The Afghanistan ‘peace deal’ riddle

Pepe Escobar for the Saker Blog : Posted with permission 

As far as realpolitik Afghanistan is concerned, with or without a deal, the US military want to stay in what is a priceless Greater Middle East base to deploy hybrid war techniques

In this photo taken on February 21, youths and peace activists gather as they celebrate the reduction in violence, in Kandahar. A week-long partial truce took hold across Afghanistan on February 22, with some jubilant civilians dancing in the streets as the war-weary country prepared for this coming Saturday’s planned agreement on a peace deal between the Taliban and the United States. Photo: AFP / Javed Tanveer

Nearly two decades after the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan post-9/11, and after an interminable war costing over $ 2 trillion, there’s hardly anything “historic” about a possible peace deal that may be signed in Doha this coming Saturday between Washington and the Taliban.

We should start by stressing three points.

1- The Taliban wanted all US troops out. Washington refused.

2- The possible deal only reduces US troops from 13,000 to 8,600. That’s the same number already deployed before the Trump administration.

3- The reduction will only happen a year and a half from now – assuming what’s being described as a truce holds.

So there would be no misunderstanding, Taliban Deputy Leader Sirajuddin Haqqani, in an op-ed certainly read by everyone inside the Beltway, detailed their straightforward red line: total US withdrawal.

And Haqqani is adamant: there’s no peace deal if US troops stay.

Still, a deal looms. How come? Simple: enter a series of secret “annexes.”

The top US negotiator, the seemingly eternal Zalmay Khalilzad, a remnant of the Clinton and Bush eras, has spent months codifying these annexes – as confirmed by a source in Kabul currently not in government but familiar with the negotiations.

Let’s break them down to four points.

1- US counter-terror forces would be allowed to stay. Even if approved by the Taliban leadership, this would be anathema to the masses of Taliban fighters.

2- The Taliban would have to denounce terrorism and violent extremism. That’s rhetorical, not a problem.

3- There will be a scheme to monitor the so-called truce while different warring Afghan factions discuss the future, what the US State Dept. describes as “intra-Afghan negotiations.” Culturally, as we’ll see later, Afghans of different ethnic backgrounds will have a tremendously hard time monitoring their own warring.

4- The CIA would be allowed to do business in Taliban-controlled areas. That’s an even more hardcore anathema. Everyone familiar with post-9/11 Afghanistan knows that the prime reason for CIA business is the heroin rat line that finances Langley’s black ops, as I exposed in 2017.

Otherwise, everything about this “historic” deal remains quite vague.

Even Secretary of Defense Mark Esper was forced to admit the war in Afghanistan is “still” in “a state of strategic stalemate.”

As for the far from strategic financial disaster, one just needs to peruse the latest SIGAR report. SIGAR stands for Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. In fact virtually nothing in Afghanistan has been “reconstructed.”

No real deal without Iran

The “intra-Afghan” mess starts with the fact that Ashraf Ghani eventually was declared the winner of the presidential elections held in September last year. But virtually no one recognizes him.

The Taliban don’t talk to Ghani. Only to some people that are part of the government in Kabul. And they describe these talks at best as between “ordinary Afghans.”

Everyone familiar with Taliban strategy knows US/NATO troops will never be allowed to stay. What could happen is the Taliban allowing some sort of face-saving contingent to remain for a few months, and then a very small contingent stays to protect the US embassy in Kabul.

Washington will obviously reject this possibility. The alleged “truce” will be broken. Trump, pressured by the Pentagon, will send more troops. And the infernal spiral will be back on track.

Another major hole in the possible deal is that the Americans completely ignored Iran in their negotiations in Doha.

That’s patently absurd. Teheran is a key strategic partner to its neighbor Kabul. Apart from the millenary historical/cultural/social connections, there are at least 3.5 million Afghan refugees in Iran.

Post 9-11, Tehran slowly but surely started cultivating relations with the Taliban – but not at a military/weaponizing level, according to Iranian diplomats. In Beirut last September, and then in Nur-Sultan in November, I was provided a clear picture of where discussions about Afghanistan stand.

The Russian connection to the Taliban goes through Tehran. Taliban leaders have frequent contacts with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. Only last year, Russia held two conferences in Moscow between Taliban political leaders and mujahideen. The Russians were engaged into bringing Uzbeks into the negotiations. At the same time, some Taliban leaders met with Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) operatives four times in Tehran, in secret.

The gist of all these discussions was “to find a conflict resolution outside of Western patterns”, according to an Iranian diplomat. They were aiming at some sort of federalism: the Taliban plus the mujahideen in charge of the administration of some vilayets.

The bottom line is that Iran has better connections in Afghanistan than Russia and China. And this all plays within the much larger scope of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. The Russia-China strategic partnership wants an Afghan solution coming from inside the SCO, of which both Iran and Afghanistan are observers. Iran may become a full SCO member if it holds on to the nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, until October – thus still not subjected to UN sanctions.

All these actors want US troops out – for good. So the solution always points towards a decentralized federation. According to an Afghan diplomat, the Taliban seem ready to share power with the Northern Alliance. The spanner in the works is the Hezb-e-Islami, with one Jome Khan Hamdard, a commander allied with notorious mujahid Gulbudiin Hekmatyar, based in Mazar-i-Sharif and supported by Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, more interested in restarting a civil war.

Understanding Pashtunistan

Here’s a blast from the past, reliving the context of the Taliban visit to Houston, and showing how things have not changed much since the first Clinton administration. It’s always a matter of the Taliban getting their cut – at the time related to Pipelineistan business, now to their reaffirmation of what can be described as Pashtunistan.

Not every Pashtun is a Taliban, but the overwhelming majority of Taliban are Pashtuns.

The Washington establishment never did their “know your enemy” homework, trying to understand how Pashtuns from extremely diverse groups are linked by a common system of values establishing their ethnic foundation and necessary social rules. That’s the essence of their code of conduct – the fascinating, complex Pashtunwali. Although it incorporates numerous Islamic elements, Pashtunwali is in total contradiction with Islamic law on many points.

