West Asia to the Eastern Mediterranean.

So expect Erdogan 2.0 to remain an inextinguishable source of irritation for the neocons and neoliberals in charge of US foreign policy, along with their EU vassals, who will never refrain from trying to subdue Ankara to fight the Russia-China-Iran Eurasia integration entente. The Sultan, though, knows how to play this game beautifully.

How to manage Russia and China

Whatever happens next, Erdogan will not hop on board the sanctions-against-Russia sinking ship. The Kremlin bought Turkish bonds tied to the development of the Russian-built Akkuyu nuclear power plant, Turkiye’s first nuclear reactor. Moscow allowed Ankara to postpone nearly $4 billion in energy payments until 2024. Best of all, Ankara pays for Russian gas in rubles.

So an array of deals related to the supply of Russian energy trump possible secondary sanctions that might target the steady rise in Turkiye’s exports. Still, it’s a given the US will revert to its one and only “diplomatic” policy – sanctions. The 2018 sanctions did push Turkiye into recession after all.

But Erdogan can easily count on popular support across the Turkish realm. Early this year, a Gezici poll revealed that 72.8 percent of Turkish citizens privilege good relations with Russia while nearly 90 percent rate the US as a “hostile” nation. That’s what allows Interior Minister Soylu to remark, bluntly, “we will wipe out whoever is causing trouble, including American troops.”

China-Turkiye strategic cooperation falls under what Erdogan defines as “turning to the East” – and is mostly about China’s multi-continent infrastructure behemoth, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The Turk Silk Road branch of the BRI focuses on what Beijing defines as the “Middle Corridor,” a prime cost-effective/secure trade route that connects Asia to Europe.

The driver is the China Railway Express, which turned the Middle Corridor arguably into BRI’s backbone. For instance, electronics parts and an array of household items routinely arriving via cargo planes from Osaka, Japan are loaded onto freight trains going to Duisburg and Hamburg in Germany, via the China Railway Express departing from Shenzhen, Wuhan, and Changsha – and crossing from Xinjiang to Kazakhstan and beyond via the Alataw Pass. Shipments from Chongqing to Germany take a maximum of 13 days.

It’s no wonder that nearly 10 years ago, when he first unveiled his ambitious, multi-trillion dollar BRI in Astana, Kazakhstan, Chinese President Xi Jinping placed the China Railway Express as a core BRI component.

Direct freight trains from Xian to Istanbul are plying the route since December 2020, using the Baku-Tblisi-Kars (BTK) railway with less than two weeks travel time – and plans afoot to increase their frequency. Beijing is well aware of Turkiye’s asset as a transportation hub and crossroads for markets in the Balkans, the Caucasus, Central Asia, West Asia, and North Africa, not to mention a customs union with the EU that allows direct access to European markets.

Moreover, Baku’s victory in the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war came with a ceasefire deal bonus: the Zangezur corridor, which will eventually facilitate Turkiye’s direct access to neighbors from the  Caucasus to Central Asia.

A pan-Turkic offensive?

And here we enter a fascinating territory: the possible incoming interpolations between the Organization of Turkic States (OTS), the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the BRICS+ – and all that also linked to a boost in Saudi and Emirati investments in the Turkish economy.

Sultan 2.0 wants to become a full member of both the Chinese-led SCO and multipolar BRICS+. This means a much closer entente with the Russia-China strategic partnership as well as with the Arab powerhouses, which are also hopping on the BRICS+ high-speed train.

Erdogan 2.0 is already focusing on two key players in Central Asia and South Asia: Uzbekistan and Pakistan. Both happen to be SCO members.

Ankara and Islamabad are very much in sync. They express the same judgment on the extremely delicate Kashmir question, and both backed Azerbaijan against Armenia.

But the key developments may lie in Central Asia. Ankara and Tashkent have a strategic defense agreement – including intel sharing and logistics cooperation.

The Organization of Turkic States (OTS), with a HQ in Istanbul, is the prime energizer of pan-Turkism or pan-Turanism. Turkiye, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan are full members, with Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Hungary, and Ukraine cultivated as observers. The Turk-Azeri relationship is billed as “one nation, two states” in pan-Turkic terms.

The basic idea is a still hazy “cooperation platform” between Central Asia and the Southern Caucasus. Yet some serious proposals have already been floated. The OTS summit in Samarkand late last year advanced the idea of a TURANCEZ free trade bloc, comprising Turkiye, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, and as observers, Hungary (representing the EU) and Northern Cyprus.

Meanwhile, hard business prevails. To fully profit from the status of the energy transit hub, Turkiye needs not only Russian gas but also gas from Turkmenistan feeding the Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP) as well as Kazakh oil coming via the Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline.

The Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) is heavy on economic cooperation, active in a series of projects in transportation, construction, mining, and oil and gas. Ankara has already invested a whopping $85 billion across Central Asia, with nearly 4,000 companies scattered across all the “stans.”

Of course, when compared to Russia and China, Turkiye is not a major player in Central Asia. Moreover, the bridge to Central Asia goes via Iran. So far, rivalry between Ankara and Tehran seems to be the norm, but everything may change, lightning fast, with the simultaneous development of the Russia-Iran-India-led International North South Transportation Corridor (INSTC), which will profit both – and the fact that the Iranians and Turks may soon become full BRICS+ members.

Sultan 2.0 is bound to boost investment in Central Asia as a new geoeconomic frontier. That in itself encapsulates the possibility of Turkiye soon joining the SCO.

We will then have a “turning to the East” in full effect, in parallel to closer ties with the Russia-China strategic partnership. Take note that Turkiye’s ties with Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan are also strategic partnerships.

Not bad for a neo-Ottoman who, until a few days ago, was dismissed as a has-been.

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

Raisi in Damascus for landmark visit, first in 12 years since war

May 3 2023

Source: News websites

By Al Mayadeen English 

The President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ebrahim Raisi visits Syria in the first visit by an Iranian president to Damascus in 12 years.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi disembarking from a plane after arriving at Damascus airport, Syria, May 3, 2023. (Reuters)

The President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ebrahim Raisi, has led a delegation and arrived in Damascus today, Wednesday, in response to an official invitation from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. This is the first visit by an Iranian president to Syria in 12 years.

Raisi: Syria steadfast in the face of attacks

Before leaving for Damascus, Raisi articulated that it has become clear to everyone that the Syrian government must have the right to sovereignty and territorial integrity over all Syrian territories. He expressed his hopes that this visit would aid in the development and expansion of Iranian-Syrian relations, and that it would be a useful and influential visit for relations between the two countries.

Raisi stressed that “the groups created by the Americans, such as ISIS and others, shed blood and created chaos in the region and committed many crimes.”

He added that “resistance factions, the Syrian people, President Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian government have proven that they are steadfast in the face of these attacks.”

“What the resistance, Lebanon’s Hezbollah, and the Iranian advisors did, especially Martyr Qassem Soleimani, had an exceptional role in preserving the security of the region.”

Raisi to tour Syria

Al-Mayadeen‘s correspondent to Syria reported that Syria and Iran are set to sign agreements during the visit, noting that such agreements will be highlighted by economic ones.

Our correspondent added that the Iranian president will head immediately after his arrival at Damascus airport to the presidential palace to hold talks with President Assad, along with partaking in other meetings during his visit.

During his two-day visit to Syria, the Iranian president and his accompanying delegation will discuss ways to strengthen political relations and expand economic cooperation with senior Syrian officials. He will also attend a joint meeting between Iranian and Syrian businessmen, meet Iranian residents in Syria, and will also visit religious sites.

Syrian newspaper Al-Watan quoted “informed sources” as saying on April 28 that the visit “will witness the signing of a large number of cooperation agreements and memorandums of understanding covering various aspects of cooperation, especially in the fields of energy and electricity.”

For his part, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian described Raisi’s upcoming visit to Syria as a success for the government’s diplomacy in completing the process of regional integration.

Amir-Abdollahian, who will accompany Raisi on this visit, published a photo of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and martyr commander Qassem Soleimani, and wrote in a tweet: “I will soon leave for Syria with Dr. Raisi.”

He pointed out that the importance of this visit, in addition to the political, security and economic aspects, embodies the victory of the political will of the resistance and the success of government diplomacy in completing the process of regional integration.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi had spoken in an exclusive interview with Al-Mayadeen, broadcast on Tuesday about several political subjects, most notably the details of the Iranian-Saudi rapprochement, Iran’s accession to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and relations with Syria.

Raisi said that Tehran declared, from the outset, that its policy was to “go to neighboring countries,” and its decision was to establish good relations and good dealings with neighboring countries, and “to use the energies of the countries of the region to raise the level of relations” in all political, economic, cultural, and social fields.

It is noteworthy that Israeli media recently reported that this visit should be a cause of worry for “Israel.”

According to Channel 13, the worrying part for the occupation is that Iran wants to unify the axis of resistance in order to change geopolitics in the Middle East.

INKLAB ZEYARA 2 5 2023

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Ukraine trap; EU stuck in old era as Global South crafts multipolarity

May 2 2023

Source: Al Mayadeen English

By Hussein Assaf 

Europe must accept the fact that the world today is no longer the Western playground and that the growing anti-hegemonic sentiment among nations is irreversible.

It’s important to emphasize that Europe was not a victim in the current world order run by Washington, but rather a participant. Its contributions were destructive, filled with colonialism, theft, dismantling, and murder of nations that directly led to corruption, poverty, and injustice worldwide.

Europe’s bloody history

Despite Europe joining the global financial systems established by the US in the 20th century, such as the IMF and World Bank, the continent has used these tools to deepen its colonialism and expansion policies towards countries worldwide. It has even leveraged its position with bodies like the UN and UNSC to exploit weaker states and enforce its hegemonic agendas, including wealth looting and proxy wars against rivals politically and economically. 

However, the rise of the Global South in recent years has allowed its nations to counter the hegemonic exploitation of international bodies by funneling their resources into their economies to advance in the new world order. By engaging with the Western coalition while shielding themselves from their malicious agendas, these nations can benefit in the long run. 

Post-WW2 world order

After World War II, the United States emerged as an unrivaled superpower, untouched by the catastrophic destruction of the war and claiming a barely earned victory. Between 1944 and 1949, milestone events secured the unipolar order under the US and placed the EU under Washington’s direct influence for decades to come.

Bretton Woods in 1944 established the USD as the global reserve and trade currency, while the Marshall Plan in 1945 provided funding to Western European countries that agreed to follow America’s dictates to rehabilitate and rebuild their infrastructure and industrial capabilities (note that the plan’s funds were used to purchase American goods). 

The establishment of the IMF and World Bank enforced the new world monetary and financial system crafted by Washington. The Truman Doctrine finally ensured that Western Europe became a follower of Washington’s foreign policies. 

Establishing NATO, a war coalition under Washington’s direct control, was the highlight of that period. It served the interests of the United States and ensured that Europe did not attempt to create a sovereign military power but rather relied on the US for protection. 

The final blows to Europe’s industrial complex in the 20th century were the Nixon Shock in 1971, where the bloc’s member states found themselves stuck with paper notes whose value was solely determined by Washington, and in 1974 when the United States and Saudi Arabia agreed to peg oil to the USD – establishing the petrodollar. This meant that Europe’s access to the world’s largest energy reserve was now controlled by Washington. 

The petrodollar required Europe to maintain an abundance of USD reserves for oil purchases, resulting in increased investment in American treasury bonds and currency inflow to US markets. Despite partnering with the US in its bloody crusades over the past decades, the EU’s interests were not taken into consideration by Washington. 

The US has used its European allies as tools in the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, the destruction of Libya and Syria, and relations with the Arab world (the world’s richest energy region). Although Europe faced similar political and public backlash, it was the US that acquired the real strategic interests. 

Disregarding the changed world we live in, the EU continues to live under a WW2 mentality. 

Despite warnings against militarily provoking Russia, the EU doubled down on the American-NATO illusion that being the strongest military coalition worldwide guarantees inevitable victory, and using force to impose the West’s worldview remains a viable option. 

Self-destructive tendencies

After years of Russia sending signals and after many world vocal warnings, including from prominent Western figures like Kissinger, regarding NATO’s eastward expansion, European member states made the same mistake and adopted Washington’s doctrine on Moscow, leading to a conflict with Russia. Despite the historic failure of this approach, EU leaders repeatedly attempted to humiliate Russia and publicly claimed that the West aimed to bring Moscow to its knees since the beginning of the war in Ukraine until recently. 

The conflict with Russia has deeper repercussions on the EU than just preventing mutually beneficial trade ties that would put both economies on a trajectory of development and growth. The United States aims to fight against the growing Global South, with China at the top, and to cut off any attempts by its European allies to further integrate with Asia’s rising powers.

Following the start of the war in Ukraine, Europe not only faced energy shortages, while US energy companies continued to extract oil from Iraq, Syria, and Libya but also realized how Washington was profiting from the very war they had incited. They were overcharged for LNG at three to four times the price sold within the domestic US market, which itself impacted their major industry’s capabilities to continue production.

On the other hand, the US led an international campaign to force its European allies mainly to adopt a price cap on Russian oil. But despite Washington’s push for this bill, Americans themselves were not affected nor were they directly part of the pressure campaign in Moscow, mainly since they did not rely on Russian oil, and with the petrodollar in place, it did not matter how much the EU paid for oil, as the currency used would go back to US banks. 

Soon, Europe, left alone after countries such as Japan did not abide by the price cap, found that it still had to buy Russian Urals but with additional middlemen fees through countries such as India.

The EU witnessed firsthand the US tearing down their economies, which are under increased levels of deindustrialization, with industry giants moving to the US for lower energy prices and a more business-friendly environment crafted by Washington to lure companies mainly from its European allies.

As a result, Europe found itself seeking energy from African nations that it had previously colonized and destroyed. EU officials scrambled through countries like Algeria and Libya to secure gas and oil. 

As the world order shifts towards a more multipolar one with a center of gravity shifting towards China, Europe has begun to become aware that the US-led model that has dominated the world order for decades has not brought the desired outcome for the bloc. Despite benefiting immorally from genocidal campaigns and being America’s partner in crime, Europe’s gains were short-lived. 

With a history of self-destructive tendencies and after years of psycho-preparation and media propaganda, Europe was politically and economically prepared to repeat its historic mistakes in its approach to Russia and later to China.

The West quickly convinced its public that the rivalry with Russia was ideological and existential, that joining NATO and dropping neutrality (as with Finland and Sweden) was the only secure way to protect against the demons of the East, and that China is at the core of everything against the neoliberal values of the West.

Inevitable Multipolar world order 

During a speech to the Council of Foreign Relations in New York on April 18, European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde noted that the world is becoming more multipolar, with a fragmentation of the global economy into competing blocs. 

Lagarde stated that this new “global map” would have “first-order implications,” with the possibility of two blocs emerging, led by China and the US.

On many levels, Lagarde’s statement hits the core of the current world state of affairs.

The US reintroduced the political bloc mentality on a wider scale through the proxy war in Ukraine, pulling all its strings and employing all its accumulated influence to focus its power on obstructing a Eurasian uprising and realigning Europe’s foreign policy towards dismantling connections with China and Russia.

The post-WW2 era, characterized by bloc politics pushed by the US, is no longer feasible in the current period of deep integration, interest overlaps, and political complexity established by globalization, advanced trading networks, financial intertwining, and complementary production needs.

The West’s expansion of NATO forces to Russia’s border, followed by Moscow’s campaign to protect its national security, has put the global change on a pedestal.

The fallout of the Western-Russian war in Ukraine and the historic barrage of sanctions against Moscow has led to the fracturing of the financial system, and exposed the fragility of the West’s proclaimed “rules-based international world order”.

During an event hosted at Renmin University’s Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies last January to discuss the current state of world powers, the editor-in-chief of the Beijing Cultural Review (BCR) said that the fallout of the Western-Russian war in Ukraine led to events that could have never been imagined earlier.

“These [events] include the fracturing of the financial system, the expropriation and seizure of Russian private assets, and the freezing of Russian foreign exchange reserves. These are all abominable and unimaginable forms of confrontation,” Yang Ping said in his speech.

“The world is moving inexorably in the direction of decoupling. The phenomenon of politics affecting the economy and the capitalist political order no longer upholding the capitalist economic order is extremely striking.”

If not for the war in Ukraine, Ping’s statement regarding the world taking shape would have been shunned by Western experts as an illusion or merely a forecast, but now, and thanks to the West’s undivided efforts, the world is moving inexorably towards decoupling, and the phenomenon of politics affecting the economy is becoming strikingly apparent; a world with limited Western hegemony is on track to becoming an irreversible reality.

Europe’s amputated foreign policy

In recent months, top EU leaders including German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, and German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock have visited China amid rising global tensions.

Their visits aimed to balance relations between the US and China as Washington’s hostility towards Beijing escalated, its sanctions against the Asian giant increased, and its provocative actions in the South China Sea intensified.

Macron’s visit, in particular, was noteworthy, as it seemed to reassure China of Europe’s distinct position from Washington’s policies against Asian giants. Despite announcing that the main reason for his visit was to push Beijing against arming Russia and push Moscow to end the war, behind the scenes, Macron’s visit aimed to assert Europe’s position.

He stated that Europe should not be caught up in a disordering of the world and crises that aren’t ours and that the government must build a “third pole.”

“We must be clear where our views overlap with the US, but whether it’s about Ukraine, relations with China, or sanctions, we have a European strategy,” the French leader said then.

“We don’t want to get into a bloc versus bloc logic.”

At first, many European leaders publicly announced or hinted at their support for Macron’s move, considering it a positive approach to their largest trading partner.

But later, some European leaders expressed their rejection of his statements, the most blatant of which was the finance minister in Scholz’s government, Christian Lindner, who said that Macron’s “Idea of strategic autonomy of the European Union,” is “naïve.” Of course, the statement was not objected to by the German Chancellor, signaling that the minister has also voiced Scholz’s opinion.

Following Lindner’s remarks, and after von der Leyen reaffirmed the bloc’s neutral position on the Taiwan Strait issue provoked by the US during an EU parliamentary hearing on April 18, Manfred Weber, who helms the Parliament’s largest group, the center-right European People’s Party (EPP), accused Macron of “destroying” European unity with his trip to China, and that the French president “weakened the EU” and “made clear the great rift within the European Union in defining a common strategic plan against Beijing.”

To counter Macron’s position that the Taiwan issue is not a European concern, Weber also compared the matter to the war going on in Ukraine from Washington’s perspective.

“We shouldn’t be surprised if Washington starts asking whether Ukraine is a European issue,” Weber said. The question they may ask, he warned: “Why should American taxpayers do so much to defend Ukraine?”

His comments, of course, are nothing but shortsighted and delusional, given that the war in Ukraine was created and pushed forward by the US’ decades-long policies on NATO’s take against Russia.

From an outside observer, the contradicting statements – while also taking into account that the bloc members are dividing roles – can only be described as a political mess, a loss of strategic planning, and entails that the union is currently lacking the tools to form a united framework to establish a basis to approach the Global South as a whole, and especially China.

Is the EU’s policy being molded by an actual comprehensive overview of the world’s geopolitical shifts, or is it being dictated by a handful of US pawns that have served nothing but American hawks since they took office?

Blind Economic outlook as bloc 

The disunity in Europe extends beyond just their political approach to China, as trade policies with their largest business partner also show division. 

In 2020, China and the EU agreed on a trade framework, eliminating Chinese restrictions on European companies and investments in China. However, the deal was put on hold after the bloc sanctioned Beijing for alleged human rights abuses and China responded with sanctions of its own.

Just under two weeks after Macron’s and von der Leyen’s trip to China, the EU leaders said that they consider the deal with China as not applicable anymore, following the events since it was reached in 2020.

“We started negotiations around about 10 years ago and concluded the comprehensive agreement on investment two years ago. A lot has happened since then,” she said, adding that Europe’s “position is that we do have to reassess the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment,” she said earlier in April.

On his part, Macron considered that the agreement today is “less urgent,” and “just not practicable”.

On the other hand, Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz lately has been pushing for “reactivating” the agreement and considered it was time to reinstate the deal and put it back on track.

It is understandable that this dynamic is not unusual between world powers, especially at a time when the globe is witnessing historic geopolitical shifts, and it is definitely not unusual considering that the American influence across Europe and its leaders is still very significant, and Washington’s sanctions sword is constantly raised against its allies.

However, the lack of a united foreign policy within the bloc may negatively impact its position in the emerging multipolar world order and lead to the weakening or collapse of the union. Europe’s incomplete and fragile relations with growing global pillars, especially China and the emerging Global South, may also be observed from Beijing’s perspective.

Losing post-WW2 against Global South 

Europe’s lack of clear foreign policy extends beyond its position on China, as it also pertains to the US’s declared soft war on the Asian giant. 

For decades, Brussels relied on the assumption of a long-term realm by Washington as the unipolar power, which led the bloc to neglect sustainable and strong relations with the Global South.

Since the start of the war in Ukraine, the Global South has made unexpected, unprecedented moves, guided by the goal of forming sovereign policies that are far from Western hegemony led by Washington. They declared historic political shifts, leading to the formation of a new and influential world pillar in the multipolar era.

Protectionist economic policies, accompanied by subsidization, act for vital sectors like electric vehicles and batteries.

More systems (such as BRICS and SCO) and countries are growing monetary bodies and alternative trade frameworks to those dominated and influenced directly by the United States. It has become clear that political global organizations such as the UNSC and the UN, which were long exploited by Washington and its European allies to extend their hegemony and colonialism, are slowly losing more relevance and impact on the global arena.

On April 16, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, in an interview with CNN, said that the United States economic sanctions imposed on Russia and other nations have put the dollar’s hegemony at risk as targeted countries seek out an alternative.

“There is a risk when we use financial sanctions that are linked to the role of the dollar that over time it could undermine the hegemony of the dollar,” she said then.