Islam did introduce key moral elements to Pashtun society. But there are also juridical norms, imposed by a hereditary nobility, that support the whole edifice and that came from the Turko-Mongols.

Pashtuns – a tribal society – have a deep aversion to the Western concept of the state. Central power can only expect to neutralize  them with – to put it bluntly – bribes. That’s what passes as a sort of system of government in Afghanistan. Which brings the question of how much – and with what – the US is now bribing the Taliban.

Afghan political life, in practice, works out from actors that are factions, sub-tribes, “Islamic coalitions” or regional groups.

Since 1996, and up to 9/11, the Taliban incarnated the legitimate return of Pashtuns as the dominant element in Afghanistan. That’s why they instituted an emirate and not a republic, more appropriate for a Muslim community ruled only by religious legislation. The diffidence towards cities, particularly Kabul, also expresses the sentiment of Pashtun superiority over other Afghan ethnic groups.

The Taliban do represent a process of overcoming tribal identity and the affirmation of Pashtunistan. The Beltway never understood this powerful dynamic – and that’s one of the key reasons for the American debacle.

Lapis Lazuli corridor

Afghanistan is at the center of the new American strategy for Central Asia, as in “expand and maintain support for stability in Afghanistan” coupled with an emphasis to “encourage connectivity between Central Asia and Afghanistan.”

In practice, the Trump administration wants the five Central Asian “stans” to bet on integration projects such as the CASA-1000 electricity project and the Lapis Lazuli trade corridor, which is in fact a reboot of the Ancient Silk Road, connecting Afghanistan to Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Georgia before crossing the Black Sea to Turkey and then all the way to the EU.

But the thing is Lapis Lazuli is already bound to integrate with Turkey’s Middle Corridor, which is part of the New Silk Roads, or Belt and Road Initiative, as well as with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor Plus, also part of Belt and Road. Beijing planned  this integration way before Washington.

The Trump administration is just stressing the obvious: a peaceful Afghanistan is essential for the integration process.

Andrew Korybko correctly argues that “Russia and China could make more progress on building the Golden Ring between themselves, Pakistan, Iran, and Turkey by that time, thus ‘embracing’ Central Asia with potentially limitless opportunities that far surpass those that the US is offering or ‘encircling’ the region from a zero-sum American strategic perspective and ‘forcing’ it out.”

The late Zbigniew “Grand Chessboard” Brzezinski’s wishful thinking “Eurasian Balkans” scenario may be dead, but the myriad US divide-and-rule gambits imposed on the heartland have now mutated into hybrid war explicitly directed against China, Russia  and Iran – the three major nodes of Eurasia integration.

And that means that as far as realpolitik Afghanistan is concerned, with or without a deal, the US military have no intention to go anywhere. They want to stay – whatever it takes. Afghanistan is a priceless Greater Middle East base to deploy hybrid war techniques.

Pashtuns are certainly getting the message from key Shanghai Cooperation Organization players. The question is how they plan to run rings around Team Trump.

No Weapon Left Behind: The American Hybrid War on China

Pepe Escobar February 21, 2020

The New Silk Roads – or Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – were launched by President Xi Jinping in 2013, first in Central Asia (Nur-Sultan) and then Southeast Asia (Jakarta).

One year later, the Chinese economy overtook the U.S. on a PPP basis. Inexorably, year after year since the start of the millennium, the U.S. share of the global economy shrinks while China’s increases.

China is already the key hub of the global economy and the leading trade partner of nearly 130 nations.

While the U.S. economy is hollowed out, and the casino financing of the U.S. government – repo markets and all – reads as a dystopian nightmare, the civilization-state steps ahead in myriad areas of technological research, not least because of Made in China 2025.

China largely beats the U.S. on patent filings and produces at least 8 times as many STEM graduates a year than the U.S., earning the status of top contributor to global science.

A vast array of nations across the Global South signed on to be part of BRI, which is planned for completion in 2049. Last year alone, Chinese companies signed contracts worth up to $128 billion in large-scale infrastructure projects in dozen of nations.

The only economic competitor to the U.S. is busy reconnecting most of the world to a 21st century, fully networked version of a trade system that was at its peak for over a millennia: the Eurasian Silk Roads.

Inevitably this state of things is something interlocking sectors of the U.S. ruling class simply would not accept.

Branding BRI as a “pandemic”

As the usual suspects fret over the “stability” of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Xi Jinping administration, the fact is the Beijing leadership has had to deal with an accumulation of extremely severe issues: a swine-flu epidemic killing half the stock; the Trump-concocted trade war; Huawei accused of racketeering and about to be prevented from buying U.S. made chips; bird flu; coronavirus virtually shutting down half of China.

Add to it the incessant United States government Hybrid War propaganda barrage, trespassed by acute Sinophobia; everyone from sociopathic “officials” to self-titled councilors are either advising corporate businesses to divert global supply chains out of China or concocting outright calls for regime change – with every possible demonization in between.

There are no holds barred in the all-out offensive to kick the Chinese government while it’s down.

A Pentagon cipher at the Munich Security Conference once again declares China as the greatest threat, economically and militarily, to the U.S. – and by extension the West, forcing a wobbly EU already subordinated to NATO to be subservient to Washington on this remixed Cold War 2.0.

The whole U.S. corporate media complex repeats to exhaustion that Beijing is “lying” and losing control. Descending to sub-gutter, racist levels, hacks even accuse BRI itself of being a pandemic, with China “impossible to quarantine”.

All that is quite rich, to say the least, oozing from lavishly rewarded slaves of an unscrupulous, monopolistic, extractive, destructive, depraved, lawless oligarchy which uses debt offensively to boost their unlimited wealth and power while the lowly U.S. and global masses use debt defensively to barely survive. As Thomas Piketty has conclusively shown, inequality always relies on ideology.

We’re deep into a vicious intel war. From the point of view of Chinese intelligence, the current toxic cocktail simply cannot be attributed to just a random series of coincidences. Beijing has serial motives to piece this extraordinary chain of events as part of a coordinated Hybrid War, Full Spectrum Dominance attack on China.