Financial global institutions and systems such as the IMF, World Bank, and SWIFT, are gradually declining as de-dollarization proceeds and countries are finding alternatives to bypass the West’s complete influence, including mutual lending and local currency trade, sovereign projects, in addition to domestic SWIFT alternatives such as China’s CIPS, Russia’s SFPS, and Iran’s SEPAM, to name some.

The movement today is driven by Beijing along with other powers including Brazil, India,  Russia, Iran, and South Africa, among others.

Despite all signs in previous years of the emergence of the new geopolitical reality, Europe failed to form appropriate policies and outline a vision to engage and adapt to these drastic global shifts, nor did it take advantage of some of the outcomes that fall into its interest, such as de-dollarization and the end of the petrodollar. Instead, Europe insisted on following Washington’s agenda, further sidelining its world influence.

Sidelined 

On March 10, Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed to restore diplomatic relations and reopen missions after seven years of strained ties. 

Talks were brokered in Beijing under the auspices of Chinese President Xi Jinping. The Western role, especially that of Washington, in inciting dispute and rift between the two nations was criminal, leading to tens of thousands of deaths, mass destruction, displacement of hundreds of thousands, and feelings of hate among the people of the region.

China managed in just a few months to achieve what the United Nations and other international political bodies failed to do, marking Beijing’s first public political approach to the Middle East. The Beijing-brokered rapprochement between Tehran and Riyadh reveals Europe’s falling influence in the region and the growing tendency of countries to sideline the West in bilateral issues. It also highlights China’s rise as a peace-bringing and key power in the region.

Oppressed nations rejoice 

Europe’s centuries-long history of producing global superpowers makes it a hybrid bloc with a combined cultural, political, social, economic, and institutional maturity that can quickly adapt to world geopolitical shifts and overcome emerging challenges. 

However, it can be argued that the current world challenges are unprecedented, especially with the concept of globalization and the world’s interconnectedness.

Europe today has limited options that require a new approach and view of the world, with a humble and realistic policy that acknowledges the end of its hegemony and the adoption of sovereignty and mutual respect in bilateral relations.

The EU must also accept that the world is no longer a Western playground and that anti-hegemonic sentiment among nations is irreversible in a multipolar world. Regardless of Europe’s decisions, oppressed nations are watching the declining global influence of the colonial bloc with joy.

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Exclusive interview with Raisi: Iran ready to join BRICS

2 May 2023

Source: Al Mayadeen

By Al Mayadeen English 

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi addresses during an exclusive interview with Al Mayadeen the numerous developments taking place in the region and in the international arena.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi during an exclusive interview for Al Mayadeen with the network’s Chairman of the Board of Directors, Ghassan Ben Jeddou, May 2, 2023
Private Dialogue | With Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi revealed new details regarding the rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Iran during an exclusive interview with Al Mayadeen that aired on Tuesday. Raisi also delved into various topics including Iran’s accession to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, ties to Syria, and Israeli threats. 

During the interview, President Raisi underlined that Iran’s power and advancement have become a benchmark for other countries in the Global South that aim to fight global imperialist powers, in particular the United States, adding that despite the West’s decades-long inhumane sanctions and siege, the latest of which is the maximum pressure campaign imposed by the administration of former US President Donald Trump and continued by his successor President Joe Biden, the Islamic Republic continued its steady and remarkable growth and has deepened and developed its relations with international countries.

Raisi stressed that the Iranian nation has reached a conviction that they can manage their own affairs independently, and not rely on foreigners.

The Iranian President said that the wise leadership and strong guidance of the late Imam Khomeini, and now Iran’s leader Sayyed Khamenei, are the main element that established Iran’s power, security, and system.

To further emphasize the matter, Raisi stated that today the enemies are targeting the country’s foundations and its success, such as the faith of the Iranian people, their confidence to rely on themselves, and the guidance of the jurist – the pillar of the Islamic revolution.

The President emphasized that the Iranian people are the source of the country’s strength and that is the reason that enemies can’t commit any foolishness.

Raisi recalled the popular events commemorating the victory of the Islamic Revolution and International Al-Quds Day. The Iranian people covered the streets nationwide to take part in commemorating this event, he added.

Iran believes that the expertise accumulated by the Islamic Republic can be set as an example for other nations.

Iran-Saudi rapprochement behind the scenes

President Raisi announced that since he took office, his government’s policy is to prioritize establishing friendly ties with neighboring countries and developing bilateral relations in several areas, including the political, economic, cultural, and social fields.

Touching upon this matter, he stressed that religion, culture, and history are shared with the brotherly neighbors of Iran, including West Asia, the Caucasus, and Central Asia, especially Islamic countries.

Raisi also revealed some details regarding the events that led to the rapprochement between Tehran and Riyadh.

There were preliminary security negotiations with Saudi Arabia in Baghdad that were initiated under the previous government, he said.

“During my visit to Beijing, the Chinese President [Xi Jinping] said that during his earlier visit to Saudi Arabia, he had reached a proposal,” and suggested that Iran and Saudi Arabia resume relations, Iran’s President stated.

Raisi said that he, at that time, expressed readiness to re-establish relations with Riyadh and that the initial steps toward Xi’s proposal were taken while he was in Beijing.

Xi in return told Raisi during the meeting that the Saudi leadership expressed their desire to restore relations with Iran and that he [Xi] will follow up on the mediation.

Remarking on Beijing’s mediating role, Raisi noted that some countries may not have wanted China to be the mediator, but Tehran regarded it in a positive manner. 

“It was decided that a person be appointed by the Saudi government and that we send a representative and a delegation on our behalf for the bilateral dialogue between the two countries,” Raisi said.

“The King of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia sent their National Security Adviser, and we also decided to send the Secretary of the National Security Council, and it was decided that they discuss issues of concern to the two countries, and it was also decided that political relations between the two countries would resume ties,” and this process will continue and further communication will be established, he confirmed.

Raisi continued that Iran and Saudi Arabia are two major countries in West Asia, and the two countries have an important and influential political and social impact in the region.

The relations between the two countries can bear many benefits for the region, the President said.

“Therefore, we welcomed the restoration of these relations, and certainly the relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and the rest of the Islamic countries, would help to exchange expertise between countries of the region.”

According to Raisi, the main and most important point [of restoring ties with Saudis] is that the nations of the region and of the Islamic world felt relieved by these relations and welcomed them, while the enemies were frustrated, including the Zionist entity that revealed its rage caused by the event.

The Zionists seek division between Islamic countries, while Iran believes that strategic unity is essential, he noted, adding that “Israel’s” strategy is to divide and conquer and to sow division, while the strategy of the Islamic Republic is one of unity and harmony.

“In my first speech after taking office, I declared frankly that we can negotiate with Saudi Arabia, and we are ready to resume the work of diplomatic missions in the two countries,” and to sit down with Saudis to resolve issues, he noted.

Raisi stressed that Iran believes that countries must make their own decisions and decide their own fates, and they must prevent any outside power from imposing its will on their political policies.

“For example, Lebanon and the Lebanese must decide [on how to solve their own issues]. We believe that foreign intervention in Lebanon is what causes problems in the country,” he said, stressing that “if the Lebanese decide, as well as the Yemenis, if they decide their own fate, and were able to carry out internal dialogues, then they can solve their problems.”

Foreign interference in countries only leads to creating problems and does not solve any problem, Raisi added.

New world order favors Resistance

Commenting on the Israeli occupation’s recent threats against Iran, the Iranian President assured that “the Zionist entity cannot compete with the Palestinian youth, and it cannot conquer Gaza, and it cannot challenge the West Bank,” adding that Israelis are also unable to provide security to their internal front.

“The circumstances today have greatly changed,” he underscored.

It has become apparent today that no treaties or normalization agreements can protect this entity, and that the rules of confrontation cannot be determined through political forums. Instead, it is the Palestinian Resistance that creates the conditions and it is they that hold the power to decide.

“The Zionist entity, whether in the thirty-three days war [July war on Lebanon] or in the twenty-two days war and the eleven-day war, faced a catastrophic failure, so how does this entity want to confront and attack the center of power and pride in the region, which is the Islamic Republic of Iran, and confront a nation that is present on the battlefronts with this might?”

The entity knows very well that it and its threats are mere lip service, Riaisi added.

Addressing the Arab nations, he advised people to listen to a comprehensive analysis made by Iranian leader Sayyed Khamenei earlier during the holy month of Ramadan, which concluded that the world is pivoting in the opposite direction to unipolarity and toward a new order.

“Today, the circumstances are pivoting in favor of the Resistance and against the Zionist entity,” said Raisi.

“Day after day, the Zionist entity is heading toward its demise,” the political and social situation within “Israel” is unprecedented, he added.

The demise of the entity and its protectors can be witnessed today, and all the Resistance front day after day is heading towards more strength and power, said the Iranian President.

“Therefore, I want to say clearly that the current conditions in the new world order are in favor of the Resistance and against the Zionist entity.”

Raisi continued, “The threats made by the Zionist entity are sometimes empty, and they know it.”

“The evidence for that is that they cannot confront the Resistance youth in Palestine and the region,” he said. “So how does it make threats about attacking Iran? This is farcical talk that no one in the world believes or takes seriously.”

Asked about Iran’s response to any Israeli attack on the Islamic Republic, the Iranian President said that the first response to the aggression would be catastrophic for the entity and would lead to its demise. “Because Iran’s power today is within the country, and Iran’s power in the region is of an unmistakable magnitude,” he explained.

“The first blunder and step made by the Zionist entity will be its last, and there will no longer be this thing called the Zionist entity to even take another step,” he warned.

“We have said and announced this in various forums, and they know very well that we are serious about this view, this step, and this decision.”

Israelis know that the initial Iranian response will lead to the collapse of the Iron Dome, Raisi said.

Syria integral to Axis of Resistance

With regard to Syria, Raisi said “Syria has always been on the frontlines of the Axis of Resistance, whether during the time of President Bashar Al-Assad’s father, the late Hafez Al-Assad, or during the tenure of President Bashar Al-Assad.”

The US, through the creation and funding of ISIS and the takfiri factions, and through the sowing of sedition in Syria, and other militant groups, was seeking to divide Syria, he said.

The Americans also incited the Arab countries against Syria, and the Arab countries also sought to settle their scores with Syria, he added.

However, despite thinking that Syria will collapse and the Resistance frontlines will fall through the internal war that broke out at the hands of the takfiri factions and through the Zionist support for them as well as the support of the US, the Islamic Republic of Iran stood with the Arab state, and it is perhaps the only country that supported the Syrian government and stood up to all the takfiri factions and separatist movements, and even to some regional states, he said.

“Today, the circumstances have drastically changed in Syria, and the difference is that it is known that the Resistance has paid off,” and with all fairness, “President Bashar Al-Assad has stood firm, and he deserves appreciation,” the Iranian president stressed.

He continued: “The Syrian people have also been courageous. They have proven that they are a people of Resistance and that this era of Resistance is considered a golden era in the history of Syria.”

Raisi praised the Syrian nation that fought “the enemies, the separatists, and the takfiri faction” with courage and faced and endured a lot of hardship, including many economic and security difficulties, but they withstood and fought against this global war on their country.

According to Raisi, Lebanon, Hezbollah, the Syrian people, and Iran were on the battlefront to prevent the nation from being carved up and divided, and the resistance of the Syrian people is worthy of praise, as the actions of the Syrian people and government are very impressive and bring pride.

At present time, he said, “many countries all over the world have come to the realization that Syria is not one to fail and be dealt defeats, and they have come to reconsider their ties with it.”

He also explained that Iran welcomes Syria’s rapprochement with numerous countries all over the world, especially those in the region and the Islamic World. 

“The ties between Iran and Syria are highly strategic and highly important, and we stress that these relations will continue and span several spheres, including security, economy, and culture. We are two Muslim peoples, and our ties go way back. There exist many bonds between the two Muslim and brotherly peoples, and we hope that, under the leadership of leader Sayyed Khamenei, who fully stressed the need for the resistance to have a united front, […] the ties between the two countries will continue to develop,” he added.

“His Eminence, the Leader, and the government have announced many times that we will never regret supporting the resistance. In accordance with this policy, we never hesitate to support the resistance, and we will not hesitate. Ever. And my visit to Syria comes within the framework of supporting the resistance,” the Iranian President underlined.

“We must stress several issues related to Syria,” he said. “Firstly, the sovereignty of the Syrian government all over Syrian lands. We affirm this, and we believe that the US must leave Syria as soon as possible. We believe that Syrian sovereignty should prevail over all Syrian lands.”

“We, during the tripartite summit in Tehran, with the participation of Turkey and Russia, must emphasize emboldening Syria’s sovereignty over all Syrian lands. This is for the benefit of Syria and the benefit of the region.”

The second issue, he underlined is regarding the return of the Syrian refugees to their homes and cities.

Thirdly, he went on to say, a certainly important issue is the reconstruction of Syria. “Regarding the reconstruction of Syria, we are ready to cooperate with the Syrian people and government, and we, in the Islamic Republic, have highly qualified technical teams and companies capable of playing an important role in the reconstruction of Syria.”

Iran’s growing presence in the international arena

Iran extends its arm in friendship and cooperation to any country that seeks cooperation with it. From this point of view, Tehran is ready to deal and cooperate with all countries, whether within or outside the region. 

“We condemn US unilateralism. We think we should not be under anyone’s authority, and we must not exercise authority over others. We believe that the countries of the world are not limited to three or four countries that consider themselves the rulers of the world, such as the United States. The Islamic Republic of Iran relies on constructive relations with all countries on the basis of common interests,” Raisi explained.

Iran has good relations with China and with Russia as well, he highlighted, noting that the Republic’s accession to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization provided it with a platform for cooperation with major countries in Asia.

“We consider that these relations are good relations for us, and we are ready to join BRICS, and this provides the Islamic Republic of Iran with new possibilities to play an important role using its own capabilities and abundant energies,” he said.

The United States, according to the Iranian President, is trying to sow despair among the Iranian people regarding their capabilities. However, the Islamic Republic stresses the cultivation of trust and hope, and there is evidence of its initiative in the various spheres within which the country operates.

“The enemy wanted to isolate us, limit our relations and hinder our presence in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and regional and international organizations, but its attempts were met with failure, and our relations with the world are growing by the day.”

Martyr Qassem Soleimani

Raisi also touched on the commander of the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps’ Quds Force commander, Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, saying he was a hero in the fight against terrorism, lauding his role in the resistance struggle in Syria and Iraq. “He confronted the offensives of ISIS and the Takfiri groups through help from the popular resistance groups in Iraq and Syria, and he was successful.”

“In cooperation with the Iraqi and Syrian people, and in cooperation with Lebanon’s Hezbollah, he was able to eradicate the stream of terrorists,” he stressed.

Commenting on his raising of Soleimani’s photo at the UNGA, Raisi said he did that to show those who claim to be fighting terrorism that they “are assassinating the hero of the fight against terrorism. Who assassinated him? The US President at the time [Donald Trump].”

The assassination of Hajj Qassem Soleimani is the assassination of not only a prominent military figure, but also a strategic figure, a strategic person, and a man who was always on the battlefield who managed to simultaneously be a capable diplomat. “Such a person was assassinated by the Americans.”

Raisi also cited a saying by Iranian Revolutionary Leader Sayyed Ali Khamenei when he said that “Martyr Hajj Qassem Soleimani is more dangerous than Hajj Qassem Soleimani himself,” pointing out that they thought that “by assassinating Hajj Qassem Soleimani, they would assassinate his thoughts, and they are today seeing the ramifications of this all over the region […] The people of the region and its youths are very proud of Soleimani, and he has become a school of thought for our people and the resistance’s youth all over the region.”

People of the region have faith in Nasrallah 

Hezbollah, the Lebanese resistance movement, enjoys a special stature not only in Lebanon but in the region at large, whereby the party stands as a robust pillar of regional resistance.

On the day of the party’s inception – founded by martyr Sayyed Abbas Moussawi and persisted through the efforts of Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah and the revolutionary Lebanese youth – nobody would have expected that the Zionist entity would withdraw from south Lebanon. 

“And later, when Hezbollah chivalrously withstood the large-scale Israeli aggression in the 2006 war, they proved, for the first time, that Israel is not invincible. Hezbollah inspired the Palestinian youth to stand up to the Zionist entity, which was evident through the First, Second, and Third Intifada,” he explained

“Today, we see the Palestinian youth admirably withstanding Israeli aggression and contending it. This is what they learned of Hezbollah in Lebanon. “

“Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah is a remarkable character. In addition to being a knowledgeable cleric, he is an excellent politician and revolutionary. He enjoys a remarkable flair for captivating the hearts of his audience, appealing to the different sects of the Lebanese constituency.”

Raisi emphasized that revolutionary youth all around the world look to Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah as a revolutionary icon of anti-imperialism. 

“In Iran, specifically, we consider him a prominent individual, and we see his character as immortal in light of his struggle and resilience against the Zionist entity.”

Raisi also emphasized the special type of trust vested in Hezbollah by the Lebanese constituency and in Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah specifically, saying it was a special and deep relationship.

He also noted that he has heard that even from within the occupied territories, the Palestinians have a large degree of faith in Sayyed Nasrallah. He added that the relationship between Sayyed Nasrallah and all the Muslim nations, including Iran, is a deep relationship built on trust.

The Iranian people 

The Iranian President underlined that the Iranian people have been convinced that they can stand up on their own two feet and independently manage their affairs, without reliance on foreign powers

“This confidence in their own capabilities has been engraved into the Iranian people’s minds, and this, in itself, is the key to the Iranian people’s success and victory.”

Raisi also lauded the role of the Iranian leadership and the directives of Iranian Leader Sayyed Ali Khamenei, saying it was fair to say that his eminence “is leading the people through everything, and despite all the turmoil, he led the country and gave it strength.”

“The Iranian people have come to realize that this system is a tent, and the pillar propping it up is the guardian of the jurors and the leader of the Islamic Republic, therefore they trust both of these jurisdictions.”

Iran has today achieved self-sufficiency, and it has been able to be a leading country in the defense and nuclear sectors, he concluded.

To watch the full interview, click here

A discussion of the main positions in his meeting with Al-Mayadeen

A special meeting with the Iranian ambassador to Syria, Hossein Akbari

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What China Is Really Playing at in Ukraine

April 30, 2023

Source

By Pepe Escobar

Beijing is fully aware the NATO proxy war against Russia in Ukraine is the un-dissociable double of the U.S. war against its Belt and Road Initiative.

Imagine President Xi Jinping mustering undiluted Taoist patience to suffer through a phone call with that warmongering actor in a sweaty T-shirt in Kiev while attempting to teach him a few facts of life – complete with the promise of sending a high-level Chinese delegation to Ukraine to discuss “peace”.https://strategic-culture.org/news/2023/04/28/us-proxy-war-against-russia-china-is-increasingly-seen-globally-as-disaster-made-by-american-and-nato-lies/

There’s way more than meets the discerning eye obscured by this spun-to-death diplomatic “victory” – at least from the point of view of NATOstan.https://strategic-culture.org/news/2023/04/28/us-proxy-war-against-russia-china-is-increasingly-seen-globally-as-disaster-made-by-american-and-nato-lies/

The question is inevitable: what’s the point of this phone call? Very simple: just business.

The Beijing leadership is fully aware the NATO proxy war against Russia in Ukraine is the un-dissociable double of an American direct war against the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Until recently, and since 2019, Beijing was the top trade partner for Kiev (14.4% of imports, 15.3% of exports). China essentially exported machinery, equipment, cars and chemical products, importing food products, metals and also some machinery.

Very few in the West know that Ukraine joined BRI way back in 2014, and a BRI trade and investment center was operating in Kiev since 2018. BRI projects include a 2017 drive to build the fourth line of the Kiev metro system as well as 4G installed by Huawei. Everything is stalled since 2022.

Noble Agri, a subsidiary of COFCO (China National Cereals, Oils and Foodstuffs Corporation), invested in a sunflower seed processing complex in Mariupol and the recently built Mykolaiv grain port terminal. The next step will necessarily feature cooperation between Donbass authorities and the Chinese when it comes to rebuilding their assets that may have been damaged during the war.

Beijing also tried to become heavily involved in the Ukraine defense sector and even buy Motor Sich; that was blocked by Kiev.

Watch that neon

So what we have in Ukraine, from the Chinese point of view, is a trade/investment cocktail of BRI, railways, military supplies, 4G and construction jobs. And then, the key vector: neon.

Roughly half of neon used in the production of semiconductors was supplied, until recently, by two Ukrainian companies; Ingas in Mariupol, and Cryoin, in Odessa. There’s no business going on since the start of the Special Military Operation (SMO). That directly affects the Chinese production of semiconductors. Bets can be made that the Hegemon is not exactly losing sleep over this predicament.

Ukraine does represent value for China as a BRI crossroads. The war is interrupting not only business but, in the bigger picture, one of the trade and connectivity corridors linking Western China to Eastern Europe. BRI conditions all key decisions in Beijing – as it is the overarching concept of Chinese foreign policy way into mid-century.

And that explains Xi’s phone call, debunking any NATOstan nonsense on China finally paying attention to the warmongering actor.

As relevant as BRI is the overarching bilateral relationship dictating Beijing’s geopolitics: the Russia-China comprehensive strategic partnership.

So let’s transition to the meeting of Defense Ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) earlier this week in Delhi.

The key meeting in India was between Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and his Chinese colleague Li Shangfu. Li was recently in Moscow, and was received by Putin in person for a special conversation. This time he invited Shoigu to visit Beijing, and that was promptly accepted.

Needless to add that every single player in the SCO and beyond, including nations that are for the moment just observers or dialogue partners as well as others itching to become full members, such as Saudi Arabia, paid very close attention to the Shoigu-Shangfu camaraderie.