Enter the Dragon Killer working hypothesis: a bio-weapon attack capable of causing immense economic damage but protected by plausible deniability. The only possible move by the “indispensable nation” on the New Great Game chessboard, considering that the U.S. cannot win a conventional war on China, and cannot win a nuclear war on China.

A biological warfare weapon?

On the surface, coronavirus is a dream bio-weapon for those fixated on wreaking havoc across China and praying for regime change.

Yet it’s complicated. This report is a decent effort trying to track the origins of coronavirus. Now compare it with the insights by Dr. Francis Boyle, international law professor at the University of Illinois and author, among others, of Biowarfare and Terrorism. He’s the man who drafted the U.S. Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989 signed into law by George H. W. Bush.

Dr. Boyle is convinced coronavirus is an

“offensive biological warfare weapon” that leaped out of the Wuhan BSL-4 laboratory, although he’s “not saying it was done deliberately.”

Dr. Boyle adds, “all these BSL-4 labs by United States, Europe, Russia, China, Israel are all there to research, develop, test biological warfare agents. There’s really no legitimate scientific reason to have BSL-4 labs.” His own research led to a whopping $100 billion, by 2015, spent by the United States government on bio-warfare research: “We have well over 13,000 alleged life science scientists… testing biological weapons here in the United States. Actually this goes back and it even precedes 9/11.”

Dr. Boyle directly accuses “the Chinese government under Xi and his comrades” of a cover up “from the get-go. The first reported case was December 1, so they’d been sitting on this until they couldn’t anymore. And everything they’re telling you is a lie. It’s propaganda.”

The World Health Organization (WHO), for Dr. Boyle, is also on it: “They’ve approved many of these BSL-4 labs (…) Can’t trust anything the WHO says because they’re all bought and paid for by Big Pharma and they work in cahoots with the CDC, which is the United States government, they work in cahoots with Fort Detrick.” Fort Detrick, now a cutting-edge bio-warfare lab, previously was a notorious CIA den of mind control “experiments”.

Relying on decades of research in bio-warfare, the U.S. Deep State is totally familiar with all bio-weapon overtones. From Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki to Korea, Vietnam and Fallujah, the historical record shows the United States government does not blink when it comes to unleashing weapons of mass destruction on innocent civilians.

For its part, the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) has spent a fortune researching bats, coronaviruses and gene-editing bio-weapons. Now, conveniently – as if this was a form of divine intervention – DARPA’s “strategic allies” have been chosen to develop a genetic vaccine.

The 1996 neocon Bible, the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), unambiguously stated, “advanced forms of biological warfare that can “target” specific genotypes may transform biological warfare from the realm of terror to a politically useful tool.”

There’s no question coronavirus, so far, has been a Heaven-sent politically useful tool, reaching, with minimum investment, the desired targets of maximized U.S. global power – even if fleetingly, enhanced by a non-stop propaganda offensive – and China relatively isolated with its economy semi paralyzed.

Yet perspective is in order. The CDC estimated that up to 42.9 million people got sick during the 2018-2019 flu season in the U.S. No less than 647,000 people were hospitalized. And 61,200 died.

This report details the Chinese “people’s war” against coronavirus.

It’s up to Chinese virologists to decode its arguably synthetic origin. How China reacts, depending on the findings, will have earth-shattering consequences – literally.

Setting the stage for the Raging Twenties

After managing to reroute trade supply chains across Eurasia to its own advantage and hollow out the Heartland, American – and subordinated Western – elites are now staring into a void. And the void is staring back. A “West” ruled by the U.S. is now faced with irrelevance. BRI is in the process of reversing at least two centuries of Western dominance.

There’s no way the West and especially the “system leader” U.S. will allow it. It all started with dirty ops stirring trouble across the periphery of Eurasia – from Ukraine to Syria to Myanmar.

Now it’s when the going really gets tough. The targeted assassination of Maj. Gen. Soleimani plus coronavirus – the Wuhan flu – have really set up the stage for the Raging Twenties. The designation of choice should actually be WARS – Wuhan Acute Respiratory Syndrome. That would instantly give the game away as a War against Humanity – irrespective of where it came from.The views of individual contributors do not necessarily represent those of the Strategic Culture Foundation.

Expansion of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Tehran Wants to Build “the Golden Ring”

Statement of Iranian Ambassador to Pakistan

By Andrew Korybko

Global Research, February 07, 2020

Featured image is from OneWorld

BRI-led Eurasian integration processes are one of the defining characteristics of contemporary International Relations, and the Golden Ring could eventually become the centerpiece of these efforts if Ambassador Hosseini’s W-CPEC+ proposal succeeds, especially if it’s done in parallel with N-CPEC+.

The Iranian Ambassador to Pakistan shared his visionary plans for CPEC+, the neologism that’s becoming popular in Pakistan nowadays to refer to the expansion of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor along different geographic axes such as the northern (N-CPEC+), western (W-CPEC+), and southern (S-CPEC+) ones. Turkey’s Anadolou Agency reported on Ambassador Seyyed Mohammad Ali Hosseini’s lecture at the Islamabad Strategic Studies Institute (ISSI) earlier this week, which deserves to be analyzed more in depth.

According to Ambassador Hosseini,

“Establishment of rail network between Gwadar and Chabahar and its link up to Europe and Central Asia through Iran, will usher major economic development in the region. On the other hand, construction of Railway track on Pakistani territory to China, linking the two ports will lead towards economic development in this region.” In practice, this would fulfill what the author wrote about W-CPEC+ in his CGTN analysis last April titled “CPEC+ is the key to achieving regional integration goals“.

In that piece, he wrote that

“Pakistani Prime Minister Khan’s recent visit to Iran saw the two neighboring countries agreeing to deepen their cooperation with one another, which could foreseeably evolve to the point of a W-CPEC+ overland trade route eventually traveling through the Islamic Republic to Islamabad and Beijing’s partners in Turkey, which could be paired with a parallel maritime corridor connecting CPEC’s terminal point of Gwadar with the Gulf Kingdoms.”

That’s exactly what Ambassador Hosseini proposed during his lecture at ISSI (minus the part about the Gulf Kingdoms), which could revolutionize Iran’s geostrategic role in the emerging Multipolar World Order and consequently make it one of the most important countries of China’s Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) if successfully implemented with time. Not only could this have significant economic implications, but also significant political ones as well.

The Ambassador is also quoted by Anadolou Agency as saying that “Countries like Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, Russia and China have the potential to form a new alliance for better future of the region”. While China and Russia eschew the term “alliance” to describe their close relations with other countries, the intent of his words is clear enough in that he’s calling for a strengthened strategic partnership between all five of those countries. This becomes a realistic possibility between China, Pakistan, Iran, and Turkey if W-CPEC+ is completed.

As for Russia, it could be brought on board this ambitious connectivity proposal if W-CPEC+ is expanded to include it via Azerbaijan by following the path proposed by the North-South Transport Corridor (NSTC) that those two, Iran, and India are trying to build. Moreover, the pioneering of a Russia-Pakistan trade corridor via post-war Afghanistan and Central Asia (N-CPEC+) could greatly contribute to making Moscow a greater stakeholder in this CPEC-centric strategic quintet that some have called the “Golden Ring“.

BRI-led Eurasian integration processes are one of the defining characteristics of contemporary International Relations, and the Golden Ring could eventually become the centerpiece of these efforts if Ambassador Hosseini’s W-CPEC+ proposal succeeds, especially if it’s done in parallel with N-CPEC+. The five anchor states of this connectivity vision could be linked to one another and the states between them (Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, and the Central Asian Republics) through a multitude of rail and other transport corridors built by China.

Through these means, China would be functioning as the engine of Eurasian integration and tying all of the involved countries closer together in a Community of Shared Destiny. The complex interdependence that would emerge as a result of this vision would make each party greater stakeholders in one another’s success, with the construction of multilateral megaprojects giving their citizens unprecedented economic opportunities. The CPEC-centric Golden Ring would therefore strengthen stability in the geostrategic Heartland of Eurasia.

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This article was originally published on OneWorld.

Andrew Korybko is an American Moscow-based political analyst specializing in the relationship between the US strategy in Afro-Eurasia, China’s One Belt One Road global vision of New Silk Road connectivity, and Hybrid Warfare. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

China’s virus response has been ‘breathtaking’

Would Mao Zedong (pictured in background at Tiananmen Gate in Beijing) be happy with China’s attempt to win a ‘People’s War’ on the coronavirus? Photo: Nicolas Asfouri / AFP

January 31, 2020

By Pepe Escobar – posted with permission

Chinese President Xi Jinping is leading a scientific ‘People’s War’ against the coronavirus

President Xi Jinping formally told WHO head Tedros Ghebreyesus, at their meeting in Beijing earlier this week, that the coronavirus epidemic “is a devil and we cannot allow the devil to hide.”

Ghebreyesus for his part could not but praise Beijing for its extremely swift, coordinated response strategy – which includes fast identification of the genome sequence. Chinese scientists have already handed over to Russian counterparts the virus genome, with snap tests able to identify it in a human body within two hours. A Russia-China vaccine is under development.

The devil, of course, is always in the details. In a matter of a few days, at the peak of the most congested travel period of the year, China did manage to quarantine an urban environment of over 56 million people, including megalopolis Wuhan and three nearby cities. This is an absolute first in terms of public health, anytime in history.

Wuhan, with a GDP growth of 8.5% a year, is a significant business center for China. It lies at the strategic crossroads of the Yangtze and Han rivers and at a railway crossroads as well – between the north-south axis linking Guangzhou to Beijing and the east-west axis linking Shanghai to Chengdu.

As premier Li Keqiang was sent to Wuhan, President Xi visited the strategic southern province of Yunnan, where he extolled the immense government apparatus to boost control and sanitary prevention mechanisms to limit propagation of the virus.

Coronavirus catches China at an extremely sensitive juncture – after the (failed) Hybrid War tactics displayed in Hong Kong; an American pro-Taiwan offensive; the trade war far from solved by a mere “phase 1” deal while more sanctions are being plotted against Huawei; and even the assassination of Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, which ultimately is about targeting the expansion of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in Southwest Asia (Iran-Iraq-Syria).

The Big Picture spells out Total Information War and non-stop weaponization of the China “threat” – now even metastasized, with racist overtones, as a bio-threat. So how vulnerable is China?

A people’s war

For almost five years now a maximum-security biolab has been operating in Wuhan dedicated to the study of highly pathogenic micro-organisms – set up in partnership with France after the SARS epidemic. In 2017, Nature magazine was warning about the risks of dispersion of pathogenic agents out of this lab. Yet there’s no evidence this might have happened.

In crisis management terms, President Xi has lived up to the occasion – ensuring that China fights coronavirus with nearly total transparency (after all, the internet wall remains in place). Beijing has warned the whole government apparatus in no uncertain terms not to attempt any cover-ups. A real-time webpage, in English, here, is available to everyone. Whoever is not doing enough will face serious consequences. One can imagine what awaits the party chief in Hubei, Jiang Chaoliang.

A post that went viral all over the mainland this past Sunday states, “We in Wuhan have truly entered the stage of people’s war against the new viral pneumonia”; and many people, “mainly Communist Party members” have been confirmed as “volunteers and observers according to street units.”

Crucially, the government directed everyone to install a “Wuhan Neighbors” applet downloaded from WeChat. That determines “our home’s quarantine address through satellite positioning, and then lock on our affiliated community organization and volunteers. Thenceforth, our social activities and information announcements would be connected to the system.”

Theoretically, this means that “anyone who develops a fever will report their condition through the network as soon as possible. The system will immediately provide an online diagnosis, and locate and register your quarantine address. If you need to see a doctor, your community will arrange a car to send you to the hospital through volunteers. At the same time, the system will track your progress: hospitalization, treatment at home, discharge, death, etc.”

So here we have millions of Chinese citizens totally mobilized in what’s routinely described as a “people’s war” using “high technology to fight against illness.” Millions are also drawing their own conclusions when comparing it with the use of app software to fight against the police in Hong Kong.