When it comes to the profoundly strategic Central Asian “stans”, that represents the six feet under treatment for the Hegemon wishful thinking of using them in a Divide and Rule scheme pitting Russia against China.

Shoigu-Shangfu also sent a subtle message to SCO members India and Pakistan – stop bickering and in the case of Delhi, hedging your bets – and to full member (in 2023) Iran and near future member Saudi Arabia: here’s where’s it at, this the table that matters.

All of the above also points to the increasing interconnection between BRI and SCO, both under Russia-China leadership.

BRICS is essentially an economic club – complete with its own bank, the NDB – and focused on trade. It’s mostly about soft power. The SCO is focused on security. It’s about hard power. Together, these are the two key organizations that will be paving the multilateral way.

As for what will be left of Ukraine, it is already being bought by Western mega-players such as BlackRock, Cargill and Monsanto. Yet Beijing certainly does not count on being left high and dry. Stranger things have happened than a future rump Ukraine positioned as a functioning trade and connectivity BRI partner.

للتاريخ مساره وتوقيته

الاحد 2 نيسان 2022

بثينة شعبان 

إنّ التاريخ يأخذ وقته في حياكة الأحداث إلى أن تكتمل شروط التحوّل الكبير، والذي سوف يشهده ويعاصره ويعيشه العالم لحقب، وربما لقرون.

في تناول الأحداث الصغيرة منها والكبيرة، وتحليل أسبابها واستشراف نتائجها، يُثبت الإنسان في كلّ مرّة أنّه “خُلِقَ عجولا”، وأنّه رغم هذا التاريخ الطويل نسبياً للبشرية، فهو ما زال قليل الصبر والحكمة في تفكّره واستقراءاته. وإذا بدأنا هنا من الحرب الإرهابية، التي شنّتها الدول الاستعمارية الغربية وأتباعها، على سوريا عام 2011، وقام أحدنا بالعمل المضني في استعراض تيّار الإعلام الغربي والعربي بخصوص هذه الحرب، نجد أنّ التحليلات والاستقراءات التي نُشرت بصددها، والتي ساهمت في تضليل الكثيرين تفتقر إلى الاستفادة من التاريخ، كما تفتقر إلى نعمتي الحكمة والصبر. وإذا تناولنا الحرب على اليمن بعُجالة، نجد أنّ معظم ما قيل ونُشر عن الحرب على اليمن لا علاقة له بتاريخ اليمن، ولا بصفات الشعب اليمني الأصيلة والمثبتة، ولا بالحقائق الوجودية اليوم التي يعيشها هذا الشعب، بل تنطلق بمعظمها من استهداف عزيمة وثقة هذا الشعب بنفسه، ومحاولة إلحاق الهزيمة النفسية به من خلال التهويل الإعلامي الذي هو في الحقيقة أداة من أدوات هذه الحرب على هذا الشعب الشجاع والصابر والمؤمن بالله والوطن. 

بعد سنة فقط من بدء هذه العملية في أوكرانيا، يجتمع الرئيسان الروسي والصيني ليناقشا مجالات التعاون

ولكنّ المثال الأكبر، والذي أودّ أن أتوقّف عنده وأقلّبه من كلّ زواياه وجوانبه، وذلك للأثر الشديد له على مصيرنا جميعاً، ومصير البشرية للعقود القادمة، هو العملية العسكرية الروسية في أوكرانيا، والتي رغم انطلاقها من نقطة نزاع بين روسيا والغرب إلا أنّ ارتداداتها ونتائجها ذات أثر بالغ على مستقبل وشؤون الدول، وعلى مستقبل العلاقات الدولية، وعلى مستقبل الإنسان في كلّ مكان، ولن تستكمل هذه الارتدادات دورتها ونتائجها إلا بعد عقود من الآن، وسيعيش أبناؤنا وربما أحفادنا التغيرات التي أطلقتها شرارة هذه الحرب فقط لإطلاق مسار تشعّب بعد ذلك وتطوّر في الميادين المختلفة وتطوّرت أهدافه وأصبح مثل كرة الثلج لا يمكن إيقافه بمكان ولا تحديده بموضوع أو مجال معين.

بعد سنة فقط من بدء هذه العملية في أوكرانيا، يجتمع الرئيسان الروسي والصيني ليناقشا مجالات التعاون بين بلديهما في الطاقة والصناعة وتبادل السلع بالعملات المحلية، والاستثمار في مجالات لم تخطر لهم على بال قبل عام فقط، دون أن يركّزوا على العملية العسكرية الروسية في أوكرانيا، والتي ربما تشكّل اليوم هامشاً صغيراً في إطار هذه العلاقات. وبعد عام من هذه العملية توقّع الهند مع الاتحاد الروسي اتفاقاً هاماً لتصدير الطاقة من روسيا إلى الهند بأسعار تفضيلية، (الأمر ذاته تمّ توقيعه مع الصين وبالعملة المحلية؛ أي استبعاد متزايد للدولار)، الأمر الذي سينجم عنه نهوضاً ملحوظاً في السنوات القادمة للصناعة الهندية والصينية، وتعزيز قدرتهما على منافسة المنتجات الأوروبية والأميركية. 

وبعد عام من هذه العملية قامت الصين وروسيا وإيران بإجراء مناورات عسكرية بحرية مشتركة لضمان سلامة وأمن الممرات المائية، الأمر الذي لم يكن يخطر لأحد على بال قبل بدء العملية العسكرية الروسية في أوكرانيا. وبعد عام من هذه العملية قامت الصين برعاية أهمّ اتفاق في هذا القرن، وبالتأكيد أهمّ اتفاق لمصير منطقة غرب أسيا والوطن العربي، وهو الاتفاق الإيراني السعودي، والذي كان مجرّد الحديث عنه قبل عامين يُعتبر ضرباً من الخيال. وبعد عام من العملية أصبحت إيران عضواً في منظمة شنغهاي، وقد قدّمت السعودية مؤخراً طلباً للانتساب إلى منظمة شنغهاي، مما يجعل هذه المنظمة أهمّ منظمة لمنتجي الطاقة: روسيا وإيران والسعودية، وسوف يكون لها رأي هام في أسعار وتوريد الطاقة عالمياً، وتتعامل دول هذه المنظمة بالعملات المحلية، مرسلةً دولار الهيمنة الأميركية إلى حتفه.

وبعد عام من هذه العملية بقي الاقتصاد الروسي منتعشاً، بل ازداد تصديره للنفط والغاز لأنه سارع إلى إيجاد أسواق بديلة عن السوق الأوروبية، وازداد الدخل الروسي من تصدير النفط والغاز عمّا كان عليه قبل العملية العسكرية في أوكرانيا، رغم كلّ العقوبات التي يُمنّي الغرب نفسه بالحديث عنها، وتضخيم آثارها المأمولة بالنسبة لهم، بينما هي فاقدة الأثر والأهمية، بل أكثر من ذلك، لقد دفعت هذه العقوبات الظالمة على الشعوب والدول تجمع دول آسيان لاتخاذ قرارات جريئة بتبادل السلع بعملاتهم المحلية كي لا يتمكّن الغرب من التلاعب بأقدارهم حين يحلو له وللأسباب التي يرتأيها. أي إنّ هذه العقوبات قد ارتدّت على الذين أصدروها بأنها أفقدت ثقة العالم بهم وبعملتهم وبنظام المدفوعات الـ “سويفت”، ودفعت الدول للتفكير ببدائل متحرّرة تماماً من التأثير الغربي. الأمر الذي ينعكس حكماً على مكانة الدولار الأسطورية، كعملة دولية، والتي كانت سبباً أساسياً لهيمنة الغرب الاستعماري على العالم وسطوته على موارده ونجاح عقوباته. 

هذا في الشرق، أمّا في الغرب، فقد أرغمت الولايات المتحدة الدول الأوروبية على بتر علاقاتها مع روسيا، رغم أنّ هذه العلاقة كانت تصبّ في صالح الدول الأوروبية من خلال توفير الطاقة الرخيصة لاستخداماتها ولزراعتها ولصناعاتها. وماذا كان البديل؟ كان البديل هو أن تبيع الولايات المتحدة هذه الطاقة للدول الأوروبية بأربعة أضعاف السعر الذي كانت تكلفه هذه الطاقة من روسيا، الأمر الذي سينعكس إفقاراً لهذه الدول الأوروبية، وتخلّفاً في صناعتها وزراعتها، وعجزاً عن منافسة المنتجات الصينية والهندية والإندونيسية والبرازيلية في المستقبل القريب، الأمر الذي سيكفل خروج أوروبا من لائحة الدول المتقدّمة صناعياً، والمنافسة اقتصادياً لدول الشرق التي تمارس الحكمة والصبر في علاقاتها أولاً، وببناء عالم جديد من الإنتاج والعلاقات يزيح بحكم وجوده وقدرته على المنافسة العالم الغربي الذي تصرّف بصلف واستكبار، فوقع في شرّ ما قدّمت يداه. 

هذا على الصعيد الاقتصادي والإنتاجي والمالي، أمّا على الصعيد الأخلاقي والإنساني، فقد سقط الغرب سقوطاً مدوّياً في براثن الليبرالية الحديثة سيئة الصيت، وأخذت الإنسانية تعمل على حماية نفسها من تأثيرات الغرب القميئة على مستقبل أجيالها. ولكلّ هذا أقول لمن ما زال يؤمن بقوّة الغرب وحكمته، وأنه لا يُقهر وأنه الأنموذج والمثل، إنّ التاريخ يتشكّل ليبرهن عكس ذلك تماماً، ولكنّ التاريخ ليس عجولاً، بل يأخذ وقته في حياكة الأحداث إلى أن تكتمل شروط التحوّل الكبير، والذي سوف يشهده ويعاصره ويعيشه العالم لحقب، وربما لقرون بعد الإيذان بهذا التحوّل من خلال شرارة أطلقت في مكان ما ثمّ أخذت الأحداث مسارها ومجالاتها وتوقيتها بغضّ النظر عن مصير تلك الشرارة، وبشكل أكبر وأهمّ وأدهى مما يتخيّله كثيرون. 

إن الآراء المذكورة في هذه المقالة لا تعبّر بالضرورة عن رأي الميادين وإنما تعبّر عن رأي صاحبها حصراً

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Israel’s uncertain future in the wake of Great Power conflict

March 21 2023

Photo Credit: The Cradle

As global power dynamics continue to shift, Israel’s close western alignment could limit its ability to engage with emerging powers in the east. Arch-rival Iran, which has established ties with Russia and China, will be better positioned to gain from the shifting geopolitical landscape.

By Mohamad Hasan Sweidan

Great-power competition has the potential to significantly impact the future of Israel. As a key player in West Asia, Israel is likely to be affected by the actions and strategies of major powers such as the US, China, and Russia.

The US has historically been a strong ally of Israel, providing significant military and economic aid. However, Washington’s current strategy of thwarting growing Chinese and Russian political and economic influence around the world may lead to increased pressure on Israel, a western-creation, to align with US interests in the region.

At the same time, China and Russia are rapidly expanding their stakes in West Asia, which may set back Israel’s recent rapprochement progress with neighboring states. In the past few years, Tel Aviv has offered itself to Arab states as a strong regional replacement for waning US presence, and a buffer against Iran’s rise.

But Beijing’s key role in brokering an agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran is likely to impact Israel’s dealings with both of those countries – and other Arab states. Will they need that Israeli military buffer if global power China – or Russia – can troubleshoot conflict and usher in peace?

Furthermore, as great-power competition intensifies, Israel, like other small states, will come under pressure to align with one side. This could impact Israel’s ability to maintain its independence and pursue its own interests in the region.

Great Power competition: a heavy burden on Israel

In recent years, Israel has developed multifaceted relationships with both China and Russia, which have reaped both economic and political benefits for Tel Aviv. China has been one of the top global investors in West Asia and North Africa, with Israel ranking eighth on the list of beneficiary states since 2005 and receiving just over $12 billion in Chinese investments since 2010. In the past, Washington has given Israel some leeway in its foreign policy initiatives, but since the Ukraine conflict, US flexibility has been abruptly halted

Senior analyst on Israeli affairs at Al-Akhbar newspaper, Ali Haidar, told The Cradle that “Israel has a specific margin to preserve its interests. This is something that the United States understands and considers.”

“At the same time, there are red lines that Israel cannot cross, but it can, through its relations and contacts with the US administration and influential parties, contribute to adapting and circumventing them to some extent.”

As the competition between the US, on the one hand, and Moscow and Beijing on the other, intensifies, Israel’s ability to maneuver is becoming increasingly limited, and Washington’s pressure is mounting. This pressure demands that Tel Aviv take positions more aligned with US interests, which in turn constrain cooperation between Israel and Russia, and China.

According to Manuel Trajtenberg, director of Israel’s National Security Institute:

“The increasing pressure on Israel to pivot in this context presents it with weighty dilemmas, and a policy change in the wake of that could significantly reduce its space for political-security maneuvering.”

This was exemplified by Israel’s attempts to mediate the conflict in Ukraine, which were quickly abandoned under coercion from Washington to take a clear position in support of the west and against Moscow.

This US pressure was also reflected in Israel’s military aggressions against Syria. In March 2022, the number of Israeli strikes targeting Syria decreased to only one strike from four the month before, suggesting that Tel Aviv was apprehensive of a Russian reaction. As a result, any imbalance in the relationship between Israel and Russia may have direct consequences for Israel’s interests – if Moscow decides to take action.

China’s presence in West Asia and North Africa

In the early 2010s, China began to expand its presence in the West Asia-North Africa (WANA) regions. One of the major milestones of China’s modern foreign policy was the announcement of its ambitious, multi-continent Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2013. To date, at least 17 countries from the region have joined the initiative:

WANA states that have joined China’s BRI

China also signed bilateral partnership agreements with 13 countries in the region between 2014 and 2022. Notably, Israel has not entered into any association agreement with China and has not joined the BRI.

WANA states with bilateral strategic partnerships with China

By brokering the Iran-Saudi deal in the aftermath of high-profile visits to Tehran and Riyadh by Chinese President Xi Jinping, Beijing has now signaled that it intends to play a more active role in resolving conflicts and disputes in the region, much to Washington’s alarm. US reaction to this game-changing agreement has been hyper-focused on the geopolitical ramifications of China bringing the two parties to the table, rather than discussion about the agreement itself.

As China’s influence in the region continues to grow, Israel remains constrained by “American concerns,” preventing it from deepening its relations with China, while other regional states are lining up to strike deals with Beijing.

Analyst Haidar has noted that “the US’s obstruction of Israeli engagement with China will limit Tel Aviv’s ability to forge strong economic and political ties with Beijing,” adding, “This is a practical example of Israel’s commitment to what the United States regards as its vital interests, which Israel is prohibited from crossing.”

In 2019, in order to protect Washington’s interests, the Israeli government established a committee to evaluate the national security implications of foreign investments – with a specific focus on China.

Furthermore, the US and Israel have agreed to tighten control over the export of advanced technologies to China. That noose will further tighten as the economic competition between Washington and Beijing intensifies, and Israel – a major recipient of US technologies – may well be forced into this confrontation with China.

Iranian cooperation with Russia and China

One significant consequence of the intensifying competition between great powers is China and Russia’s efforts to strengthen their cooperation with key states, particularly those that oppose aggressive western hegemony.

Their alignment of interests has led to a palpable warming in relations between Iran, Russia, and China, and some concrete steps forward. The three states are more frequently engaging in joint military exercises, and military cooperation between Moscow and Tehran has thrived over the broader Eurasian-Atlanticist conflict in Ukraine.

Hostile US policies aimed at Russia and China have encouraged them to seek out and establish supportive multilateral institutions such as the BRICS and Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Tehran has, in turn, applied for membership in both organizations, which led to Iran’s formal ascension to the SCO last year – making it the organization’s ninth member state and its first West Asian participant.

In this context, Haidar points out that “One of the most important concepts that resonate on the tongues of officials and experts in Israel is the seriousness of the repercussions of the intensification of the international conflict on the region and Israel.” This, he argued, is “centered on Iran’s openness to Asian powers and the implications of that.”

He also contends that “rapid international changes” could present new opportunities for Iran, which is currently facing an economic assault from the west. These changes, Haidar explains, may enable Iran to counter the sanctions pressures, which undermines Israel’s multi-pronged strategy for confronting Iran.

Today, Israel’s position in the western axis limits its ability to keep up with Iran’s geopolitical expansion eastward. As the Global Power conflict intensifies and the opposing poles become more defined, Israel’s maneuvering room will shrink, while the Islamic Republic – never reliant on the west – will have a wider range of options available to it.

Last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s former national security adviser, Meir Ben-Shabbat, argued that Iran occupies an important place in the process of reshaping the axis of countries hostile to the US and the west:

“The Iranian regime is positioning itself as an active player in the confrontation with the liberal democratic camp led by the US. It identifies the West’s weakness and is exploiting it as far as possible.”

Israel’s shrinking geopolitics

According to the latest annual intelligence estimate of the Israeli military’s Intelligence Directorate, global trends, the Iranian and Palestinian theaters form Tel Aviv’s 2023 threat triangle.

“At the center of this triangle will be the international tendencies that affect Israel and its security; the global instability that stems mainly from the conflict between the United States and China will continue and intensify.”

Today, Israel faces some momentous challenges to its future, not only from extreme domestic polarization but particularly from the intensification of global conflict and the decline of western hegemony. Iran’s growing international engagement, and the solidification of its relations with Asian powers, are unfolding as Tel Aviv’s options are shrinking.

There is also a correlation between the strength of US deterrence and influence in the region and Israel’s ability to exercise its own deterrence capabilities. As US power weakens, it is likely to have a negative impact on Israel’s ability to deter its enemies.

Moreover, the growing number of states “oscillating” between east and west, and maneuvering to take advantage of great-power competition, is another challenge for Israel. Even staunch US allies in the Persian Gulf – once scrambling to normalize relations with Israel – are looking for room to maneuver with the rising east, as seen with Riyadh’s readiness for Chinese mediation in negotiations with Iran.

While Israel may have some margin to distance itself from direct confrontation with China and Russia, the repercussions of the Great Power conflict are likely to buoy the fortunes of the region’s Axis of Resistance – in Iran, Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, and Iraq – with any balance of power shift away from US and Israeli hegemony.

In short, Israel’s ability to leverage its western connections for geopolitical gain has shrunk considerably while its rivals race ahead to establish themselves comfortably in West Asia’s new multipolarity.

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

balance of powerBRIBRICS+ChinaChinese investmentsGlobal Power conflictIranIsraelmilitary deterrencenational security

Sergey Glazyev: ‘The road to financial multipolarity will be long and rocky’

In an exclusive interview with The Cradle, Russia’s top macroeconomics strategist criticizes Moscow’s slow pace of financial reform and warns there will be no new global currency without Beijing.

March 13 2023

Photo Credit: The Cradle

By Pepe Escobar

The headquarters of the Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC) in Moscow, linked to the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU) is arguably one of the most crucial nodes of the emerging multipolar world.

That’s where I was received by Minister of Integration and Macroeconomics Sergey Glazyev – who was previously interviewed in detail by The Cradle –  for an exclusive, expanded discussion on the geoeconomics of multipolarity.

Glazyev was joined by his top economic advisor Dmitry Mityaev, who is also the secretary of the Eurasian Economic Commission’s (EEC) science and technology council. The EAEU and EEC are formed by Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Armenia. The group is currently engaged in establishing a series of free trade agreements with nations from West Asia to Southeast Asia.

Our conversation was unscripted, free flowing and straight to the point. I had initially proposed some talking points revolving around discussions between the EAEU and China on designing a new gold/commodities-based currency bypassing the US dollar, and how it would be realistically possible to have the EAEU, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), and BRICS+ to adopt the same currency design.

Glazyev and Mityaev were completely frank and also asked questions on the Global South. As much as extremely sensitive political issues should remain off the record, what they said about the road towards multipolarity was quite sobering – in fact realpolitik-based.

Glazyev stressed that the EEC cannot ask for member states to adopt specific economic policies. There are indeed serious proposals on the design of a new currency, but the ultimate decision rests on the leaders of the five permanent members. That implies political will – ultimately to be engineered by Russia, which is responsible for over 80 percent of EAEU trade.

It’s quite possible that a renewed impetus may come after the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Moscow on March 21, where he will hold in-depth strategic talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

On the war in Ukraine, Glazyev stressed that as it stands, China is profiting handsomely, as its economy has not been sanctioned – at least not yet – by US/EU and Beijing is buying Russian oil and gas at heavily discounted prices. The funds Russians are losing in terms of selling energy to the EU will have to be compensated by the proposed Power of Siberia II pipeline that will run from Russia to China, via Mongolia – but that will take a few more years.

Glazyev sketched the possibility of a similar debate on a new currency taking place inside the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) – yet the obstacles could be even stronger. Once again, that will depend on political will, in this case by Russia-China: a joint decision by Xi and Putin, with crucial input by India – and as Iran becomes a full member, also energy-rich Tehran.

What is realistic so far is increasing bilateral trade in their own currencies, as in the Russia-China, Russia-India, Iran-India, Russia-Iran, and China-Iran cases.

Essentially, Glazyev does not see heavily sanctioned Russia taking a leadership role in setting up a new global financial system. That may fall to China’s Global Security Initiative. The division into two blocs seems inevitable: the dollarized zone – with its inbuilt eurozone – in contrast with the Global South majority with a new financial system and new trading currency for international trade. Domestically, individual nations will keep doing business in their own national currencies.

The road to ‘de-offshorization’

Glazyev has always been a fierce critic of the Russian Central Bank, and he did voice his misgivings – echoing his book The Last World War. He never ceases to stress that the American rationale is to damage the Russian economy on every front, while the motives of the Russian Central Bank usually raise “serious questions.”