The biogenetic puzzle

Apart from crisis management, the speed of the Chinese scientific response has been breathtaking – and obviously not fully appreciated in an environment of Total Information War. Compare the Chinese performance with the American CDC, arguably the top infectious disease research agency in the world, with an $11 billion annual budget and 11,000 employees.

During the Ebola epidemic in West Africa in 2014 – considered a maximum urgency, and facing a virus with a 90% fatality rate – the CDC took no less than two months from getting the first patient sample to identifying the complete genomic sequence. The Chinese did it in a few days.

During the swine flu in the US in 2009 – 55 million infected Americans, 11,000 killed – the CDC took over a month and a half to come up with identification kits.

The Chinese took only one week from the first patient sample to complete, vital identification and sequencing of coronavirus. Right away, they went for publication and deposit in the genomics library for immediate access by the whole planet. Based on this sequence, Chinese biotech companies produced validated essays within a week – also a first.

And we’re not even talking about the now notorious building of a brand new state of the art hospital in Wuhan in record time just to treat victims of coronavirus. No victims will pay for their treatment. Additionally, Healthy China 2030the reform of the health/development system, will be boosted.

Coronavirus opens a true Pandora’s box on biogenetics. Serious questions remain about experiences in vivo in which the consent of “patients” will not be required – considering the collective psychosis initially developed by Western corporate media and even the WHO around coronavirus. Coronavirus could well become a pretext for genetic experiments via vaccines.

Meanwhile, it’s always enlightening to remember Great Helmsman Mao Zedong. For Mao, the top two political variables were “independence” and “development.” That implies full sovereignty. As Xi seems determined to prove a sovereign civilization-state is able to win a scientific “people’s war,” that does not exactly spell out “vulnerability.”

Why the New Silk Roads are a ‘threat’ to US bloc

Modern day traders on the ancient Silk Road track in Central Asia. Photo: Facebook

The Middle East is the key to wide-ranging, economic, interlinked integration, and peace

By PEPE ESCOBAR

Under the cascading roar of the 24/7 news cycle cum Twitter eruptions, it’s easy for most of the West, especially the US, to forget the basics about the interaction of Eurasia with its western peninsula, Europe.

Asia and Europe have been trading goods and ideas since at least 3,500 BC. Historically, the flux may have suffered some occasional bumps – for instance, with the irruption of 5th-century nomad horsemen in the Eurasian plains. But it was essentially steady up to the end of the 15th century. We can essentially describe it as a millennium-old axis – from Greece to Persia, from the Roman empire to China.

A land route with myriad ramifications, through Central Asia, Afghanistan, Iran and Turkey, linking India and China to the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea, ended up coalescing into what we came to know as the Ancient Silk Roads.

By the 7th century, land routes and sea trade routes were in direct competition. And the Iranian plateau always played a key role in this process.

The Iranian plateau historically includes Afghanistan and parts of Central Asia linking it to Xinjiang to the east, and to the west all the way to Anatolia. The Persian empire was all about land trade – the key node between India and China and the Eastern Mediterranean.

The Persians engaged the Phoenicians in the Syrian coastline as their partners to manage sea trade in the Mediterranean. Enterprising people in Tyre established Carthage as a node between the Eastern and Western Mediterranean. Because of the partnership with the Phoenicians, the Persians would inevitably be antagonized by the Greeks – a sea trading power.

When the Chinese, promoting the New Silk Roads, emphasize “people to people exchange” as one of its main traits, they mean the millenary Euro-Asia dialogue. History may even have aborted two massive, direct encounters.

The first was after Alexander The Great defeated Darius III of Persia. But then Alexander’s Seleucid successors had to fight the rising power in Central Asia: the Parthians – who ended up taking over Persia and Mesopotamia and made the Euphrates the limes between them and the Seleucids.

The second encounter was when emperor Trajan, in 116 AD, after defeating the Parthians, reached the Persian Gulf. But Hadrian backed off – so history did not register what would have been a direct encounter between Rome, via Persia, with India and China, or the Mediterranean meeting with the Pacific.

Mongol globalization

The last western stretch of the Ancient Silk Roads was, in fact, a Maritime Silk Road. From the Black Sea to the Nile delta, we had a string of pearls in the form of Italian city/emporia, a mix of end journey for caravans and naval bases, which then moved Asian products to Italian ports.

Commercial centers between Constantinople and Crimea configured another Silk Road branch through Russia all the way to Novgorod, which was very close culturally to the Byzantine world. From Novgorod, merchants from Hamburg and other cities of the Hanseatic League distributed Asian products to markets in the Baltics, northern Europe and all the way to England – in parallel to the southern routes followed by the maritime Italian republics.

Between the Mediterranean and China, the Ancient Silk Roads were of course mostly overland. But there were a few maritime routes as well. The major civilization poles involved were peasant and artisanal, not maritime. Up to the 15th century, no one was really thinking about turbulent, interminable oceanic navigation.

The main players were China and India in Asia, and Italy and Germany in Europe. Germany was the prime consumer of goods imported by the Italians. That explains, in a nutshell, the structural marriage of the Holy Roman Empire.

At the geographic heart of the Ancient Silk Roads, we had deserts and the vast steppes, trespassed by sparse tribes of shepherds and nomad hunters. All across those vast lands north of the Himalayas, the Silk Road network served mostly the four main players. One can imagine how the emergence of a huge political power uniting all those nomads would be in fact the main beneficiary of Silk Road trade.

Well, that actually happened. Things started to change when the nomad shepherds of Central-South Asia started to have their tribes regimented as horseback archers by politico-military leaders such as Genghis Khan.

Welcome to the Mongol globalization. That was actually the fourth globalization in history, after the Syrian, the Persian and the Arab.    Under the Mongolian Ilkhanate, the Iranian plateau – once again playing a major role – linked China to the Armenian kingdom of Cilicia in the Mediterranean.

The Mongols didn’t go for a Silk Road monopoly. On the contrary: during Kublai Khan – and Marco Polo’s travels – the Silk Road was free and open. The Mongols only wanted caravans to pay a toll.