He said that quite a few detailed proposals to reorient the Central Bank have been sent to Putin, but there has been no follow-up. He also evoked the extremely delicate theme of corruption involving key oligarchs who, for inscrutable reasons, have not been sidelined by the Kremlin.

Glazyev had warned for years that it was imperative for Moscow to sell out foreign exchange assets placed in the US, Britain, France, Germany, and others which later ended up unleashing sanctions against Russia.

These assets should have been replaced by investments in gold and other precious metals; stocks of highly liquid commodity values; in securities of the EAEU, SCO, and BRICS member states; and in the capital of international organizations with Russian participation, such as the Eurasian Development Bank, the CIS Interstate Bank, and the BRICS Development Bank.

It seems that the Kremlin at least is now fully aware of the importance of expanding infrastructure for supporting Russian exports. That includes creating international exchange trading marketplaces for trade in Russian primary goods within Russian jurisdiction, and in rubles; and creating international sales and service networks for Russian goods with high added value.

For Russia, says Glazyev, the key challenge ahead in monetary policy is to modernize credit. And to prevent negative impact by foreign financial sources, the key is domestic monetization –  “including expansion of long and medium-term refinancing of commercial banks against obligations of manufacturing enterprises and authorized government bodies. It is also advisable to consistently replace foreign borrowings of state- controlled banks and corporations with domestic sources of credit.”

So the imperative way to Russia, now in effect, is “de-offshorization.” Which essentially means getting rid of a “super-critical dependence of its reproduction contours on Anglo-Saxon legal and financial institutions,” something that entails “systematic losses of the Russian financial system merely on the difference in profitability between the borrowed and the placed capital.”

What Glazyev repeatedly emphasized is that as long as there’s no reform of the Russian Central Bank, any serious discussion about a new Global South-adopted currency faces insurmountable odds. The Chinese, heavily interlinked with the global financial system, may start having new ideas now that Xi Jinping, on the record, and unprecedentedly, has defined the US-provoked Hybrid War against China for what it is, and has named names: it’s an American operation.

What seems to be crystal clear is that the path toward a new financial system designed essentially by Russia-China, and adopted by vast swathes of the Global South, will remain long, rocky, and extremely challenging. The discussions inside the EAEU and with the Chinese may extrapolate to the SCO and even towards BRICS+. But all will depend on political will and political capital jointly deployed by the Russia-China strategic partnership.

That’s why Xi’s visit to Moscow next week is so crucial. The leadership of both Moscow and Beijing, in sync, now seems to be fully aware of the two-front Hybrid War deployed by Washington.

This means their peer competitor strategic partnership – the ultimate anathema for the US-led Empire – can only prosper if they jointly deploy a complete set of measures: from instances of soft power to deepening trade and commerce in their own currencies, a basket of currencies, and a new reserve currency that is not hostage to the Bretton Woods system legitimizing western finance capitalism.

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

Washington’s Dollar-and-Stick ploy with Iraq

February 16 2023

Source

Iraqi officials are in Washington to discuss “economic reforms” but are in fact being pressured to shun Iranian energy imports in the hope of having US sanctions and dollar rations lifted.

Photo Credit: The Cradle

By Zaher Mousa

On 8 February, 2023, an Iraqi delegation led by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Fuad Hussein arrived in Washington to discuss easing the recent US Treasury measures that have restricted the supply of dollars to Baghdad and imposed sanctions on the Central Bank of Iraq.

The high-level delegation, which includes several government officials, has indefinitely extended its stay in Washington for the “difficult” negotiations, indicating Iraq’s limited options in these talks. If the discussions fail and Washington does not ease its punishing measures, a major crisis could erupt in Iraq – resulting in the collapse of the dinar’s value because of high demand and limited supply.

A Washington Institute report suggests that the US is exerting “severe” pressure on Baghdad to redirect its energy sector away from Iran and to address allegations that its banking sector assists the Islamic Republic in evading western sanctions. These demands are likely to be challenging for Iraq to meet, given its vital ties to Iran and the importance of the energy sector to its economy.

New government, old challenges

The Iraqi visit takes place 100 days after the formation of the government of Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, which had to immediately grapple with the imposition of US sanctions on three Iraqi banks, and restrictions on dollar transfers from Iraq’s oil revenue account in New York to the Central Bank of Iraq.

These measures were put in place to ensure that Iraq did not violate US sanctions on Iran and Syria, which led to a significant decrease in the supply of dollars and a decline in the value of the dinar. This, in turn, stirred up discontent within a population already facing financial hardships.

Sudani’s new government responded by implementing quick measures: subsidizing some basic commodities, launching a campaign of arrests against dollar smugglers, and reducing the official exchange rate from 1,450 dinars to 1,300 dinars per dollar.

However, these steps were unable to control spiraling prices, and only resulted in a slight decrease in the dollar value in the parallel market. This situation has made negotiations with US officials even more critical for the Iraqi delegation, as failure to ease the US measures could have dire consequences for Iraq’s already fragile economy.

‘Forced to negotiate’

Sources in Iraq’s cabinet confirmed to The Cradle that the US did not want Prime Minister Sudani to lead the delegation to Washington, and requested a lower level of representation. As a result, Baghdad carefully selected the members of the visiting team, which is currently led by Fuad Hussein from the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), who is considered an “old friend” of the US.

The Iraqi delegation also includes Adnan al Zarfi, a member of the Parliamentary Finance Committee (PFC), who was previously nominated for the prime ministerial position. Zarfi maintains good relations with Washington officialdom, and has held US citizenship since 2003, making him a strategic choice for inclusion in the Iraqi mission.

Hussein Muanis, a PFC member and head of the Huqouq movement – which is close to Iran-supported Kataeb Hezbollah – tells The Cradle that Iraq was “forced to negotiate:”

“Negotiations should have been based on the strategic framework agreement [which the two countries signed in 2008]. What has been leaked from it so far indicates that the talks were not limited to the economic issues, and that the Iraqi delegation heard American diktats.”

However, Muanis denies that the US had placed a veto on the participation of any Iraqi political personages in the delegation. He emphasized that the PFC had unanimously selected Zarfi as a representative of the legislative authority: “we understand the position of a large part of the political parties regarding relations with Washington.”

Hard bargaining by the US

Thamer Dhiban, a member of the PFC for the Al-Fateh Alliance, which opposes the US presence in Iraq and includes Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq and the Badr Organization, confirmed that the “Coalition for State Administration,” the largest bloc in the Iraqi parliament, supports these negotiations. Dhiban added that “what we have heard so far is positive in principle.”

He tells The Cradle: “There was an agreement to send another delegation to delve into the details of the economic issues, and we were not informed that the negotiations discussed political or military matters,” adding:

“The conditions for financial compliance and connection with the SWIFT system are in the interest of Iraq in the first place, and we will not allow the repetition of the economic blockade that was imposed on Iraq previously.”

Other sources suggest that the meeting between Central Bank Governor Ali al-Alaq and the US Treasury Department only discussed the conditions of the US Federal Reserve regarding financial transfers in dollars and Baghdad’s plans to reform the economic and financial sector.

However, during Hussein’s meeting with his US counterpart Anthony Blinken, political issues were also on the table. According to a Kurdish source who insisted on confidentiality, these included:

“Iraq’s accession to the Abraham Accords, normalization with Israel (which is currently criminalized in Iraq), urging Baghdad to find alternatives to Iranian energy imports, implementing electrical interconnection with Persian Gulf states and Jordan, facilitating the extension of the oil pipeline from Basra to Aqaba, and accelerating the export of gas. The Americans also requested that the ISIS-fighting and pro-Iran Popular Mobilizations Units (PMUs or Hashd al-Shaabi) be repositioned far way from US military bases in Iraq.”

Sources close to Iraq’s pro-Iran political factions, however, believe that “the idea of dissolving the PMUs will be impossible to implement due to legal obstacles on the one hand, and an urgent need for its existence, in addition to the difficulty of integrating it into the regular army.”

Regarding normalization with Tel Aviv, the sources say that the law criminalizing any interaction with Israel – approved by Iraq’s parliament in 2022 – blocked this project.

The sources also say one possible solution toward brokering the US dollar-control issue in Iraq is to resolve Baghdad’s tensions with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Erbil, as the latter is a trusted US intermediary in Iraq. If Baghdad accepts to pay Erbil’s public salaries, for instance, this may smooth the way for the US to reduce pressures.

Ditching the dollar

Iraq is facing a multitude of crises, from political divisions to economic struggles. Due to its vast oil and gas resources, it has become an object of interest for both global and regional powers. Hours before the Iraqi delegation headed to Washington, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visited Baghdad and held talks with Iraqi officials about the dollar crisis and ways to enhance energy cooperation.

One of the proposals discussed was for Iraq to join a system that uses the Chinese yuan to facilitate trade with Tehran and Moscow, which are both subject to US sanctions. This move could provide Iraq with an alternative to the US dollar and help to mitigate the effects of the sanctions.

According to Kuwaiti newspaper, Al-Jarida, some Iraqi experts described this particular Lavrov proposal as returning Baghdad to the era of “barter trade,” when the administration of Saddam Hussein entered into a food-for-oil exchange. For them, any payments outside the exalted dollar currency cannot build a proper economy.

But this is only one view from inside Iraq. According to official sources in Sudani’s media office, Baghdad does in fact “aspire to obtain membership in the Asian Development Bank and deposit the financial surplus in it instead of buying US bonds or increasing the financial reserves of the dollar.” The Asian Bank, the sources say, grants larger loan amounts with fewer conditions and lower interest rates than the World Bank.

Likewise, Iraq plans to submit membership requests to join the multipolar BRICS+ group of countries and the Chinese-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

As of this writing, the Iraqi delegation is still in Washington, but holding fewer official meetings and at a lower level.

Raisi in Beijing: Iran-China strategic plans go full throttle

February 17 2023

Raisi’s visit to Beijing, the first for an Iranian president in 20 years, represents Tehran’s wholesale ‘Pivot to the East’ and China’s recognition of Iran’s centrality to its BRI plans.

Photo credit: The Cradle

By Pepe Escobar

The visit of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi to Beijing and his face-to- face meeting with counterpart Xi Jinping is a groundbreaking affair in more ways than one.

Raisi, the first Iranian president to officially visit China in 20 years, led an ultra high-level political and economic delegation, which included the new Central Bank governor and the Ministers of Economy, Oil, Foreign Affairs, and Trade.

The fact that Raisi and Xi jointly supervised the signing of 20 bilateral cooperation agreements ranging from agriculture, trade, tourism and environmental protection to health, disaster relief, culture and sports, is not even the major take away.

This week’s ceremonial sealing of the Iran-China comprehensive strategic partnership marks a key evolution in the multipolarity sphere: two Sovereigns – both also linked by strategic partnerships with Russia – imprinting to their domestic audiences and also to the Global South their vision of a more equitable, fair and sustainable 21st century which completely bypasses western dictates.

Beijing and Tehran first established their comprehensive strategic partnership when Xi visited Iran in 2016 – only one year after the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or Iranian nuclear deal.

In 2021, Beijing and Tehran signed a 25-year cooperation deal which translated the comprehensive partnership into practical economic and cultural developments in several fields, especially energy, trade and infrastructure. By then, not only Iran (for decades) but also China were being targeted by unilateral US sanctions.

Here is a relatively independent analysis of the challenges and prospects of the 25-year deal. And here is an enlightening perspective from neighboring Pakistan, also a strategic partner of China.

Iran: gotta modernize everything

Beijing and Tehran are already actively cooperating in the construction of selected lines of Tehran’s subway, the Tehran-Isfahan high-speed railway, and of course joint energy projects. Chinese tech giant Huawei is set to help Tehran to build a framework for a 5G telecom network.

Raisi and Xi, predictably, stressed increased joint coordination at the UN and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), of which Iran is the newest member, as well as a new drive along the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

While there was no explicit mention of it, underlying all these initiatives is the de-dollarization of trade – in the framework of the SCO but also the multipolar BRICS group of states. Iran is set to become one of the new members of BRICS+, a giant step to be decided in their upcoming summit in South Africa next August.

There are estimates in Tehran that Iran-China annual trade may reach over $70 billion in the mid-term, which will amount to triple the current figures.

When it comes to infrastructure building, Iran is a key BRI partner. The geostrategy of course is hard to match: a 2,250 km coastline encompassing the Persian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz, Sea of Oman and the Caspian Sea – and huge land borders with Iraq, Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Every think tank in China sees how Iran is irreplaceable, not only in terms of BRI land corridors, but also the Maritime Silk Road.

Chabahar Port may be a prime Iran-India affair, as part of the International North South Transportation Corridor (INSTC) – thus directly linked to the Indian vision of a Silk Road, extending to Central Asia.

But Chinese port developers do have other ideas, focused on alternative ports along the Persian Gulf and in the Caspian Sea. That will boost shipping connections to Central Asia (Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan), Russia and the Caucasus (Azerbaijan).

And that makes perfect sense when one combines port terminal development with the modernization of Iran’s railways – all the way to high-speed rail.

An even more revolutionary development would be China coordinating the BRI connection of an Iranian corridor with the already in progress 3,200 km-long China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), from Kashgar in Xinjiang to Gwadar port in the Indian Ocean.

That seemed perfectly plausible when Pakistani Prime Minister  Imran Khan was still in power, before being ousted by a lawfare coup. The key of the whole enterprise is to build badly needed infrastructure in Balochistan, on both sides of the border. On the Pakistani side, that would go a long way to smash CIA-fed “insurgents” of the Balochistan Liberation Army kind, get rid of unemployment, and put trade in charge of economic development.

Afghanistan of course enters the equation – in the form of a China-Afghan-Iran corridor linked to CPEC. Since September 2021, Beijing has explained to the Taliban, in detail, how they may profit from an infrastructure corridor – complete with railway, highway and pipeline – from Xinjiang, across the Wakhan corridor in eastern Afghanistan, through the Hindu Kush, all the way to Iran.

The core of multipolarity

Iran is perfectly positioned for a Chinese-propelled boom in high-speed cargo rail, connecting Iran to most of Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan).

That means, in practice, cool connectivity with a major logistics cluster: the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) of Khorgos, only 330 km from Almaty on the Kazakh-China border, and only four hours from Urumqi, Xinjiang’s capital.

If China pulls that off, it would be a sort of BRI Holy Grail, interconnecting China and Iran via Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Nothing less than several corridors in one.

All that is about to happen as the Islamic Revolution in Iran celebrates its 44th year.

What is already happening now, geopolitically, and fully recognized by China, might be defined as the full rejection of an absurdity: the collective west treating Iran as a pariah or at best a subjugated neo-colony.

With the diverse strands of the Resistance embedded in the Islamic Revolution finally consolidated, it looks like history is finally propelling Iran as one of the key poles of the most complex process at work in the 21st century: Eurasia integration.

So 44 years after the Islamic Revolution, Iran enjoys strategic partnerships with the three top BRICS: China, Russia and India.

Likely to become one of the first new members of BRICS+, Iran is the first West Asian state to become a full member of the SCO, and is clinching a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU).

Iran is a major strategic partner of both BRI, led by China, and the INSTC, alongside Russia and India.

With the JCPOA all but dead, and all western “promises” lying in the dust, Tehran is consolidating its pivot back to the East at breakneck speed.

What Raisi and Xi sealed in Beijing heralds Chinese pre-eminence all across West Asia – keenly perceived in Beijing as a natural consequence of recognizing and honoring Iran’s regional centrality.

Iran’s “Look East” strategy could not be more compatible with BRI – as an array of BRI projects will accelerate Iran’s economic development and consolidate its inescapable role when it comes to trade corridors and as an energy provider.

During the 1980s Tehran was ruled by a “Neither East nor West” strategy – faithful to the tenets of the Islamic Revolution. That has now evolved, pragmatically, into “Look East.” Tehran did try to “Look West” in good faith, but what the US government did with the JCPOA – from its murder to “maximum pressure” to its aborted resuscitation – was quite a historical lesson.

What Raisi and Xi have just demonstrated in Beijing is the Sovereign way forward. The three leaders of Eurasia integration – China, Russia and Iran – are fast on their way to consolidate the core of multipolarity.    

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

Iran Must Not Fall

February 11, 2023

Source

By Davor Slobodanvich Vuycachich

Nasser Kan’ani, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman, last month justifiably declared that the Western hybrid war, which has been continuously waged against Iran in military, economic, political and psychological campaigns, has suffered a complete failure. Precisely because of this, the USA is now rapidly preparing the military aggression of the unnatural coalition of Israel and regional Arab countries against Iran, which, along with Russia and China, is undoubtedly the biggest American enemy. The task of this military conglomerate would be to deal deadly blows to Iran that would lead to its disintegration and the establishment of a puppet regime on the remains of the country. There is no doubt that the USA could participate in the planned aggression. The recently held, largest in history, joint US-Israeli military exercises “Juniper Oak 23.2” clearly hint at such a possibility, although it is not impossible that the US’s European allies could also participate in this massive operation. Military analysts from the West estimate that a military intervention against Iran, a kind of repetition of what we have already seen in Iraq, Libya, and Syria, could begin this summer, but this publicly stated assessment is probably just an attempt at deliberate deception. There is evidence that the attack on Iran could happen much earlier.

The drone attacks on the Iranian city of Isfahan for which Israel is certainly responsible, either directly or through the use of Kurdish terrorists as its proxy military forces, was undoubtedly a deliberate provocation meant to force Iran into hasty and disproportionate retaliation. Such a reaction, no matter how justified it may be in fact, would be used by the US and Israel to portray Iran as an aggressor in front of the “international community”. The reporting of some Israeli media such as “The Times of Israel” in which they announced, or rather, wished for “Iranian retaliatory” attacks on Israeli civilian targets, clearly testifies to sinister intentions of Israel. Тhere is clearly an Israeli plan to provoke Iran as soon as possible. What we might soon expect are Israeli false flag operations that would be blamed on Iran. It is more likely that the territories of the Arab vassals of the US and Israel would be attacked, rather than Israel itself. In this way, Israel would also ensure the igniting of anti-Iranian hysteria among its Arab allies and at the same time ensure the earliest possible start of aggression against Iran, which is obviously very important to Israel. Namely, Iran should officially join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in April, which will bring it great international support. Israel is therefore in a hurry to start aggression before this happens because it mistakenly believes that in that case, it could avoid the wrath of Moscow and Beijing. Another reason for Israel’s haste is that in a little more than a month, Iran should receive at least 24 Su-35 multi-role fighters from Russia, for which it already has well-trained Iranian pilots. Finally, the US and Israel know that time will work against them if they allow the intensive military cooperation between Iran and Russia to continue and deepen, and the big question is how much concrete intelligence they have about its details. Therefore, the aggression against Iran could begin immediately before or exactly on the Iranian New Year in Farsi known as Nowruz, which this year is celebrated on March 20. This is also the date that was mentioned in connection with the delivery of Russian jet fighters.

Israel has been talking for a long time about the necessity for the US to provide it with full support because of the alleged threat that Iran represents to the region, but it will rather be that the US stands behind this entire project, because none of America’s vassals has the ability to conduct foreign policy independently. Admittedly, Israel is probably the most independent of all American allies, but it is still obliged to coordinate all its major decisions with Washington. As for threats to the region, Israel is a state that was created and is maintained on the basis of a policy of ethnic cleansing and genocide and is the only regional power from the Middle East region that has undisguised imperialist ambitions and territorial claims towards its neighbors. The UN Human Rights Commission condemned Israel for violating almost all 149 articles of the Fourth Geneva Convention and this is the best illustration of Israel’s aggressive policy. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as an exponent of such a policy, rushed to visit Paris recently, where he asked France for support for the planned aggression against Iran. After Netanyahu’s visit, Radio France reported that Israel really wants to attack Iran as soon as possible and has already identified around 3,000 possible targets. Nevertheless, Israel is afraid of an independent showdown with Iran and is trying to provide itself with as much concrete military support as possible. As for the American Arab satellites, in the planned attack on Iran, Israel will probably be able to count on the support of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Yemen, Sudan and Morocco. Azerbaijan is certainly being pressured to join the coalition, but the leadership in Baku probably sees how dangerous it could be if Russia were to get directly involved in the conflict on Iran’s side, which is more than possible.

Prior to Netanyahu’s visit to the Champs Elysées, the UK Government at the beginning of this year аlready called for the immediate creation of a Grand Military Coalition against Iran. The official pretext under which this shameless campaign against Iran is conducted is, first of all, its nuclear program. However, in these accusations against Iran, it is deliberately forgotten that two Iranian Ayatollahs, Khomeini and Khamenei, have publicly spoken out against the development of a nuclear arsenal in Iran. In September 2014, Mohsen Rafighdoost, minister of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps during the eight-year defensive war against Iraq, in an interview he gave to Gareth Porter, a journalist specializing in US national security policy, testified that he personally asked Khomeini to start developing nuclear and chemical weapons on two occasions, but was refused both times. The reason for Khomeini’s refusal was his claim that Islam forbids weapons of mass destruction. Ayatollah Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran, issued a fatwa in the mid-1990s against the acquisition and development of nuclear weapons, which was officially disclosed only in August 2005 in Vienna, at a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Israel, on the other hand, possesses nuclear and certainly, chemical and biological weapons and unlike Iran, represents a real threat. As for nuclear weapons, Israel has Jericho II (YA-3) missiles with a range of 1,7700 km and Jericho III (YA-4) with a range of up to 11,500 km. Israel can also use its F-15 and F-16 fighters for tactical and strategic nuclear strikes. Even the US Congress Office of Technology Assessment estimated that Israel possessed undeclared offensive chemical and biological weapons. With such an arsenal, Israel could be considered a global threat, and Russia and China are certainly very aware of that.