With the Turks, it was a completely different story. They consolidated Turkestan, from Central Asia to northwest China. The only reason Tamerlan did not annex India is that he died beforehand. But even the Turks did not want to shut down the Silk Road. They wanted to control it.

Venice lost its last direct Silk Road access in 1461, with the fall of Trebizond, which was still clinging to the Byzantine empire. With the Silk Road closed to the Europeans, the Turks – with an empire ranging from Central-South Asia to the Mediterranean – were convinced they now controlled trade between Europe and Asia.

Not so fast. Because that was when European kingdoms facing the Atlantic came up with the ultimate Plan B: a new maritime road to India.

And the rest – North Atlantic hegemony – is history.

Enlightened arrogance

The Enlightenment could not possibly box Asia inside its own rigid geometries. Europe ceased to understand Asia, proclaimed it was some sort of proteiform historical detritus and turned its undivided attention to “virgin,” or “promised” lands elsewhere on the planet.

We all know how England, from the 18th century onwards, took control of the entire trans-oceanic routes and turned North Atlantic supremacy into a lone superpower game – till the mantle was usurped by the US.

Yet all the time there has been counter-pressure from the Eurasian Heartland powers. That’s the stuff of international relations for the past two centuries – peaking in the young 21st century into what could be simplified as The Revenge of the Heartland against Sea Power. But still, that does not tell the whole story.

Rationalist hegemony in Europe progressively led to an incapacity to understand diversity – or The Other, as in Asia. Real Euro-Asia dialogue – the de facto true engine of history – had been dwindling for most of the past two centuries.

Europe owes its DNA not only to much-hailed Athens and Rome – but to Byzantium as well. But for too long not only the East but also the European East, heir to Byzantium, became incomprehensible, quasi incommunicado with Western Europe, or submerged by pathetic clichés.

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), as in the Chinese-led New Silk Roads, are a historical game-changer in infinite ways. Slowly and surely, we are evolving towards the configuration of an economically interlinked group of top Eurasian land powers, from Shanghai to the Ruhr valley, profiting in a coordinated manner from the huge technological know-how of Germany and China and the enormous energy resources of Russia.

The Raging 2020s may signify the historical juncture when this bloc surpasses the current, hegemonic Atlanticist bloc.

Now compare it with the prime US strategic objective at all times, for decades: to establish, via myriad forms of divide and rule, that relations between Germany, Russia and China must be the worst possible.

No wonder strategic fear was glaringly visible at the NATO summit in London last month, which called for ratcheting up pressure on Russia-China. Call it the late Zbigniew “Grand Chessboard” Brzezinski’s ultimate, recurrent nightmare.

Germany soon will have a larger than life decision to make. It’s like this was a renewal – in way more dramatic terms – of the Atlanticist vs Ostpolitik debate. German business knows that the only way for a sovereign Germany to consolidate its role as a global export powerhouse is to become a close business partner of Eurasia.

In parallel, Moscow and Beijing have come to the conclusion that the  US trans-oceanic strategic ring can only be broken through the actions of a concerted block: BRI, Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU), Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), BRICS+ and the BRICS’ New Development Bank (NDB), the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

Middle East pacifier

The Ancient Silk Road was not a single camel caravan route but an inter-communicating maze. Since the mid-1990s I’ve had the privilege to travel almost every important stretch – and then, one day, you see the complete puzzle. The New Silk Roads, if they fulfill their potential, pledge to do the same.

Maritime trade may be eventually imposed – or controlled – by a global naval superpower. But overland trade can only prosper in peace. Thus the New Silk Roads potential as The Great Pacifier in Southwest Asia – what the Western-centric view calls the Middle East.

The Middle East (remember Palmyra) was always a key hub of the Ancient Silk Roads, the great overland axis of Euro-Asia trade going all the way to the Mediterranean.

For centuries, a quartet of regional powers – Egypt, Syria, Mesopotamia (now Iraq) and Persia (now Iran) – have been fighting for hegemony over the whole area from the Nile delta to the Persian Gulf. More recently, it has been a case of external hegemony: Ottoman Turk, British and American.

So delicate, so fragile, so immensely rich in culture, no other region in the world has been, continually, since the dawn of history, an absolutely key zone. Of course, the Middle East was also a crisis zone even before oil was found (the Babylonians, by the way, already knew about it).

The Middle East is a key stop in the 21st century, trans-oceanic supply chain routes – thus its geopolitical importance for the current superpower, among other geoeconomic, energy-related reasons. But its best and brightest know the Middle East does not need to remain a center of war, or intimations of war, which, incidentally, affect three of those historical, regional powers of the quartet (Syria, Iraq and Iran).

What the New Silk Roads are proposing is wide-ranging, economic, interlinked integration from East Asia, through Central Asia, to Iran, Iraq and Syria all the way to the Eastern Mediterranean. Just like the Ancient Silk Roads. No wonder vested War Party interests are so uncomfortable with this real peace “threat.”

You Say You Want a (Russian) Revolution?

Image result for You Say You Want a (Russian) Revolution?
December 27, 2019

Andrei Martyanov’s latest book provides unceasing evidence about the kind of lethality waiting for U.S. forces in a possible, future war against real armies (not the Taliban or Saddam Hussein’s).

Pepe ESCOBAR

Once in a blue moon an indispensable book comes out making a clear case for sanity in what is now a post-MAD world. That’s the responsibility carried by “The (Real) Revolution in Military Affairs,” by Andrei Martyanov (Clarity Press), arguably the most important book of 2019.

Martyanov is the total package — and he comes with extra special attributes as a top-flight Russian military analyst, born in Baku in those Back in the U.S.S.R. days, living and working in the U.S., and writing and blogging in English.

Right from the start, Martyanov wastes no time destroying not only Fukuyama’s and Huntington’s ravings but especially Graham Allison’s childish and meaningless Thucydides Trap argument — as if the power equation between the U.S. and China in the 21stcentury could be easily interpreted in parallel to Athens and Sparta slouching towards the Peloponnesian War over 2,400 years ago. What next? Xi Jinping as the new Genghis Khan?