Unlike Netanyahu and Israel’s political elite, Israeli military intelligence experts publicly state that they do not consider Iran a real threat to Israel. These weeks, mass protests against Netanyahu’s regime have been taking place across Israel, and the Israeli opposition has openly called his ultra-right government a far greater threat to Israel than Iran. Finally, we must also mention the assessment of Israel’s prestigious Institute for National Security Studies, according to which the greatest security threat to Israel is the deterioration of relations with the USA. Are internal political pressures, the struggle for power, and Netanyahu’s desire to please his American allies, in that case, the main reasons why the prime minister of Israel recklessly rushes into a very risky military conflict with Iran? Namely, the aggression against Iran could easily merge with the conflict in Ukraine and turn into a total world war. As the Chairman of the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, Vyacheslav Volodin, recently reminded, the entire foreign policy of the USA and its vassals is based solely on lies. Just as the pretext for the US-British invasion of Iraq was false accusations, the planned aggression against Iran has nothing to do with Iran’s nonexistent weapons of mass destruction.

There are other accusations against Iran, but they are equally meaningless and just an excuse for planned aggression. Iran does not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries in the region and is not a breeding ground and financier of terrorism. Admittedly, Iran as a country very often and with full rights condemns the persecution of Shias in the region, but no more than it condemns the persecution of Palestinians, for example, who are overwhelmingly Sunnis. Similarly, Iran condemned Azerbaijan’s aggressive policy towards Armenia, despite the fact that both Iran and Azerbaijan are predominantly Shia states while Armenia is an Oriental Orthodox Christian country. Iran simply leads a responsible and principled foreign policy. The frequent accusations of Iran’s alleged “sectarian” fanaticism are equally meaningless to genuine connoisseurs of the situation in the region. The USA, Israel, the UK, and other European former colonial powers, are the ones who are trying to spread hatred and fratricide among Muslims by financing and arming extremists in the region. Another strategy is to buy favors from existing regimes or, if that fails, to bring puppet regimes to power. It is a skill that Americans have brought to the level of art and perfection, and no other world power is more experienced and successful in this business than them. One of the strategies of the US and the collective West is to divide as much as possible the different schools and branches of Islam that they maliciously call “sects”, in order to then easily rule all the Muslim nations and their natural resources. Contrary to the attempts of the Western conglomerate to spread discord and hatred among Muslims, Ayatollah Khamenei in his speech on October 24, 2021 was very clear about Iran’s views on the necessity of unity, stating that “Islamic Unity is definitely a Koranic obligation”. Iran more than sincerely wants harmony among Muslims, which is not surprising at all, because it is one of its most vital security interests, as it is also the vital interest of all other Muslim nations in the region.

Iran has the second-largest natural gas reserves and the fourth-largest oil reserves in the world. Of course, as we all know very well, it is precisely in this fact that the real causes of the aggressive intentions of the USA, Israel, the UK, the EU and their Arab vassals, in relation to Iran, are hidden. However, on the other hand, for Iran, its natural wealth facilitates inclusion in the Eurasian economic space and leads to the intensification of all other Eurasian integrations. On the one hand, the export of Iranian energy products to Eurasian space really benefits China and not Russia, but on the other hand, Moscow and Tehran are rapidly developing an ever closer military and security cooperation. The frequent visits of Russian officials to Tehran, for example, Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev, are a good indicator of that process. There are many geopolitical moments that have brought Iran and Russia closer together. First of all, these are the two nations on which the West has imposed the most sanctions in the history of mankind. Second, and more importantly, both countries are in a deep and long-term political conflict with the US and its vassals. Finally, the Western conglomerate has been waging an intense hybrid and proxy war against both nations for a long time. The Russian-Iranian strategic alliance exists and has been developing for a long time, but it was only Russia’s military conflict with the de facto Nazi regime from Kiev that forced Moscow to recognize its reliable strategic ally in Iran. Admittedly, Iranian President Ebrahim Raeisi once said that the trade and economic relations between the two countries are not satisfactory, but obviously, there is a desire of both countries to improve them and that is starting to happen. As for China, Iran signed a somewhat secretive 25-year deal with its powerful Eurasian partner on March 27, 2021, but its concrete results are still not visible. It is true that China has a strong economic interest in cooperating with the Arab states of the Middle East region, some of which have very bad relations with Iran. However, Western analysts make a big mistake by focusing on the economic aspect of the cooperation of Eurasian nations. It is American hegemony and imperialism that forces Iran, Russia, China and other Eurasian powers to put economic interests on the back burner and give priority to issues related to the development of strategic security alliances.

Iran has formidable military potential that should not be underestimated. No matter how zealous the US and Israeli intelligence services are, Iran is a regional power that could give Israel and its allies extremely unexpected and very unpleasant and painful blows in places where they are least expected. Iran would not passively suffer the blows but would seek the opportunity to immediately transfer the conflict to the aggressor’s territory and this is something Iranian generals can surely achieve. Another very important moment is that Russia and China simply must not allow an Israeli-American coalition attack on Iran to happen in the first place because the risks are too great to ignore, and it is likely that after certain intelligence, the two superpowers will strongly, timely and jointly react to protect their vital interests in the region. Iran’s downfall is simply out of the question for Russia and China because it would imply a deep penetration of the US into the belly of Eurasia, which would result in a dramatic weakening and possible disintegration of the two superpowers. The question remains: what specific steps will the two Eurasian giants take to protect their common ally from aggression? The freedom-loving Iran, a multiple world champion in the fight against American hegemony, simply must not fall!

The Big Stiff: Russia-Iran dump the dollar and bust US sanctions

February 09 2023

News of Russian banks connecting to Iran’s financial messaging system strengthens the resistance against US-imposed sanctions on both countries and accelerates global de-dollarization.  

Photo credit: The Cradle

By Pepe Escobar

The agreement between the Central Banks of Russia and Iran formally signed on 29 January connecting their interbank transfer systems is a game-changer in more ways than one.

Technically, from now on 52 Iranian banks already using SEPAM, Iran’s interbank telecom system, are connecting with 106 banks using SPFS, Russia’s equivalent to the western banking messaging system SWIFT.

Less than a week before the deal, State Duma Chairman Vyachslav Volodin was in Tehran overseeing the last-minute details, part of a meeting of the Russia-Iran Inter-Parliamentary Commission on Cooperation: he was adamant both nations should quickly increase trade in their own currencies.

Ruble-rial trade

Confirming that the share of ruble and rial in mutual settlements already exceeds 60 percent, Volodin ratified the success of “joint use of the Mir and Shetab national payment systems.” Not only does this bypass western sanctions, but it is able to “solve issues related to mutually beneficial cooperation, and increasing trade.”

It is quite possible that the ruble will eventually become the main currency in bilateral trade, according to Iran’s ambassador in Moscow, Kazem Jalali: “Now more than 40 percent of trade between our countries is in rubles.”

Jalali also confirmed, crucially, that Tehran is in favor of the ruble as the main currency in all regional integration mechanisms. He was referring particularly to the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), with which Iran is clinching a free trade deal.

The SEPAM-SPFS agreement starts with a pilot program supervised by Iran’s Shahr Bank and Russia’s VTB Bank. Other lenders will step in once the pilot program gets rid of any possible bugs.

The key advantage is that SEPAM and SPFS are immune to the US and western sanctions ruthlessly imposed on Tehran and Moscow. Once the full deal is up and running, all Iranian and Russian banks can be interconnected.

It is no wonder the Global South is paying very close attention. This is likely to become a landmark case in bypassing Belgium-based SWIFT – which is essentially controlled by Washington, and on a minor scale, the EU. The success of SEPAM-SPFS will certainly encourage other bilateral or even multilateral deals between states.

It’s all about the INSTC

The Central Banks of Iran and Russia are also working to establish a stable coin for foreign trade, replacing the US dollar, the ruble, and the rial. This would be a digital currency backed by gold, to be used mostly in the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) of Astrakhan, in the Caspian Sea, already very busy moving plenty of Iranian cargo.

Astrakhan happens to be the key Russian hub of the International North-South Transportation Corridor (INSTC), a vast network of ship, rail, and road routes which will drastically increase trade from Russia – but also parts of Europe – across Iran to West Asia and South Asia, and vice-versa.

And that reflects the full geoconomic dimension of the SEPAM-SPFS deal. The Russian Central Bank moved early to set up SPFS in 2014, when Washington began threatening Moscow with expulsion from SWIFT. Merging it with the Iranian SEPAM opens up a whole new horizon, especially given Iran’s ratification as a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), and now a leading candidate to join the extended BRICS+ club.

Already three months before the SEPAM-SPFS agreement, the Russian Trade Representative in Iran, Rustam Zhiganshin, was hinting that the decision “to create an analog of the SWIFT system” was a done deal.

Tehran had been preparing the infrastructure to join Russia’s Mir payment system since last summer. But after Moscow was hit with extremely harsh western sanctions and Russian banks were cut off from SWIFT, Tehran and Moscow decided, strategically, to focus on creating their own non-SWIFT for cross-border payments.

All that relates to the immensely strategic geoeconomic role of the INSTC, which is a much cheaper and faster trade corridor than the old Suez Canal route.

Russia is Iran’s largest foreign investor

Moreover, Russia has become Iran’s largest foreign investor, according to Iranian Deputy Finance Minister Ali Fekri: this includes “$2.7 billion worth of investment to two petroleum projects in Iran’s western province of Ilam in the past 15 months.” That’s about 45 percent of the total foreign investment in Iran over the October 2021 – January 2023 period.

Of course the whole process is in its initial stages – as Russia-Iran bilateral trade amounts to only US$3 billion annually. But a boom is inevitable, due to the accumulated effect of SEPAM-SPFS, INSTC, and EAEU interactions, and especially further moves to develop Iran’s energy capacity, logistics, and transport networks, via the INSTC.

Russian projects in Iran are multi-faceted: energy, railways, auto manufacturing, and agriculture. In parallel, Iran supplies Russia with food and automotive products.

Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, is fond of reminding anyone that Russia and Iran “play complementary roles in global energy and cargo transit.” The Iran-EAEU free agreement (FTA) is nearly finalized – including zero tariffs for over 7,500 commodities.

In 2022, the EAEU traded more than $800 billion worth of goods. Iran’s full access to the EAEU will be inestimable in terms of providing a market gateway to large swathes of Eurasia – and bypassing US sanctions as a sweet perk. A realistic projection is that Tehran can expect $15 billion annual trade with the five members of the EAEU in five years, as soon as Iran becomes the sixth member.

The legacy of Samarkand

Everything we are tracking now is in many ways a direct consequence of the SCO summit in Samarkand last September, when Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, in person, placed their bet on strengthening the multipolar world as Iran signed a memorandum to join the SCO.

Putin’s private talks with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in Samarkand were all about deep strategy.

The INSTC is absolutely crucial in this overall equation. Both Russia and Iran are investing at least $25 billion to boost its capabilities.

Ships sailing the Don and Volga Rivers have always traded energy and agricultural commodities. Now Iran’s Maritime News Agency has confirmed that Russia will grant their ships the right of passage along the inland waterways on the Don and Volga.

Meanwhile, Iran is already established as the third largest importer of Russian grain. From now on, trade on turbines, polymers, medical supplies, and automotive parts will be on a roll.

Tehran and Moscow have signed a contract to build a large cargo vessel for Iran to be used at the Caspian port of Solyanka. And RZD logistics, a subsidiary of Russian railway RZD, operates container cargo trains regularly from Moscow to Iran. The Russian Journal for Economics predicts that just the freight traffic on INTSC could reach 25 million tons by 2030 – no less than a 20-fold increase compared to 2022.

Inside Iran, new terminals are nearly ready for cargo to be rolled off ships to railroads crisscrossing the country from the Caspian to the Persian Gulf. Sergey Katrin, head of Russia’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry, is confident that once the FTA with the EAEU is on, bilateral trade can soon reach $40 billion a year.

Tehran’s plans are extremely ambitious, inserted in an “Eastern Axis” framework that privileges regional states Russia, China, India, and Central Asia.

Geostrategically and geoeconomically, that implies a seamless interconnection of INSTC, EAEU, SCO, and BRICS+. And all of this is coordinated by the one Quad that really matters: Russia, China, India, and Iran.

Of course there will be problems. The intractable Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict might be able to derail the INSTC: but note that Russia-Iran connections via the Caspian can easily bypass Baku if the need arises.

BRICS+ will cement the dollar’s descent

Apart from Russia and Iran, Russia and China have also been trying to interface their banking messaging systems for years now. The Chinese CBIBPS (Cross-Border Inter-Bank Payments System) is considered top class. The problem is that Washington has directly threatened to expel Chinese banks from SWIFT if they interconnect with Russian banks.

The success of SEPAM-SPFS may allow Beijing to go for broke – especially now, after the extremely harsh semiconductor war and the appalling balloon farce. In terms of sovereignty, it is clear that China will not accept US restrictions on how to move its own funds.

In parallel, the BRICS in 2023 will delve deeper into developing their mutual financial payments system and their own reserve currency. There are no less than 13 confirmed candidates eager to join BRICS+ – including Asian middle powers like Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Indonesia.

All eyes will be on whether – and how – the $30 trillion-plus indebted US will threaten to expel BRICS+ from SWIFT.

It’s enlightening to remember that Russia’s debt to GDP ratio stands at only 17 percent. China’s is 77 percent. The current BRICS without Russia are at 78 percent. BRICS+ including Russia may average only 55 percent. Strong productivity ahead will come from a BRICS+ supported by a gold and/or commodities-backed currency and a different payment system that bypasses the US dollar. Strong productivity definitely will not come from the collective west whose economies are entering recessionary times.

Amid so many intertwined developments, and so many challenges, one thing is certain. The SEPAM-SPFS deal between Russia and Iran may be just the first sign of the tectonic plates movement in global banking and payment systems.

Welcome to one, two, one thousand payment messaging systems. And welcome to their unification in a global network. Of course that will take time. But this high-speed financial train has already left the station.

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

By the numbers: The de-dollarization of global trade

Data suggests that US dollar reserves in central banks are dwindling, as is the influence of the US on the world economy. This presents a unique opportunity for regional currencies and alternative payment systems to enter the vacuum.

January 13 2023

Photo Credit: The Cradle

By F.M. Shakil

The imposition of US trade restrictions and sanctions against a number of nations, including Russia, Iran, Cuba, North Korea, Iraq, and Syria have been politically ineffectual and have backfired against western economies. As a result, the US dollar has been losing its role as a major currency for the settlement of international business claims.

Because they do not adhere to the policies of the US and other western powers, over 24 countries have been the target of unilateral or partial trade sanctions. These limitations, nevertheless, have turned out to be detrimental to the economies of the Group of Seven (G7) nations and have begun to impact the US dollar’s hegemony in world trade.

In its space, a “new global commercial bloc” has risen to the fore, while alternatives to the western SWIFT banking messaging system for cross-border payments have also been created.

Geopolitical analyst Andrew Korybko tells The Cradle that the west’s extraordinary penalties and seizure of Russian assets abroad broke faith in the western-centric paradigm of globalization, which had been declining for years but had nonetheless managed to maintain the world standard.

“Rising multipolar countries sped up their plans for de-dollarization and diversification away from the western-centric model of globalization in favor of a more democratic, egalitarian, and just one – centered on non-western countries in response to these economic and financial disturbances,” he adds.

Dwindling dollar reserves  

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) recorded a decline in central bank holdings of US dollar reserves during the fourth quarter of 2020—which went from 71 percent to 59 percent—reflecting the US dollar’s waning influence on the world economy.

And it continues to worsen: Evidence of this can be seen in the fact that the bank’s holdings of dollar claims have decreased from $7 trillion in 2021 to $6.4 trillion at the end of March 2022.

According to the Currency Composition of Official Foreign Exchange Reserves (COFER) report by the IMF, the percentage of US dollars in central bank reserves has decreased by 12 percent since 1999, while the percentage of other currencies, particularly the Chinese yuan, have shown an increasing trend with a 9 percent rise during this period.

The study contends that the role of the dollar is waning due to competition from other currencies held by the bankers’ banks for international transactions – including the introduction of the euro – and reveals that this will have an impact on both the currency and bond markets if dollar reserves continue to shrink.

Alternative currencies and trade routes

To boost global commerce and Indian exports, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) devised in July last year a rupee-settlement mechanism to fend off pressure on the Indian currency in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and US-EU sanctions.

India has recently concluded agreements for currency exchanges of $75.4 billion with the UAE, Japan, and various South Asian nations. New Delhi has also informed South Korea and Turkey of its non-dollar-mediated exchange rates for each country’s currency. Currently, Turkey conducts business utilizing the national currencies of China (yuan) and Russia (ruble).

Iran has also proposed to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) a euro-like SCO currency for trade among the Eurasian bloc to check the weaponization of the US dollar-dominated global financial system.

Mehdi Safari, Iran’s deputy foreign minister for economic diplomacy, informed the media earlier in June last year that the SCO received the proposal nearly two months ago.

“They must use multilateral institutions like BRICS and the SCO to this aim – and related ones, such as currency pools and potentially even the establishment of a new currency whose rate is based on a basket of their currencies, to mitigate the effects of trade-related restrictions,” Korybko remarked.

The International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) is being revived as a “sanctions-busting” project by Russia and Iran. The INSTC garnered renewed interest following the “sanctions from hell” imposed by the west on Moscow. Russia is now finalizing regulations that will allow Iranian ships free navigation along the Volga and Don rivers.

The INSTC was planned as a 7,200 km long multimodal transportation network including sea, road, and rail lines to carry freight between Russia, Central Asia, and the Caspian regions.

Ruble-Yuan Payment System

On 30 December, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping held a video conference in which Putin reported that bilateral trade between the two countries had reached an all-time high with a 25 percent growth rate and that trade volumes were on track to reach $200 billion by next year, despite western sanctions and a hostile external environment.

Putin stated that there had been a “substantial growth in trade volumes” between January and November 2022, resulting in a 36 percent increase in trade to $6 billion. It is likely that the $200 billion bilateral trade target, if achieved by next year, will be conducted in Russian rubles and Chinese yuan, even though the details of the bilateral trade settlement were not specified in the video conference broadcast.

This is because Moscow and Beijing have already set up a cross-border interbank payment network similar to SWIFT, increased their gold purchases to give their currencies more stability, and signed agreements to swap national currencies in several regional and bilateral deals.

In addition, both Russia and China appear to have anticipated a potential US seizure of their financial assets, and in 2014 they collaborated on energy-centered treaties to strengthen their strategic trade links.

In 2017, the ruble-yuan “payment against payment” system was implemented along China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). In 2019, the two countries signed an agreement to replace the dollar with national currencies in cross-border transactions and converted their $25 billion worth of trade to yuan (RMB) and rubles.

Independence from the dollar

This shift decreased their mutual reliance on the dollar, and currently, just over half of Russia’s exports are settled in US dollars, down from 80 percent in 2013. The bulk of trade between Russia and China is now conducted in local currencies.

Xinjiang in western China has also established itself as a key cross-border settlement center between China and Central Asia, making it a major financial hub in the region. Cumulative cross-border yuan settlement handled in Xinjiang exceeded 100 billion yuan ($14 billion) as early as 2013 and reached 260 billion yuan in 2018.

According to analyst Korybko, significant progress has been made in reducing reliance on the US dollar in international trade, but there is still much work to be done. He notes that the US is not likely to simply accept the challenges to its financial hegemony and is more likely to act to defend it.

“For this reason, it is expected that the US will try to enlist the support of key players by offering them preferential trade deals or the promise of such deals, while simultaneously stoking tensions between Russia, China, India, and Iran through information warfare and possibly threatening to tighten its secondary sanctions regime as ‘deterrence’.”

Eurasian Economic Union

Russia has been working to establish currency swap agreements with a number of trading partners, comprising the five-member Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), which includes Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan.

These agreements have enabled the Russian Federation to conduct over 70 percent of its trade in rubles and other regional currencies. With a population of 183 million and a GDP over $2.2 trillion, the EEU poses a formidable challenge to western hegemony over global financial transactions.

Iran and the EEU have recently concluded negotiations on the conditions of a free trade agreement covering over 7,500 categories of goods. When the next Iranian year begins on 21 March, 2023, a market with a potential size of 700 billion dollars will become available for Iranian goods and services.

BRICS is driving de-dollarization

The trend towards de-dollarization in international trade, particularly among the BRICS nations, has gained significant momentum in recent years – together they represent 41 percent of the world’s population, 24 percent of its GDP, and 16 percent of its commerce

In 2015, the BRICS New Development Bank, recommended the use of national currencies in trade. Four years later, the bank provided 25 percent of its $15 billion in financial assistance in local currencies, and plans to increase this to 50 percent in the coming years.

This shift towards de-dollarization is an important step for emerging economies as they seek to assert their role in the global economic system and reduce their reliance on the US dollar. While the adoption of de-dollarization may present some challenges and uncertainties, it is an important step towards a more diverse and balanced global economy.

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

Bye bye 1991-2022

January 10, 2023

by Pepe Escobar, posted with the author’s permission and widely cross-posted

2023 starts with collective NATO in Absolutely Freak Out Mode as Russian Defense Minister Shoigu announces that Russian Navy frigate Admiral Gorshkov is now on tour – complete with a set of Mr. Zircon’s hypersonic business cards.

The business tour will encompass the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean, and of course include the Mediterranean, the Roman Empire’s former Mare Nostrum. Mr. Zircon on the prowl has absolutely nothing to do with the war in Ukraine: it’s a sign of what happens next when it comes to frying much bigger fishes than a bunch of Kiev psychos.

The end of 2022 did seal the frying of the Big Ukraine Negotiation Fish. It has now been served on a hot plate – and fully digested. Moscow has made it painfully clear there’s no reason whatsoever to trust the “non-agreement capable” declining superpower.

So even taxi drivers in Dacca are now betting on when the much- vaunted “winter offensive” starts, and how far will it go. General Armageddon’s path ahead is clear: all-out demilitarization and de-electrification on steroids, complete with grinding up masses of Ukrainians at the lowest possible cost to the Russian Armed Forces in Donbass until Kiev psychos beg for mercy. Or not.

Another big fried fish on a hot plate at the end of 2022 was the 2014 Minsk Agreement. The cook was no other than former chancellor Merkel (“an attempt to buy time for Ukraine”). Implied is the not exactly smokin’ gun: the strategy of the Straussian/neo-con and neoliberal-con combo in charge of US foreign policy, from the beginning, was to unleash a Forever War, by proxy, against Russia.

Merkel may have been up to something telling the Russians, in their face, that she lied like crypto-Soprano Mike Pompeo, then she lied again and again, for years. That’s not embarrassing for Moscow, but for Berlin: yet another graphic demonstration of total vassalage to the Empire.

The response by the contemporary embodiment of Mercury, Russian Foreign Ministry’s Maria Zakharova, was equally intriguing: Merkel’s confession could be used as a specific reason – and evidence – for a tribunal judging Western politicians responsible for provoking the Russia-Ukraine proxy war.

No one will obviously confirm it on the record. But all this could be part of an evolving, secret Russia-Germany deal in the making, leading to Germany restoring at least some of its sovereignty.

Time to fry NATO fish

Meanwhile, deputy chairman of the Russian Security Council Dmitry Medvedev, visibly relishing his totally unplugged incarnation, expanded on the Fried Negotiation Fish saga. “Last warning to all nations”, as he framed it: “there can be no business with the Anglo-Saxon world [because] it is a thief, a swindler, a card-sharp that could do anything….From now on we will do without them until a new generation of sensible politicians comes to power… There is nobody in the West we could deal with about anything for any reason.”

Medvedev, significantly, recited more or less the same script, in person, to Xi Jinping in Beijing, days before the zoom to end all zooms – between Xi and Putin – that worked as a sort of informal closure of 2022, with the Russia-China strategic partnership perfectly in synch.

On the war front, General Armageddon’s new – offensive – groove is bound to lead in the next few months to an undisputable fact on the ground: a partition between a dysfunctional black hole or rump Ukraine on the west, and Novorossiya in the east.

Even the IMF is now reluctant to throw extra funds into the black hole. Kiev’s 2023 budget has an – unrealistic – $36 billion deficit. Half of the budget is military-related. The real deficit in 2022 was running at about $5 billion a month – and will inevitably balloon.

Tymofiy Mylovanov, a professor at the Kiev School of Economics, came up with a howler: the IMF is worried about Ukraine’s “debt sustainability”. He added, “if even the IMF is worried, imagine what private investors are thinking”. There will be no “investment” in rump Ukraine. Multinational vultures will grab land for nothing and whatever puny productive assets may remain.

Arguably the biggest fish to be fried in 2023 is the myth of NATO. Every serious military analyst, few Americans included, knows that the Russian Army and military industrial complex represents a superior system than what existed at the end of the USSR, and far superior to that of the US and the rest of NATO today.

The Mackinder-style final blow to a possible alliance between Germany (EU), Russia and China – which is what is really behind the US proxy war in Ukraine – is not proceeding according to the Straussian wet dream.

Saddam Hussein, former imperial vassal, was regime-changed because he wanted to bypass the petrodollar. Now we have the inevitable rise of the petroyuan – “in three to five years”, as Xi Jinping announced in Riyadh: you just can’t prevent it with Shock’n Awe on Beijing.

In 2008, Russia embarked on a massive rebuilding of missile forces and a 14-year plan to modernize land-based armed forces. Mr. Zircon presenting his hypersonic business card across the Mare Nostrum is just a small part of the Big Picture.

The myth of US power

The CIA abandoned Afghanistan in a humiliating retreat – even ditching the heroin ratline – just to relocate to Ukraine and continue playing the same old broken records. The CIA is behind the ongoing sabotage of Russian infrastructure – in tandem with MI6 and others. Sooner or later there will be blowback.

Few people – including CIA operatives – may know that New York City, for instance, may be destroyed with a single move: blowing up the George Washington bridge. The city can’t be supplied with food and most of its requirements without the bridge. The New York City electrical grid can be destroyed by knocking out the central controls; putting it back together could take a year.

Even trespassed by infinite layers of fog of war, the current situation in Ukraine is still a skirmish. The real war has not even started yet. It might – soon.

Apart from Ukraine and Poland there is no NATO force worth mentioning. Germany has a risible two-day supply of ammunition. Turkey will not send a single soldier to fight Russians in Ukraine.

Out of 80,000 US troops stationed in Europe, only 10% are weaponized. Recently 20,000 were added, not a big deal. If the Americans activated their troops in Europe – something rather ridiculous in itself – they would not have any place to land supplies or reinforcements. All airports and seaports would be destroyed by Russian hypersonic missiles in a matter of minutes – in continental Europe as well as the UK.

In addition, all fuel centers such as Rotterdam for oil and natural gas would be destroyed, as well as all military installations, including top American bases in Europe: Grafenwoehr, Hohenfels, Ramstein, Baumholder, Vilseck, Spangdahlem, and Wiesbaden in Germany (for the Army and Air Force); Aviano Air Base in Italy; Lajes Air Base in Portugal’s Azores islands; Naval Station Rota in Spain; Incirlik Air Base in Turkey; and Royal Air Force stations Lakenheath and Mildenhall in the UK.

All fighter jets and bombers would be destroyed – after they land or while landed: there would be no place to land except on the autobahn, where they would be sitting ducks.

Patriot missiles are worthless – as the whole Global South saw in Saudi Arabia when they tried to knock out Houthi missiles coming from Yemen. Israel’s Iron Dome can’t even knock out all primitive missiles coming from Gaza.

US military power is the supreme myth of the fish to be fried variety. Essentially they hide behind proxies – as the Ukraine Armed Forces. US forces are worthless except in turkey shoots as in Iraq in 1991 and 2003, against a disabled opponent in the middle of the desert with no air cover. And never forget how NATO was completely humiliated by the Taliban.

The final breaking point

2022 ended an era: the final breaking point of the “rules-based international order” established after the fall of the USSR.

The Empire entered Desperation Row, throwing everything and the kitchen sink – proxy war on Ukraine, AUKUS, Taiwan hysteria – to dismantle the set-up they created way back in 1991.

Globalization’s rollback is being implemented by the Empire itself. That ranges from stealing the EU energy market from Russia so the hapless vassals buy ultra-expensive US energy to smashing the entire semiconductor supply chain, forcibly rebuilding it around itself to “isolate” China.

The NATO vs. Russia war in Ukraine is just a cog in the wheel of the New Great Game. For the Global South, what really matters is how Eurasia – and beyond – are coordinating their integration process, from BRI to the BRICS+ expansion, from the SCO to the INSTC, from Opec+ to the Greater Eurasia Partnership.

We’re back to what the world looked like in 1914, or before 1939, only in a limited sense. There’s a plethora of nations struggling to expand their influence, but all of them are betting on multipolarity, or “peaceful modernization”, as Xi Jinping coined it, and not Forever Wars: China, Russia, India, Iran, Indonesia and others.

So bye bye 1991-2022. The hard work starts now. Welcome to the New Great Game on crack.

Xi of Arabia and the petroyuan drive

Xi Jinping has made an offer difficult for the Arabian Peninsula to ignore: China will be guaranteed buyers of your oil and gas, but we will pay in yuan.

December 16 2022

Photo Credit: The Cradle

By Pepe Escobar

It would be so tempting to qualify Chinese President Xi Jinping landing in Riyadh a week ago, welcomed with royal pomp and circumstance, as Xi of Arabia proclaiming the dawn of the petroyuan era.

But it’s more complicated than that. As much as the seismic shift implied by the petroyuan move applies, Chinese diplomacy is way too sophisticated to engage in direct confrontation, especially with a wounded, ferocious Empire. So there’s way more going here than meets the (Eurasian) eye.

Xi of Arabia’s announcement was a prodigy of finesse: it was packaged as the internationalization of the yuan. From now on, Xi said, China will use the yuan for oil trade, through the Shanghai Petroleum and National Gas Exchange, and invited the Persian Gulf monarchies to get on board. Nearly 80 percent of trade in the global oil market continues to be priced in US dollars.

Ostensibly, Xi of Arabia, and his large Chinese delegation of officials and business leaders, met with the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to promote increased trade. Beijing promised to “import crude oil in a consistent manner and in large quantities from the GCC.” And the same goes for natural gas.

China has been the largest importer of crude on the planet for five years now – half of it from the Arabian peninsula, and more than a quarter from Saudi Arabia. So it’s no wonder that the prelude for Xi of Arabia’s lavish welcome in Riyadh was a special op-ed expanding the trading scope, and praising increased strategic/commercial partnerships across the GCC, complete with “5G communications, new energy, space and digital economy.”

Foreign Minister Wang Yi doubled down on the “strategic choice” of China and wider Arabia. Over $30 billion in trade deals were duly signed – quite a few significantly connected to China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects.

And that brings us to the two key connections established by Xi of Arabia: the BRI and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

The Silk Roads of Arabia

BRI will get a serious boost by Beijing in 2023, with the return of the Belt and Road Forum. The first two bi-annual forums took place in 2017 and 2019. Nothing happened in 2021 because of China’s strict zero-Covid policy, now abandoned for all practical purposes.

The year 2023 is pregnant with meaning as BRI was first launched 10 years ago by Xi, first in Central Asia (Astana) and then Southeast Asia (Jakarta).

BRI not only embodies a complex, multi-track trans-Eurasian trade/connectivity drive but it is the overarching Chinese foreign policy concept at least until the mid-21st century. So the 2023 forum is expected to bring to the forefront a series of new and redesigned projects adapted to a post-Covid and debt-distressed world, and most of all to the loaded Atlanticism vs. Eurasianism geopolitical and geoeconomic sphere.

Also significantly, Xi of Arabia in December followed Xi of Samarkand in September – his first post-Covid overseas trip, for the SCO summit in which Iran officially joined as a full member. China and Iran in 2021 clinched a 25-year strategic partnership deal worth a potential $400 billion in investments. That’s the other node of China’s two-pronged West Asia strategy.

The nine permanent SCO members now represent 40 percent of the world’s population. One of their key decisions in Samarkand was to increase bilateral trade, and overall trade, in their own currencies.

And that further connects us to what has happening in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, in full synchronicity with Riyadh: the meeting of the Supreme Eurasia Economic Council, the policy implementation arm of the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU).

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in Kyrgyzstan, could not have been more straightforward: “The work has accelerated in the transition to national currencies in mutual settlements… The process of creating a common payment infrastructure and integrating national systems for the transmission of financial information has begun.”

The next Supreme Eurasian Economic Council will take place in Russia in May 2023, ahead of the Belt and Road Forum. Take them together and we have the lineaments of the geoeconomic road map ahead: the drive towards the petroyuan proceeding in parallel to the drive towards a “common paying infrastructure” and most of all, a new alternative currency bypassing the US dollar.

That’s exactly what the head of the EAEU’s macroeconomic policy, Sergey Glazyev, has been designing, side by side with Chinese specialists.

Total Financial War

The move towards the petroyuan will be fraught with immense peril.

In every serious geoeconomic gaming scenario, it’s a given that an enfeebled petrodollar translates as the end of the imperial free lunch in effect for over five decades.

Concisely, in 1971, then-US President Richard “Tricky Dick” Nixon pulled the US from the gold standard; three years later, after the 1973 oil shock, Washington approached the Saudi oil minister, notorious Sheikh Yamani, with the proverbial offer-you-can’t-refuse: we buy your oil in US dollars and in return you buy our Treasury bonds, lots of weapons, and recycle whatever’s left in our banks.

Cue to Washington now suddenly able to dispense helicopter money – backed by nothing – ad infinitum, and the US dollar as the ultimate hegemonic weapon, complete with an array of sanctions over 30 nations who dare to disobey the unilaterally imposed “rules-based international order.”

Impulsively rocking this imperial boat is anathema. So Beijing and the GCC will adopt the petroyuan slowly but surely, and certainly with zero fanfare. The heart of the matter, once again, is their mutual exposure to the Western financial casino.

In the Chinese case, what to do, for instance, with those whopping $1 trillion in US Treasury bonds. In the Saudi case, it’s hard to think about “strategic autonomy” – such as what’s enjoyed by Iran – when the petrodollar is a staple of the Western financial system. The menu of possible imperial reactions includes everything from a soft coup/ regime change to Shock and Awe over Riyadh – followed by regime change.

Yet what the Chinese – and the Russians – are aiming at goes way beyond a Saudi (and Emirati) predicament. Beijing and Moscow have clearly identified how everything – the oil market, global commodities markets – is tied to the role of the US dollar as reserve currency.

And that’s exactly what the EAEU discussions; the SCO discussions; from now on the BRICS+ discussions; and Beijing’s two-pronged strategy across West Asia are focused to undermine.

Beijing and Moscow, within the BRICS framework, and further on within the SCO and the EAEU, have been closely coordinating their strategy since the first sanctions on Russia post-Maidan 2014, and the de facto trade war against China unleashed in 2018.

Now, after the February 2022 Special Military Operation launched by Moscow in Ukraine and NATO has devolved into, for all practical purposes, war against Russia, we have stepped beyond Hybrid War territory and are deep into Total Financial War.

SWIFTly drifting away

The whole Global South absorbed the “lesson” of the collective (institutional) west freezing, as in stealing, the foreign reserves of a G20 member, on top of it a nuclear superpower. If that happened to Russia, it could happen to anyone. There are no “rules” anymore.

Russia since 2014 has been improving its SPFS payment system, in parallel with China’s CIPS, both bypassing the western-led SWIFT banking messaging system, and increasingly used by Central Banks across Central Asia, Iran and India. All across Eurasia, more people are ditching Visa and Mastercard and using UnionPay and/or Mir cards, not to mention Alipay and WeChat Pay, both extremely popular across Southeast Asia.

Of course the petrodollar – and the US dollar, still representing under 60 percent of global foreign exchange reserves – will not ride into oblivion overnight. Xi of Arabia is just the latest chapter in a seismic shift now driven by a select group in the Global South, and not by the former “hyperpower.”

Trading in their own currencies and a new, global alternative currency is right at the top of the priorities of that long list of nations – from South America to Northern Africa and West Asia – eager to join BRICS+ or the SCO, and in quite a few cases, both.

The stakes could not be higher. And it’s all about subjugation or exercising full sovereignty. So let’s leave the last essential words to the foremost diplomat of our troubled times, Russia’s Sergey Lavrov, at the international interparty conference Eurasian Choice as a Basis for Strengthening Sovereignty:

“The main reason for today’s growing tensions is the stubborn striving of the collective West to maintain a historically diminishing domination in the international arena by any means it can… It is impossible to impede the strengthening of the independent centers of economic growth, financial might and political influence. They are emerging on our common continent of Eurasia, in Latin America, the Middle East and Africa.”

All aboard…the Sovereign Train.

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

Vladimir Putin Address to SCO and CIS Defense Ministers Dec 9, 2022 – English Subtitles

December 09, 2022

The Global South births a new game-changing payment system

November 30, 2022

by Pepe Escobar, first published at The Cradle and posted with the author’s permission

Challenging the western monetary system, the Eurasia Economic Union is leading the Global South toward a new common payment system to bypass the US Dollar.

The Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU) is speeding up its design of a common payment system, which has been closely discussed for nearly a year with the Chinese under the stewardship of Sergei Glazyev, the EAEU’s minister in charge of Integration and Macro-economy.

Through its regulatory body, the Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC), the EAEU has just extended a very serious proposal to the BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) which, crucially, are already on the way to turning into BRICS+: a sort of G20 of the Global South.

The system will include a single payment card – in direct competition with Visa and Mastercard – merging the already existing Russian MIR, China’s UnionPay, India’s RuPay, Brazil’s Elo, and others.

That will represent a direct challenge to the western-designed (and enforced) monetary system, head on. And it comes on the heels of BRICS members already transacting their bilateral trade in local currencies, and bypassing the US dollar.

This EAEU-BRICS union was long in the making – and will now also move toward prefiguring a further geoeconomic merger with the member nations of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

The EAEU was established in 2015 as a customs union of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus, joined a year later by Armenia and Kyrgyzstan. Vietnam is already an EAEU free trade partner, and recently enshrined SCO member Iran is also clinching a deal.

The EAEU is designed to implement free movement of goods, services, capital, and workers between member countries. Ukraine would have been an EAEU member if not for the Maidan coup in 2014 masterminded by the Barack Obama administration.

Vladimir Kovalyov, adviser to the chairman of the EEC, summed it all up to Russian newspaper Izvestia. The focus is to establish a joint financial market, and the priority is to develop a common “exchange space:” “We’ve made substantial progress and now the work is focused on such sectors as banking, insurance, and the stock market.”

A new regulatory body for the proposed joint EEU-BRICS financial system will soon be established.

Meanwhile, trade and economic cooperation between the EAEU and BRICS have increased 1.5 times in the first half of 2022 alone.

The BRICS share in the total external trade turnover of the EAEU has reached 30 percent, Kovalyov revealed at the BRICS International Business Forum this past Monday in Moscow:

“It is advisable to combine the potentials of the BRICS and EAEU macro-financial development institutions, in particular the BRICS New Development Bank, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), as well as national development institutions. This will make it possible to achieve a synergistic effect and ensure synchronous investments in sustainable infrastructure, innovative production, and renewable energy sources.”

Here we once again see the advancing convergence of not only BRICS and EAEU but also the financial institutions deeply involved in projects under the China-led New Silk Roads, or Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Halting the Age of Plunder

As if all that was not game-changing enough, Russian President Vladimir Putin is raising the stakes by calling for a new international payment system based on blockchain and digital currencies.

The project for such a system was recently presented at the 1st Eurasian Economic Forum in Bishkek.

At the forum, the EAEU approved a draft agreement on cross-border placement and circulation of securities in member states, and amended technical regulations.

The next big step is to organize the agenda of a crucial meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council on 14 December in Moscow. Putin will be there – in person. And there’s nothing he would love more than to make a game-changing announcement.

All of these moves acquire even more importance as they connect to fast increasing, interlocking trade between Russia, China, India, and Iran: from Russia’s drive to build new pipelines serving its Chinese market – to Russia, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan discussing a gas union for both domestic supplies and exports, especially to main client China.

Slowly but surely, what is emerging is the Big Picture of an irretrievably fractured world featuring a dual trade/circulation system: one will be revolving around the remnants of the dollar system, the other is being built centered on the association of BRICS, EAEU, and SCO.

Pushing further on down the road, the recent pathetic metaphor coined by a tawdry Eurocrat boss: the “jungle” is breaking away from the “garden” with a vengeance. May the fracture persist, as a new international payment system – and then a new currency – will aim to halt for good the western-centric Age of Plunder.

US paralyzed by Islamic Republic of Iran’s strategic swing

Monday, 28 November 2022 6:18 PM  [ Last Update: Monday, 28 November 2022 6:21 PM ]

By Pepe Escobar

Iran’s parliament has just approved the accession of the Islamic Republic to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), previously enshrined at the Samarkand summit last September, marking the culmination of a process that lasted no less than 15 years.  

Iran has already applied to become a member of the expanding BRICS+, which before 2025 will be inevitably configured as the alternative Global South G20 that really matters. 

Iran is already part of the Quad that really matters – alongside BRICS members Russia, China and India. Iran is deepening its strategic partnership with both China and Russia and increasing bilateral cooperation with India. 

Iran is a key Chinese partner in the New Silk Roads, or Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). It is set to clinch a free trade agreement with the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU) and is a key node of the International North-South Transportation Corridor (INSTC), alongside Russia and India.     

All of the above configures the lightning-fast emergence of the Islamic Republic of Iran as a West Asia and Eurasia big power, with vast reach across the Global South. 

That has left the whole set of imperial “policies” towards Tehran lying in the dust.

So it’s no wonder that previously accumulated strands of Iranophobia – fed by the Empire over four decades — have recently metastasized into yet another color revolution offensive, fully supported and disseminated by Anglo-American media.

The playbook is always the same. Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei actually came up with a concise definition. The problem is not bands of oblivious rioters and/or mercenaries:  “the main confrontation”, he said, is with “global hegemony.”

Ayatollah Khamenei was somewhat echoed by American intellectual and author Noam Chomsky, who has remarked how an array of US sanctions over four decades have severely harmed the Iranian economy and “caused enormous suffering.”

Using Kurds as expendable assets

The latest color revolution overdrive overlaps with the manipulation of Kurds in both Syria and Iraq. From the imperial perspective, the proxy war in Syria, which is far from over, not only works as an additional front in the fight against Russia but also allows the instrumentalization of highly dependent Kurds against both Iran and Turkey.   

Iran is currently being attacked according to a perverse variation of the scheme applied to Syria in 2011. A sort of “permanent protest” situation has been imposed across vast swathes of northwestern Iran.

What changed in mid-November is that armed gangs started to apply terrorist tactics in several towns close to the Iraqi border, and were even believed to be weaponized enough to take control of some of the towns.  

Tehran inevitably had to send IRGC troops to contain the situation and beef up border security. They engaged in operations similar to what has been done before in Dara’a, in the Syrian southwest.

This military intervention was effective. But in a few latitudes, terror gangs continue to attack government infrastructure and even civilian property. The key fact is that Tehran prefers not to repress these unruly demonstrations using deadly force.

The really critical issue is not the protests per se: it’s the transfer of weapons by the Kurds from Iraq to Iran to bolster the color revolution scenario.

Tehran has issued a de facto ultimatum to Baghdad: get your act together with the Kurds, and make them understand the red lines.    

As it stands, Iran is massively employing Fateh ballistic missiles and Shahed-131 and Shahed-136 kamikaze drones against selected Kurdish terrorist bases in northern Iraq.