(By the way, the best current essay on Thucydides is in Italian, by Luciano Canfora (“Tucidide: La Menzogna, La Colpa, L’Esilio”). No Trap. Martyanov visibly relishes defining the Trap as a “figment of the imagination” of people who “have a very vague understanding of real warfare in the 21st century.” No wonder Xi explicitly said the Trap does not exist.)

Martyanov had already detailed in his splendid, previous book, “Losing Military Supremacy: The Myopia of American Strategic Planning,” how “American lack of historic experience with continental warfare” ended up “planting the seeds of the ultimate destruction of the American military mythology of the 20thand 21stcenturies which is foundational to the American decline, due to hubris and detachment of reality.” Throughout the book, he unceasingly provides solid evidence about the kind of lethality waiting for U.S. forces in a possible, future war against real armies (not the Taliban or Saddam Hussein’s), air forces, air defenses and naval power.

Do the Math

One of the key takeaways is the failure of U.S. mathematical models: and readers of the book do need to digest quite a few mathematical equations. The key point is that this failure led the U.S. “on a continuous downward spiral of diminishing military capabilities against the nation [Russia] she thought she defeated in the Cold War.”

In the U.S., Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) was introduced by the late Andrew Marshall, a.k.a. Yoda, the former head of Net Assessment at the Pentagon and the de facto inventor of the “pivot to Asia” concept. Yet Martyanov tells us that RMA actually started as MTR (Military-Technological Revolution), introduced by Soviet military theoreticians back in the 1970s.

One of the staples of RMA concerns nations capable of producing land-attack cruise missiles, a.k.a. TLAMs. As it stands, only the U.S., Russia, China and France can do it. And there are only two global systems providing satellite guidance to cruise missiles: the American GPS and the Russian GLONASS. Neither China’s BeiDou nor the European Galileo qualify – yet – as global GPS systems.

Then there’s Net-Centric Warfare (NCW). The term itself was coined by the late Admiral Arthur Cebrowski in 1998 in an article he co-wrote with John Garstka’s titled, “Network-Centric Warfare – Its Origin and Future.”

Deploying his mathematical equations, Martyanov soon tells us that “the era of subsonic anti-shipping missiles is over.” NATO, that brain-dead organism (copyright Emmanuel Macron) now has to face the supersonic Russian P-800 Onyx and the Kalibr-class M54 in a “highly hostile Electronic Warfare environment.” Every developed modern military today applies Net-Centric Warfare (NCW), developed by the Pentagon in the 1990s.

No Escape From the Kinzhal

Martyanov mentions in his new book something that I learned on my visit to Donbass in March 2015: how NCW principles, “based on Russia’s C4ISR capabilities made available by the Russian military to numerically inferior armed forces of the Donbass Republics (LDNR), were used to devastating effect both at the battles of Ilovaisk and Debaltsevo, when attacking the cumbersome Soviet-era Ukrainian Armed Forces military.”

Martyanov provides ample information on Russia’s latest missile – the hypersonic Mach-10 aero-ballistic Kinzhal, recently tested in the Arctic.

Crucially, as he explains, “no existing anti-missile defense in the U.S. Navy is capable of shooting [it] down even in the case of the detection of this missile.” Kinzhal has a range of 2,000 km, which leaves its carriers, MiG-31K and TU-22M3M, “invulnerable to the only defense a U.S. Carrier Battle Group, a main pillar of U.S. naval power, can mount – carrier fighter aircraft.” These fighters simply don’t have the range.

The Kinzhal was one of the weapons announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s game-changing March 1, 2018 speech at the Federal Assembly. That’s the day, Martyanov stresses, when the real RMA arrived, and “changed completely the face of peer-peer warfare, competition and global power balance dramatically.”

Top Pentagon officials such as General John Hyten,  vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, have admitted on the record there are “no existing countermeasures” against, for instance, the hypersonic, Mach 27 glide vehicle Avangard (which renders anti-ballistic missile systems useless), telling the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee the only way out would be “a nuclear deterrent.” There are also no existing counter-measures against anti-shipping missiles such as the Zircon and Kinzhal.

Any military analyst knows very well how the Kinzhal destroyed a land target the size of a Toyota Corolla in Syria after being launched 1,000 km away in adverse weather conditions. The corollary is the stuff of NATO nightmares: NATO’s command and control installations in Europe are de facto indefensible.

Martyanov gets straight to the point: “The introduction of hypersonic weapons surely pours some serious cold water on the American obsession with securing the North American continent from retaliatory strikes.”

Kh-47M2 Kinzhal; 2018 Moscow Victory Day Parade. (Kremilin via Wikimedia Commons)

Martyanov is thus unforgiving on U.S. policymakers who “lack the necessary tool-kit for grasping the unfolding geostrategic reality in which the real revolution in military affairs … had dramatically downgraded the always inflated American military capabilities and continues to redefine U.S. geopolitical status away from its self-declared hegemony.”

And it gets worse: “Such weapons ensure a guaranteed retaliation [Martyanov’s italics] on the U.S. proper.” Even the existing Russian nuclear deterrents – and to a lesser degree Chinese, as paraded recently — “are capable of overcoming the existing U.S. anti-ballistic systems and destroying the United States,” no matter what crude propaganda the Pentagon is peddling.

In February 2019, Moscow announced the completion of tests of a nuclear-powered engine for the Petrel cruise missile. This is a subsonic cruise missile with nuclear propulsion that can remain in air for quite a long time, covering intercontinental distances, and able to attack from the most unexpected directions. Martyanov mischievously characterizes the Petrel as “a vengeance weapon in case some among American decision-makers who may help precipitate a new world war might try to hide from the effects of what they have unleashed in the relative safety of the Southern Hemisphere.”

Hybrid War Gone Berserk

Beijing parade celebrating the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic, October 2019. (YouTube screenshot)

A section of the book expands on China’s military progress, and the fruits of the Russia-China strategic partnership, such as Beijing buying $3 billion-worth of S-400 Triumph anti-aircraft missiles — “ideally suited to deal with the exact type of strike assets the United States would use in case of a conventional conflict with China.”