It’s debatable whether that will be enough to control the situation. What is clear is that the “Kurdish card”, if not tamed, could be easily played by the usual suspects in other Iranian provinces, considering the solid financial, military and informational support offered by Iraqi Kurds to Iranian Kurds.   

Turkey is facing a relatively similar problem with the Syrian Kurds instrumentalized by the US.

In northern Syria, they are mostly armed gangs posing as “Kurds”. So it’s quite possible that these Kurdish armed gangs, essentially played by Washington as useful idiots, may end up being decimated, simultaneously, in the short to medium term, by both Ankara and Tehran.

If all fails, pray for regime change

A geopolitical game-changer which was unthinkable until recently may soon be on the cards: a high-level meeting between Turkish President Recep Erdogan and his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad (remember the decade-long refrain “Assad must go”?) in Russia, with mediation by none other than Russian president Vladimir Putin.

What would it take for Kurds to understand no state – be it Iran, Syria or Turkey – will offer them land for their own nation? Parameters could eventually change in case Iraqis in Baghdad finally manage to expel the US.

Before we get there, the fact is Iran has already turned West Asian geopolitics upside down – via its smart cruise missiles, extremely effective kamikaze drones, electronic warfare and even state-of-the-art hypersonic missiles.

Empire “planners” never saw this coming: a Russia-Iran strategic partnership that not only makes total sense geo-economically, but is also a military force multiplier.

Moreover, that is inscribed in the looming Big Picture on which the expanded BRICS+ is focusing: Eurasia (and beyond) integration via multimodal economic corridors such as the INTSC, pipelines and high-speed rail.   

The Empire’s Plan A, on Iran, was a mere nuclear deal (JCPOA), devised by the Barack Obama administration as nothing but a crude containment scheme.

Trump actually blew it all up – and there’s nothing left: a JCPOA revival, which has been – in theory – attempted for months in Vienna, was always a non-starter because the Americans themselves don’t know anymore what they want from it. 

So what’s left as Plan B for the Straussian neocon/neoliberal psychos in charge of US foreign policy is to hurl all manner of fall guys – from Kurds to the toxic MEK – into the Iran cauldron and, amplified 24/7 by hysterical mainstream media, pray for regime change.

Well, that’s not going to happen. Tehran just needs to wait, exercise restraint, and observe how so much color revolution virtue signaling will eventually fizzle out.

Pepe Escobar is an independent geopolitical analyst and author, focused on Eurasia integration. His latest book is Raging Twenties.

(The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Press TV.)


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The Middle East and US global power: Fossil Fuel- Lifeblood of the American Empire

November 22, 2022

Source

by Phillyguy

Summary

Among all of the events shaping post-civil war US economic development, one of the most prominent was the establishment of Standard Oil by John D. Rockefeller in 1870. Working with other US industrialists, along with domestic and international financial and banking interests, including the Rothschild’s London banking cartel, Standard oil decedents have dominated the fossil fuel industry and shaped US economic and social development and foreign policy to the present day.

Introduction

The current world security architecture arose following WWII, which established the US as the dominant global power. Since that time, US global supremacy has rested on unrivaled military and economic power, control of world’s energy reserves (primarily in the Middle East), and maintaining the dollar as the world’s reserve currency [1]. There has been much current discussion about promoting ‘green’ policies, including sustainable development and increasing the use of renewable energy sources, clearly articulated during the UN Conference on Environment and Development (aka ‘Rio Conference’; ‘Earth Summit’), held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Jun 3-14, 1992) [2], and Greta Thunberg’s speech to the UN on Sept 23, 2019 [3], where she accused world leaders of failing younger generations by not taking more aggressive actions to stop climate change. Despite this push for Green policies, fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas) are still the dominant source of energy, currently supply over 80% of the world’s energy [4]. In addition, the dollar (aka ‘petrodollar’) is the primary reserve currency held by foreign central banks [5] and main currency used for commercial energy transactions [6] [7].

In 1863 John D. Rockefeller joined Maurice B. Clark and Samuel Andrews in an oil-refining business in Cleveland, Ohio, which was subsequently expanded and incorporated as Standard Oil of Ohio in 1870. Rockefeller was a shrewd and aggressive industrialist, acquiring additional refining capacity by “buying up and squeezing out of rivals by every device at hand—legal or illegal’ and as a result, Standard Oil would soon control over 90% of American oil refining capacity. Facing increasing resistance from the business community and the Ohio legislature, Rockefeller incorporated the Standard Oil Trust in New Jersey in 1982. This Trust consisted of seven subsidiaries- Standard Oil of Kentucky, Standard Oil of California, Standard Oil of New York, Standard Oil of New Jersey, Standard Oil of Indiana, The Standard Oil Co (Ohio) and The Ohio Oil Company. In Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey v. United States (1911), the US Supreme Court found the Standard Oil Trust guilty of engaging in anti-competitive practices, a violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act, breaking the company up into 34 separate entities, some of which the Rockefellers held major stakes [8] [9]. Ironically, decades after the Standard Oil Trust was ‘broken up’, these separate firms would subsequently merge into Chevron [10], ExxonMobil [11], British Petroleum (BP) [12] and Marathon [13], which are currently among the top 10 global energy companies [14]. The Rockefellers reach was vast- David Rockefeller, grandson of John D. Rockefeller, was Chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations (1970-1985) and Chairman and CEO of Chase Manhattan Bank (1969–1981) [15] [16].

The geographic location of the US, circa 8000 km (5000 miles) from major war theaters in Europe and 9700 km (6000 miles) in Japan shielded the US from the massive devastation that took place in Europe and Asia during WWII. As a result, many large US corporations were able to profit handsomely by supplying the War Department with fuel, aircraft, ships, motor vehicles, armaments and ammunition to equip American soldiers and allied forces. Some of these firms were working both sides of the conflict, supplying Nazi Germany with financial backing and war material; some of these firms include Alcoa, Brown Brothers Harriman, Coca-Cola, Dupont, Kodak, Chase Bank, Dow Chemical, Ford, IBM, General Electric, General Motors, Woolworth, Random House and Standard Oil [17]. Prescott Bush, father of George HW Bush (41st President) and grandfather of George W. Bush’s (43st President), was a partner of A. Harriman & Co Investment bank and later served as Senator from Connecticut (1952-1963). Prescott Bush was directly involved with companies that profited from their commercial involvement with Nazi Germany [18] [19]. It should be pointed out the WWII is the most expensive war in American history, costing taxpayers more than $4 trillion, adjusted for inflation [20].

To the victor go the spoils

The US emerged from WWII as the world’s foremost military and economic power, the dollar was anointed the status of world reserve currency at the Bretton Woods Conference (1944) and established as the primary currency used for energy transactions following the meeting between US President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Saudi King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud, aboard the USS Quincy, in the Suez Canal on Valentine’s Day, 1945 [21].

Post-WWII US economic development saw the continued rise of the American economy which translated into robust corporate profits and better living standards for many working people. In 1956, President Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act (aka National Interstate and Defense Highways Act of 1956) described as the ‘Greatest Public Works Project in History’, allocating $25 billion (circa $274 billion in inflation- adjusted dollars) from taxpayers to develop a 41,000-mile system of interstate highways that Eisenhower promised would eliminate unsafe roads, inefficient routes and all of the other things that got in the way of “speedy, safe transcontinental travel.” [22] [23]. The Highway act would enrich the ‘pro-highway coalition of energy companies, automobile manufactures, truckers, bus operators, tiremakers, insurance companies, auto clubs, etc. It directly led to increased use of private automobiles for transportation and the systematic dismantling of energy- efficient public transportation, creation of suburbs, shopping centers, ‘strip malls’, and proliferation of McDonald’s and other ‘fast-food’ outlets, which have led to the current health crisis in the US- increased obesity, type II diabetes and related health problems [24] [25]. In addition, some of these highways were literally built through urban neighborhoods and frequently minority communities [26] [27], such as the Cypress Freeway in Oakland, CA, I95 in Chester, PA and the Cross Bronx Expressway in NYC [28] [29].

As a result, the functioning of the American economy and society has become very dependent on fossil fuel consumption (for more detail see [30]).

1. Energy consumption & generation– the US has 4.25% of world’s population (339 million people) but consumes ~17% of the world’s energy and has the highest per capita energy consumption and is the largest total energy consumer. In 2021, approximately 60% of US electricity was generated from fossil fuels- coal, natural gas and oil [31].

2. Suburban development– as described above, passage of the Highway act of 1956 [22], accelerated the development of low-density housing suburbs, which were only accessible by automobiles using fossil fuel.

3. Transportation– The average American relies on energy-inefficient automobiles and jet airplanes for transportation. Most US cities lack a comprehensive, energy-efficient public transportation system. Indeed, the US does not have 1 mile of high-speed rail lines. By contrast, China has 40,000 km (24,855 mi), Spain has 3,100 km (1,926 mi) and Japan has 2,830 km (1758 mi) of high-speed rail.

4. American agriculture is very energy-intensive, requiring 15 calories of energy to produce 1 calorie of food. The average food commodity transits 1500 miles from production to consumption point- e.g., California-grown produce, shipped to the US east coast, usually via diesel fueled trucks.

5. Information technology– US society is heavily reliant on information flow. This system encompasses local computers, the internet and fiber optic cables serving as data pipelines, computer server farms and “cloud” storage facilities, all of which consume lots of electricity.

6. Military– The Pentagon is the largest single consumer of fossil fuel and polluter in the world. To give this some perspective, on average, the US military consumes 12,600,000 gallons (48,000,000 L) of fuel per day. One F-16 fighter jet consumes over 20K gallons of Kerosene per hour (333 gal/min) [32].

American capitalism is dependent on fossil fuel consumption to function and serves as the lubricant for American power projection around the world. The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) have approximately 57% and 41% of proven oil and natural gas reserves, respectively (see Table 1 and [33]). Thus, it is not surprising that the US ruling elite have a major interest in this region and the energy reserves therein [34]. US attempts to control oil in the MENA region has been carried out in several ways. This has involved setting up client regimes in countries with vast energy deposits, such as the Gulf monarchies in the Persian Gulf (Figure 1), attacking and/or invading countries who attempt to follow an independent energy policy, such as Iraq and Libya or issuing frequent verbal threats, seizing assets and imposing economic sanctions on countries that the US has been unable to achieve regime change or are capable of defending themselves, such as the Islamic Republic of Iran [35] and Venezuela.

As part of this effort, the US has set up military bases in multiple ME countries including Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), Turkey (Türkiye), UAE and Syria (See Figure 1 and Table 2) [36]. Due to its geographic location, Israel is crucial to US foreign policy goals. The ‘state’ of Israel/Zionist project was the creation of British imperialism (Balfour Declaration, 1918) [37], was driven, at least in part, by the desire of the British ruling elite to establish a reliable (read non-Muslim) proxy force that would assist the UK in controlling the region and its abundant hydrocarbon reserves [38]. The US emerged from WWII as the world’s leading military and economic power and assumed the role of Israel’s benefactor, providing $152 billion since 1949; $3.8 billion in 2020 [39] [40]. While Israel does not host a formal US base, she is a de facto appendage of the Pentagon, is fully integrated into NATO and serves as a reliable and well-armed US proxy in the region [41] [42], ranking 18th in global military power [43]. Israel conducts regular attacks on Syria [44] and estimated to have a stockpile of circa 90 nuclear weapons (likely a low estimate).

This effort has become all the more urgent as: the Russia-China-Iran axis has attained economic and military parity with the West, Iran is now a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) [45], has applied for membership to the BRICS [46] and recently announced that it has developed a hypersonic missile, that is ‘capable of penetrating all defense systems’ [47]. One would infer that Iran received technical help developing this weapon system. As Iran’s ties with Russia and China continue solidifying, they are becoming increasingly ambivalent about rejoining the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA; aka Iran nuclear deal) [46], which was negotiated during the Obama Administration [48]. Trump unilaterally exited the JCPOA in 2018, stating ‘We cannot prevent an Iranian bomb under the decaying and rotten structure of the current agreement’ [49].

We hear a lot about ‘Green’ energy, the ‘Green new deal’, reducing our ‘carbon footprint’ and ‘sustainable development’, policies which are being promoted by a wide range of extremely committed environmental and conservation groups such as the Sierra Club, National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Clean Air Council in the US and many international organizations and prominent politicians. ‘Green’ polices have been promoted by US Vice President Kamala Harris, encouraging Americans to purchase [expensive] electric cars and endorsed by the paper of record (NYT) and other corporate media outlets. Any policy that reduces the production of ‘greenhouse’ gasses, such as CO2, is certainly a noble and worthwhile objective, that should be supported. Unfortunately, most of these groups, at least in the US, where I live, are missing the proverbial ‘elephant in the room’. This includes:

1. The entire structure of American society has been built around fossil fuel consumption. This includes the use of automobiles and jet airplanes for transportation. The profits of very powerful corporate interests, including energy corporations, automobile manufactures and their suppliers, banks and insurance companies and law firms to name a few, are highly dependent on fossil fuel consumption and ‘greenhouse’ gas production. They are not about to give this up without a big fight, including going to war.

2. The military is a key pillar of a [declining] American empire, with the Pentagon serving as the ‘enforcer’ of US global power, but is also the largest of consumer of fossil fuels and largest polluter in the world [32]. The Pentagon is supported by all factions of the ruling elite, readily apparent from the near-unanimous bipartisan support for every military appropriation in Congress (appropriation for 2023 is $773 billion). Not surprisingly, most environmental groups, which are dependent on funding from corporate-backed foundations, such as the Ford Foundation, Home Depot Foundation, etc. [50] are not going to ‘bite the hand’ that feeds them. Likewise, US corporate media is controlled by 6 large corporations whose class interests reflect those of the petrochemical companies and other large corporations [51] [52] [53]. Any reporter who steps out of line- i.e., criticizes the functioning of the US empire, including fossil fuel consumption, is immediately reprimanded and/or fired. 1) Reporter Emily Wilder was fired from AP because she had posted pro-Palestinian material on social media [54]. 2) In 1996, investigative reporter Gary Webb published a series of articles entitled ‘Dark Alliance’ in the San Jose Mercury News, linking the crack cocaine trade in Los Angeles with the Nicaraguan Contra rebels and the CIA. Not surprisingly, Webb’s story was met with outrage by MSM outlets such as the LA Times and Washington Post. Webb committed suicide in 2004 [55].

Concluding remarks

The survival of the American Empire is highly dependent on fossil fuel consumption and control of global energy reserves. This dependency has created irresolvable problems and led to a chaotic and at times, contradictory foreign policy. While there has been a lot of ‘whining’ about energy prices in the US and EU, the oil industry is reaping record profits. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter levied a “windfall” profits tax on the American oil industry in response to increasing gas prices and corporate profits [56]. While these taxes have had mixed results, no doubt a result of aggressive industry lobbying, there has been little discussion of taxing high corporate profits at the present time. Indeed, petrochemical industry profits were barely addressed in the recent US ‘midterm’ elections, as many candidates receive campaign contributions from energy companies. Fossil fuels still dominate US foreign policy. This can be seen from the enduring presence of military bases throughout the ME and maintaining generous financial support for Israel and the ruling families of Gulf Monarchies [57]. At the same time, these ruling families have watched the US/UK/NATO ferment coups in Iran (1953) [58] [59] and steal resources, invade and/or destroy Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen; impose crippling economic sanctions and/or confiscate the assets of countries deemed a threat to US global power such as Iran, Venezuela and Russia and sabotage energy infrastructure (see below). Not surprisingly, KSA and other Gulf Monarchies have been reaching out to Russia and China; multiple reports indicate that KSA is ‘eager’ to join the BRICS Bloc [60]. No doubt, this was a motivation for President Biden’s trip to KSA in July of this year, meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) at Al-Salam Palace in the Red Sea port of Jeddah. On Nov 18, the State Department recommended that MBS be granted ‘legal immunity’ for the brutal assassination of Washington Post columnist, Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey on Oct 2, 2018 [62] [63]. It should be noted that while campaigning for President, then candidate Joe Biden stated: he would “cancel the blank check” the Trump administration had given Saudi Arabia during its war in Yemen and during a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) that “America’s priorities in the Middle East should be set in Washington, not Riyadh” and advocated making Saudi Arabia an international “pariah” for butchering Jamal Khashoggi [61]. Rhetoric notwithstanding, Biden’s polices towards the MENA region are largely a continuation of those of Trump and the ruling elite they represent. Biden has not rejoined the JCPOA and has continued Trump’s bellicose position towards the Islamic Republic of Iran. The US continues supporting Israel, the US Embassy in Israel remains in Jerusalem (Al-Quds in Arabic), which is not Israeli land and thus, a blatant violation of International law [64], US troops remain in Iraq and Syria while the Pentagon continues assisting KSA in their genocidal war on Yemen [65]. Trump continues his financial dealings with KSA, recently signing a $1.6 billion deal with a Saudi real estate developer [66]. It will be interesting to see how the US reacts when KSA joins BRICS [67].

On Sept 26, 2022, Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 pipelines, carrying natural gas from Russia to Germany, under the Baltic Sea were blown up [68] [69]. Shortly after the explosions, erstwhile British Prime Minister Liz Truss allegedly sent a message to US Sec of State Anthony Blinken stating ‘it’s done’ [70]. While the actual perpetrators of this attack have not been identified, it is likely that the US at a very minimum was aware of this action, as pointed out by Professor Jeffrey Sachs (Columbia University) during a Bloomberg interview [71]. The end result is that Germany and other countries in the EU will no longer have access to cheap and plentiful Russian energy, but will now be forced to purchase much more expensive liquified natural gas from the US or other countries. It should also be noted that nearly 8 decades following the conclusion of WWII, the Pentagon maintains circa 900 foreign military bases worldwide [72] [73]. Europe is still occupied by circa 100K troops [74], 35K in Germany alone [75]. Thus, Germany is not really a US ‘ally’ but rather a subordinate. This begs the question; will Germany and other countries in the EU continue serving as de facto US vassals or begin following a more independent foreign policy? One could argue their very survival as functional states depends on this.

Notes

1. US economic decline and global instability. The Saker Blog Jan 19, 2021; https://thesaker.is/us-economic-decline-and-global-instability/

2. UN Conference on Environment and Development (aka ‘Rio Conference’, ‘Earth Summit’), held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Jun 3-14, 1992); https://www.un.org/en/conferences/environment/rio1992

3. Read climate activist Greta Thunberg’s speech to the UN By Gretchen Frazee PBS News Hour Sep 23, 2019; https://www.pbs.org/newshour/world/read-climate-activist-greta-thunbergs-speech-to-the-un

4. World Energy Balances: Overview (2020); https://www.iea.org/reports/world-energy-balances-overview/world

5. The International Role of the U.S. Dollar by Carol Bertaut, Bastian von Beschwitz and Stephanie Curcuru US Fed Reserve Oct 6, 2021; https://www.federalreserve.gov/econres/notes/feds-notes/the-international-role-of-the-u-s-dollar-20211006.html

6. What Is the Petrodollar? Petrodollar Explained in Less Than 5 Minutes By Kimberly Amadeo. the balance June 4, 2022; https://www.thebalancemoney.com/what-is-a-petrodollar-3306358

7. US economic decline and global instability Part 3: Money printing, debt and increasing international isolation. The Saker Blog Oct 31, 2022; https://thesaker.is/us-economic-decline-and-global-instability-part-3-money-printing-debt-and-increasing-international-isolation/

8. How Rockefeller Built His Trillion Dollar Oil Empire. By Jeremy Dyck Oct 8, 2019;

9. John D. Rockefeller and the Oil Industry- John D. Rockefeller changed the oil industry forever with his company Standard Oil. but that was by no means the only interesting thing about him. By Burton W. Folsom Foundation for Economic Education Sat Oct 1, 1988; https://fee.org/articles/john-d-rockefeller-and-the-oil-industry/

10. Chevron; https://www.chevron.com

11. ExxonMobil; https://corporate.exxonmobil.com

12. British Petroleum (BP); https://www.bp.com

13. Marathon Oil; https://www.marathonoil.com

14. Top 20 Oil and Gas Companies in the World in 2021; https://www.visualcapitalist.com/ranked-the-largest-oil-and-gas-companies-in-the-world

15. David Rockefeller Sr., steward of family fortune and Chase Manhattan Bank, dies at 101 By Timothy R. Smith Washington Post Mar 20, 2017; https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/david-rockefeller-sr-steward-of-family-fortune-and-chase-manhattan-bank-dies-at-101/2017/03/20/f2385f8a-0d7c-11e7-ab07-07d9f521f6b5_story.html

16. JPMorgan Chase & Co: Who We Are/History Of Our Firm; https://www.jpmorganchase.com/about/our-history

17. Top 10 American Companies that Aided the Nazis. By Dustin Koski Feb 18, 2016; https://www.toptenz.net/top-10-american-companies-that-aided-the-nazis.php

18. How Bush’s grandfather helped Hitler’s rise to power- Rumors of a link between the US first family and the Nazi war machine have circulated for decades. Now the Guardian can reveal how repercussions of events that culminated in action under the Trading with the Enemy Act are still being felt by today’s president By Ben Aris and Duncan Campbell The Guardian Sat Sep 25, 2004; https://www.theguardian.com/world/2004/sep/25/usa.secondworldwar

19. The Holocaust and the Bush family fortune Bill Van Auken Dec 5, 2018; https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2018/12/05/intr-d05.html

20. The Cost of U.S. Wars then and now. By Norwich University Online Oct 20th, 2020; https://online.norwich.edu/academic-programs/resources/cost-us-wars-then-and-now

21. ORDER FROM CHAOS- 75 years after a historic meeting on the USS Quincy, US-Saudi relations are in need of a true re-think By Bruce Riedel Brookings Mon Feb 10, 2020; https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2020/02/10/75-years-after-a-historic-meeting-on-the-uss-quincy-us-saudi-relations-are-in-need-of-a-true-re-think/

22. History of the Interstate Highway System; https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/interstate/history.cfm

23. The Interstate Highway System History.Com Jum 7, 2019; https://www.history.com/topics/us-states/interstate-highway-system

24. Tabish SA. Is Diabetes Becoming the Biggest Epidemic of the Twenty-first Century? Int J Health Sci (Qassim). 2007 Jul;1(2): V-VIII;

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3068646/

25. Obesity? Diabetes? We’ve been set up By Alvin Powell Harvard Gazette Mar 7, 2012; https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2012/03/the-big-setup/

26. A Brief History of How Racism Shaped Interstate Highways By Noel King NPR Apr 7, 2021; https://www.npr.org/2021/04/07/984784455/a-brief-history-of-how-racism-shaped-interstate-highways

27. How Interstate Highways Gutted Communities—and Reinforced Segregation

America’s interstate highway system cut through the heart of dozens of urban neighborhoods. By Farrell Evans History.com Oct 20, 2021; https://www.history.com/news/interstate-highway-system-infrastructure-construction-segregation

28. Robert Moses’s Negative Impacts By SAFAA Feb 7, 2018 BY SAFAA; https://eportfolios.macaulay.cuny.edu/alonso2018/2018/02/07/robert-mosess-negative-impacts/

29. The Cross Bronx Expressway and the Ruination of the Bronx By lbennett Nov 10, 2019; https://pages.vassar.edu/realarchaeology/2019/11/10/the-cross-bronx-expressway-and-the-ruination-of-the-bronx/

30. War Essay- The consequences of nuclear war on US society The Saker Blog Jan 13, 2019; https://thesaker.is/war-essay-the-consequences-of-nuclear-war-on-us-society/

31. Electricity in the United States US Energy Information Administration;

https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/electricity/electricity-in-the-us.php

32. Pentagon Fuel Use, Climate Change and the Costs of War By Neta Crawford Watson Institute June 12, 2019; https://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar/files/cow/imce/papers/2019/Pentagon%20Fuel%20Use,%20Climate%20Change%20and%20the%20Costs%20of%20War%20Final.pdf

33. How Much Oil in the Middle East? By Rasoul Sorkhabi, Ph.D. GoExPro Vol. 11, No. 1 – 2014; https://www.geoexpro.com/articles/2014/02/how-much-oil-in-the-middle-east; iea; https://www.iea.org/regions/middle-east

34. Michael Hudson: A New Bipolar World. US finance capitalism vs. China’s mixed public/ private economy Nov 7, 2022; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_zY44YClCY

35. Missiles of Iran- Iran possesses the largest and most diverse missile arsenal in the Middle East, with thousands of ballistic and cruise missiles, some capable of striking as far as Israel and southeast Europe. CSIS Aug 10, 2021; https://missilethreat.csis.org/country/iran/

36. US military bases and facilities in the Middle East. American Security Project https://www.americansecurityproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Ref-0213-US-Military-Bases-and-Facilities-Middle-East.pdf

37. Balfour Declaration History.Com Aug 21, 2018; https://www.history.com/topics/middle-east/balfour-declaration

38. More than a century on: The Balfour Declaration explained. More than 100 years since Britain’s controversial pledge, here is everything you need to know about it. By Zena Al Tahhan Aljazeera Nov 2, 2018; https://www.aljazeera.com/features/2018/11/2/more-than-a-century-on-the-balfour-declaration-explained

39. Israel-Gaza: How much money does Israel get from the US? BBC May 24, 2021; https://www.bbc.com/news/57170576

40. U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel: Total Aid (1949 – Present) Jewish Virtual Library;

https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/total-u-s-foreign-aid-to-israel-1949-present

41. Towards a World War III Scenario? The Role of Israel in Triggering an Attack on Iran? Part II The Military Road Map By Prof Michel Chossudovsky Global Research, July 30, 2018; http://www.globalresearch.ca/towards-a-world-war-iii-scenario-the-role-of-israel-in-triggering-an-attack-on-iran-2/20584

42. Understanding NATO- Ending War By Robert J. Burrowes Economy and Politics June 8, 2019; https://www.meer.com/en/54967-understanding-nato

43. 2022 Military Strength Ranking; https://www.globalfirepower.com/countries-listing.php

44. Israeli Attacks Continue to Kill Syrians, Iranians. Southfront Nov 16, 2022; https://southfront.org/israeli-attacks-continue-to-kill-syrians/

45. Iran signs memorandum to join Shanghai Cooperation Organization. As leaders meet in Uzbekistan, the eight-member regional body is poised to add Iran to its ranks. Aljazeera Sept 15, 2022; https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/9/15/iran-signs-memorandum-join-shanghai-cooperation-organisation

46. India, China, Iran: the Quad that really matters By Pepe Escobar Nov 15, 2022; https://thesaker.is/russia-india-china-iran-the-quad-that-really-matters/

47. Iran claims it has developed a hypersonic missile CBS News Nov 10, 2022;

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/iran-claims-it-has-developed-a-hypersonic-missile/

48. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) at a Glance. Kelsey Davenport, Director of Nonproliferation Policy, Arms Control Association Mar, 2022;

https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/JCPOA-at-a-glance

49. Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, explained. The Iran nuclear deal isn’t dead — yet. By Zack Beauchamp Vox May 8, 2018;

https://www.vox.com/world/2018/5/8/17328520/iran-nuclear-deal-trump-withdraw

50. Society for Nonprofits; https://www.snpo.org/publications/fundingalert_bycategory.php?cs=ENVI

51. The 6 Companies That Own (Almost) All Media [INFOGRAPHIC]; https://www.webfx.com/blog/internet/the-6-companies-that-own-almost-all-media-infographic/

52. These 6 corporations control 90% of the media outlets in America- The illusion of choice and objectivity. By Nickie Louise Tech Startups Sept 18, 2020;

https://techstartups.com/2020/09/18/6-corporations-control-90-media-america-illusion-choice-objectivity-2020/embed/#?secret=bL4ldPvDPR

53. Index of US Mainstream Media Ownership- The Future of Media Project, Harvard University; https://projects.iq.harvard.edu/futureofmedia/index-us-mainstream-media-ownership

54. The Real Problem with the AP’s Firing of Emily Wilder- When one young journalist was fired, the incident revealed a problem deeper than bad social media policies. By Janine Zacharia May 26, 2021; https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2021/05/26/emily-wilder-fired-ap-490892

55. How the CIA Watched Over the Destruction of Gary Webb- Freshly-released CIA documents show how the largest U.S. newspapers helped the agency contain a groundbreaking exposé. By Ryan Devereaux The Intercept Sept 25, 2014; https://theintercept.com/2014/09/25/managing-nightmare-cia-media-destruction-gary-webb/

56. Windfall profit taxes have benefits. But the devil is in the details. In times of crisis, the U.S. government has taxed excess profits — with mixed results Perspective by Ajay K. Mehrotra Washington Post Oct 24, 2022; https://www.washingtonpost.com/made-by-history/2022/10/24/windfall-profit-taxes/

57. List of current monarchs of the Arabian Peninsula; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_current_monarchs_of_the_Arabian_Peninsula

58. The Collapse Narrative: The United States, Mohammed Mossadegh, and the Coup Decision of 1953. By Gregory Brew Texas National Security Review. Vol 2, Issue 4 Nov 2019 | 38–59; https://tnsr.org/2019/11/the-collapse-narrative-the-united-states-mohammed-mossadegh-and-the-coup-decision-of-1953

Stable URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.26153/tsw/6666

59. The CIA in Iran- Key Events in the 1953 Coup; https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/library/world/mideast/041600iran-coup-timeline.html?scp=1&sq=mossadegh%252520coup&st=cse

60. BRICS to expand soon, Saudi Arabia keen to join. BRICS represents more than 40 percent of the global population and nearly a quarter of the world’s GDP and if it is expanded it will help in bolstering the BRICS bloc’s global influence. By Huma Siddiqui Oct 27, 2022; https://www.financialexpress.com/defence/brics-to-expand-soon-saudi-arabia-keen-to-join/2737102/

61. Biden’s visit to Saudi Arabia is the right thing to do, even if it feels wrong

The U.S. president has rightly come to the conclusion that a strategy of isolating the crown prince isn’t feasible. By Daniel R. DePetris NBC News July 15, 2022;

https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/joe-biden-visits-saudi-arabia-bow-reality-rcna38419

62. U.S. declares Saudi crown prince immune from Khashoggi killing lawsuit

Biden administration cites executive powers, international law in shielding Mohammed bin Salman from legal responsibility. By Karen DeYoung and Missy Ryan Washington Post Nov 18, 2022; https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/11/18/saudi-crown-prince-immunity-khashoggi-murder/

63. WaPo slams Biden’s move to shield MBS in Khashoggi killing suit. By Rebecca Falconer and Shawna Chen Nov 18, 2022; https://www.axios.com/2022/11/18/biden-admin-saudi-prince-immunity-khashoggi-killing-lawsuit

64. The Status of Jerusalem United Nations 1997; https://www.un.org/unispal/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/The-Status-of-Jerusalem-Engish-199708.pdf

65. Strategic Importance of the Indian Ocean, Yemen and Bab-el-Mandeb Strait Saker Blog Aug 5, 2020; https://thesaker.is/strategic-importance-of-the-indian-ocean-yemen-and-bab-el-mandeb-strait/

66. Trump family signs $1.6bn branding deal with Saudi real estate developer. Wed, Nov 16, 2022; https://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2022/11/16/692846/US-Donald-Trump-Saudi-Arabia-Dar-Al-Arkan-deal-Oman-MbS-Biden-

67. The Roundtable #34 The Kherson Withdrawal with Gonzalo Lira, Brian Berletic and Andrei Martyanov Thurs, Nov 10, 2022; https://smoothiex12.blogspot.com/2022/11/roundtable.html

68. Who Attacked Nord Stream 2? Maybe it was Russia, though that doesn’t make much sense. There are better candidates. By Doug Bandow Cato Institute Oct 14,

2022; https://www.cato.org/commentary/who-attacked-nord-stream-2

69. A journey to the site of the Nord Stream explosions- Prosecutors in Sweden say explosions on a gas pipeline between Russia and Europe were the result of sabotage. The explosions in the Baltic Sea targeted pipelines carrying natural gas from Russia to Europe. Russia denies any involvement. Before the announcement, Katya Adler travelled to the site, and was separately told by Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg that the west could go to war if Russia attacked infrastructure providing critical energy supplies. By Katya Adler BBC News Nov 18, 2022; https://www.bbc.com/news/world-63636181

70. ‘It’s done’: Putin fumes after Liz Truss ‘message’ to Blinken over Nord Stream attack ‘revealed’ Hindustan Times Nov 4, 2022; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GxzBqghRs5k

71. Jeffrey Sachs: Rest of the World Thinks the U.S. Probably Sabotaged the Nord Stream Pipeline, But it Doesn’t Show up in our Media By Tim Hains Real Clear Politics Oct 3, 2022; https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2022/10/03/jeffrey_sachs_most_of_the_world_doesnt_view_the_ukraine_war_the_way_the_us_media_does.html

72. A List of All 900 U.S. Foreign Military Bases. By Eric Zuesse Nov 18, 2022; https://theduran.com/a-list-of-all-900-u-s-foreign-military-bases/

73. USA’s Military Empire: A Visual Database. World Beyond War;

https://worldbeyondwar.org/no-bases/

74. US likely to keep 100,000 troops in Europe for foreseeable future in face of Russian threat, US officials say By Ellie Kaufman and Barbara Starr, CNN Fri May 20, 2022; https://www.cnn.com/2022/05/20/politics/us-troops-in-europe/index.html

75. Where 100,000 U.S. troops are stationed in Europe. By Zachary Basu Axios Mar 22, 2022; https://www.axios.com/2022/03/23/where-100000-us-troops-are-stationed-europe

Figure 1. Map of the Middle East

Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Maps_of_the_Middle_East#/media/File:%22Political_Middle_East%22_CIA_World_Factbook.jpg

Table 1. Middle East Energy Reserves by Country

(TJ, tera joules; 1 TJ= 163 barrels of oil)

Source: iea; https://www.iea.org/regions/middle-east

CountryOil (TJ)Natural Gas (TJ)
Iran3,497,3477,738,423
KSA5,624,3503,357,725
Iraq1,626,278626,792
UAE190,4002,302,508
Qatar131,2591,599,572
Kuwait705,461846,450
Oman23,864957,632
Bahrain81,132563,867
Total12,477,03318,260,133

Table 2. US Military Bases and Facilities in Middle East [36]

*Numbers in parenthesis, estimated total number of US troops (thousands) deployed in each country; ** Estimated number of US troops (thousands)

Country*BaseTroops**
Bahrain (9K)US Naval Forces Central Command/ US 5th Fleet4.7
Shaikh Isa Air Base
Muharraq Air Base (Navy)
Iraq (2.5K)Al Asad Air Base
IsraelDimona Radar Facility
Mashabim Air Base / Bisl’a Aerial Defense School
JordanMuwaffaq Salti Air Base (Azraq)
Kuwait (13.5)Ali Al Salem Air Base1.5
Camp Arifjan9
Camp Spearhead Army Base
Camp Buehring
Camp Patriot3
Oman (<1K)RAFO Masirah
Muscat International Airport
RAFO Thumrait
Al-Musannah Air Base
Port of Duqm
Port of Salalah
Qatar (10K)Al Udeid Air Base- Special Operations Command Central10
Camp As Sayliyah
KSA (3K)Eskan Village
Turkey (5K)Incirlik Air Base5
Izmir Air Station
UAE (2K)Al Dhafra Air Base2
Port of Jebel Ali
Fujairah Naval Base
Syria (<0.2K)Al-Tanf garrison (ATG)

Russia, India, China, Iran: the Quad that really matters

Tuesday, 15 November 2022 3:55 PM 

By Pepe Escobar

Southeast Asia is right at the center of international relations for a whole week viz a viz three consecutive summits: Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Phnom Penh, the Group of Twenty (G20) summit in Bali, and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Bangkok.  

Eighteen nations accounting for roughly half of the global economy represented at the first in-person ASEAN summit since the Covid-19 pandemic in Cambodia: the ASEAN 10, Japan, South Korea, China, India, US, Russia, Australia, and New Zealand. 

With characteristic Asian politeness, the summit chair, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen (or “Colombian”, according to the so-called “leader of the free world”), said the plenary meeting was somewhat heated, but the atmosphere was not tense: “Leaders talked in a mature way, no one left.”

It was up to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to express what was really significant at the end of the summit.

While praising the “inclusive, open, equal structure of security and cooperation at ASEAN”, Lavrov stressed how Europe and NATO “want to militarize the region in order to contain Russia and China’s interests in the Indo-Pacific.”

A manifestation of this policy is how “AUKUS is openly aiming at confrontation in the South China Sea,” he said.

Lavrov also stressed how the West, via the NATO military alliance, is accepting ASEAN “only nominally” while promoting a completely “unclear” agenda. 

What’s clear though is how NATO “has moved towards Russian borders several times and now declared at the Madrid summit that they have taken global responsibility.”

This leads us to the clincher: “NATO is moving their line of defense to the South China Sea.” And, Lavrov added, Beijing holds the same assessment.

Here, concisely, is the open “secret” of our current geopolitical incandescence. Washington’s number one priority is the containment of China. That implies blocking the EU from getting closer to the key Eurasia drivers  – China, Russia, and Iran – engaged in building the world’s largest free trade/connectivity environment.

Adding to the decades-long hybrid war against Iran, the infinite weaponizing of the Ukrainian black hole fits into the initial stages of the battle.

For the Empire, Iran cannot profit from becoming a provider of cheap, quality energy to the EU. And in parallel, Russia must be cut off from the EU. The next step is to force the EU to cut itself off from China.

All that fits into the wildest, warped Straussian/neo-con wet dreams: to attack China, by emboldening Taiwan, first Russia must be weakened, via the instrumentalization (and destruction) of Ukraine.

And all along the scenario, Europe simply has no agency.     

Putin, Raeisi and the Erdogan track

Real life across key Eurasia nodes reveals a completely different picture. Take the relaxed get-together in Tehran between Russia’s top security official Nikolai Patrushev and his Iranian counterpart Ali Shamkhani last week.

They discussed not only security matters but also serious business – as in turbo-charged trade.

The National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) will sign a $40 billion deal next month with Gazprom, bypassing US sanctions, and encompassing the development of two gas fields and six oilfields, swaps in natural gas and oil products, LNG projects, and the construction of gas pipelines.

Immediately after the Patrushev-Shamkhani meeting, President Putin called President Ebrahim Raeisi to keep up the “interaction in politics, trade and the economy, including transport and logistics,” according to the Kremlin.

Iranian president reportedly more than “welcomed” the “strengthening” of Moscow-Tehran ties.

Patrushev unequivocally supported Tehran over the latest color revolution adventure perpetrated under the framework of the Empire’s endless hybrid war.

Iran and the EAEU are negotiating a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in parallel to the swap deals with Russian oil. Soon, SWIFT may be completely bypassed. The whole Global South is watching.

Simultaneous to Putin’s phone call, Turkiye’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan – conducting his own diplomatic overdrive, and just back from a summit of Turkic nations in Samarkand – stressed that the US and the collective West are attacking Russia “almost without limits”. 

Erdogan made it clear that Russia is a “powerful” state and commended its “great resistance”.

The response came exactly 24 hours later. Turkish intelligence cut to the chase, pointing out that the terrorist bombing in the perpetually busy Istiklal pedestrian street in Istanbul was designed in Kobane in northern Syria, which essentially responds to the US.

That constitutes a de-facto act of war and may unleash serious consequences, including a profound revision of Turkiye’s presence inside NATO.

Iran’s multi-track strategy

A Russia-Iran strategic alliance manifests itself practically as a historical inevitability. It recalls the time when the erstwhile USSR helped Iran militarily via North Korea, after an enforced US/Europe blockade.

Putin and Raeisi are taking it to the next level. Moscow and Tehran are developing a joint strategy to defeat the weaponization of sanctions by the collective West.

Iran, after all, has an absolutely stellar record of smashing variants of “maximum pressure” to bits. Also, it is now linked to a strategic nuclear umbrella offered by the “RICs” in BRICS (Russia, India, China).

So, Tehran may now plan to develop its massive economic potential within the framework of BRI, SCO, INSTC, the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU), and the Russian-led Greater Eurasia Partnership.

Moscow’s game is pure sophistication: engaging in a high-level strategic oil alliance with Saudi Arabia while deepening its strategic partnership with Iran.

Immediately after Patrushev’s visit, Tehran announced the development of an indigenously built hypersonic ballistic missile, quite similar to the Russian KH-47 M2 Khinzal.

And the other significant news was connectivity-wise: the completion of part of a railway from strategic Chabahar Port to the border with Turkmenistan. That means imminent direct rail connectivity to the Central Asian, Russian and Chinese spheres. 

Add to it the predominant role of OPEC+, the development of BRICS+, and the pan-Eurasian drive to pricing trade, insurance, security, investments in the ruble, yuan, rial, etc.

There’s also the fact that Tehran could not care less about the endless collective West procrastination on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly known as Iran nuclear deal: what really matters now is the deepening relationship with the “RICs” in BRICS. 

Tehran refused to sign a tampered-with EU draft nuclear deal in Vienna. Brussels was enraged; no Iranian oil will “save” Europe, replacing Russian oil under a nonsensical cap to be imposed next month.

And Washington was enraged because it was betting on internal tensions to split OPEC.  

Considering all of the above, no wonder US ‘Think Tankland’ is behaving like a bunch of headless chickens.  

The queue to join BRICS

During the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Samarkand last September, it was already tacit to all players how the Empire is cannibalizing its closest allies.

And how, simultaneously, the shrinking NATO-sphere is turning inwards, with a focus on The Enemy Within, relentlessly corralling average citizens to march in lockstep behind total compliance with a two-pronged war – hybrid and otherwise – against imperial peer competitors Russia and China.

Now compare it with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Samarkand presenting China and Russia, together, as the top “responsible global powers” bent on securing the emergence of multipolarity.

Samarkand also reaffirmed the strategic political partnership between Russia and India (Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called it an unbreakable friendship).

That was corroborated by the meeting between Lavrov and his Indian counterpart Subrahmanyam Jaishankar last week in Moscow.

Lavrov praised the strategic partnership in every crucial area – politics, trade and economics, investment, and technology, as well as “closely coordinated actions” at the UN Security Council, BRICS, SCO and the G20.

On BRICS, crucially, Lavrov confirmed that “over a dozen countries” are lining up for membership, including Iran: “We expect the work on coordinating the criteria and principles that should underlie BRICS expansion to not take much time”.

But first, the five members need to analyze the ground-breaking repercussions of an expanded BRICS+. 

Once again: contrast. What is the EU’s “response” to these developments? Coming up with yet another sanctions package against Iran, targeting officials and entities “connected with security affairs” as well as companies, for their alleged “violence and repressions”.

“Diplomacy”, collective West-style, barely registers as bullying.

Back to the real economy – as in the gas front – the national interests of Russia, Iran and Turkiye are increasingly intertwined; and that is bound to influence developments in Syria, Iraq, and Libya, and will be a key factor to facilitate Erdogan’s re-election next year.

As it stands, Riyadh for all practical purposes has performed a stunning 180-degree maneuver against Washington via OPEC+. That may signify, even in a twisted way, the onset of a process of unification of Arab interests, guided by Moscow.

Stranger things have happened in modern history. Now appears to be the time for the Arab world to be finally ready to join the Quad that really matters: Russia, India, China, and Iran.

(The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Press TV.)


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