Because of the timing, the analysis does not even take into consideration the arsenal presented in early October at the Beijing parade celebrating the 70thanniversary of the People’s Republic.

That includes, among other things, the “carrier-killer” DF-21D, designed to hit warships at sea at a range of up to 1,500 km; the intermediate range “Guam Killer” DF-26; the DF-17 hypersonic missile; and the long-range submarine-launched and ship-launched YJ-18A anti-ship cruise missiles. Not to mention the DF-41 ICBM – the backbone of China’s nuclear deterrent, capable of reaching the U.S. mainland carrying multiple warheads.

Martyanov could not escape addressing the RAND Corporation, whose reason to exist is to relentlessly push for more money for the Pentagon – blaming Russia for “hybrid war” (an American invention)  even as it moans about the U.S.’s incapacity of defeating Russia in each and every war game. RAND’s war games pitting the U.S. and allies against Russia and China invariably ended in a “catastrophe” for the “finest fighting force in the world.”

Martyanov also addresses the S-500s, capable of reaching AWACS planes and possibly even capable of intercepting hypersonic non-ballistic targets. The S-500 and its latest middle-range state of the art air-defense system S-350 Vityaz will be operational in 2020.

His key takeway: “There is no parity between Russia and the United States in such fields as air-defense, hypersonic weapons and, in general, missile development, to name just a few fields – the United States lags behind in these fields, not just in years but in generations [italics mine].”

All across the Global South, scores of nations are very much aware that the U.S. economic “order” – rather disorder – is on the brink of collapse. In contrast, a cooperative, connected, rule-based, foreign relations between sovereign nations model is being advanced in Eurasia – symbolized by the merging of the New Silk Roads, or Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU), the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), the NDB (the BRICS bank).

The key guarantors of the new model are Russia and China. And Beijing and Moscow harbor no illusion whatsoever about the toxic dynamics in Washington. My recent conversations with top analysts in Kazakhstan last month and in Moscow last week once again stressed the futility of negotiating with people described – with  overlapping shades of sarcasm – as exceptionalist fanatics. Russia, China and many corners of Eurasia have figured out there are no possible, meaningful deals with a nation bent on breaking every deal.

Indispensable? No: Vulnerable

Martyanov cannot but evoke Putin’s speech to the Federal Assembly in February 2019, after the unilateral Washington abandonment of the INF treaty, clearing the way for U.S. deployment of intermediate and close range missiles stationed in Europe and pointed at Russia:

“Russia will be forced to create and deploy those types of weapons… against those regions from where we will face a direct threat, but also against those regions hosting the centers where decisions are taken on using those missile systems threatening us.”

Translation: American Invulnerability is over – for good.

In the short term, things can always get worse. At his traditional, year-end presser in Moscow, lasting almost four and a half hours, Putin stated that Russia is more than ready to “simply renew the existing New START agreement”, which is bound to expire in early 2021: “They [the U.S.] can send us the agreement tomorrow, or we can sign and send it to Washington.” And yet, “so far our proposals have been left unanswered. If the New START ceases to exist, nothing in the world will hold back an arms race. I believe this is bad.”

“Bad” is quite the euphemism. Martyanov prefers to stress how “most of the American elites, at least for now, still reside in a state of Orwellian cognitive dissonance” even as the real RMA “blew the myth of American conventional invincibility out of the water.”

Martyanov is one of the very few analysts – always from different parts of Eurasia — who have warned about the danger of the U.S. “accidentally stumbling” into a war against Russia, China, or both which is impossible to be won conventionally, “let alone through the nightmare of a global nuclear catastrophe.”

Is that enough to instill at least a modicum of sense into those who lord over that massive cash cow, the industrial-military-security complex? Don’t count on it.

consortiumnews.com

The views of individual contributors do not necessarily represent those of the Strategic Culture Foundation.

Assad Discusses Belt and Road, US Aggression, with China’s Phoenix Television

December 16, 2019Miri Wood

Syrian President Bashar Assad interview with Chinese Phoenix channel

In the third of recent international interviews, Syria’s President Bashar al Assad met with Phoenix Television, to discuss Belt and Road development projects with China’s Phoenix Television.

Given that Syria and China are both part of the original Silk Road that created a beautiful explosion of the development and trade that uplifted humanity, this interview has greater importance than the recent one with France’s Paris Match and that with Rai News 24, subsequently banned in Italy. Transcript courtesy of SANA.The video is also available on Bitchute: https://www.bitchute.com/video/f72MJVK16TLw/

Journalist:  Mr. President, on behalf of the Chinese television channel, Phoenix, I would like to thank you for giving us this interview.

President Assad:  You are welcome.

Question 1:  Mr. President, allow me to start straight away…  Syria has been able to make great achievements in fighting terrorism and large areas of Syrian territories have been restored.  Now, where will you begin the reconstruction of Syria?

President Assad:  In fact, we are not waiting for the end of a particular stage of the war in order to start reconstruction; reconstruction starts immediately after the liberation of any area, whether it is big or small, a village or a city.  Reconstruction has stages, the first of which is rebuilding the infrastructure, particularly in the areas of water and electricity.  Later, the state shifts its focus to schools, health centers and hospitals.

However, the most important stage in reconstruction, which comes later and constitutes the most serious challenge for us, is restoring daily activity especially economic livelihood.  This requires a great deal of effort and is affected by internal factors and the external environment – namely the embargo imposed by Western countries on Syria, which has a negative affect and slows the process down.  So, reconstruction has already started, but we need more investments from within and outside the country in order to scale it up.

Question 2:  And here we ask, Mr. President, what are the most important areas in which Syria needs the help of friendly countries, including China?

President Assad:  China specifically provides assistance in reconstruction particularly in the humanitarian domain.  As I mentioned earlier, life’s necessities are water and electricity and China is providing support in these areas through humanitarian grants which we apply to the areas most in need.

In the past, we did not engage in discussions with our friends – and at the forefront China, on reconstruction because the security situation did not allow us to initiate this process on a large scale.  Now, with the liberation of most areas, we have started discussions with a number of Chinese companies experienced in reconstruction.  As I mentioned, the most important stage and the greatest challenge is the full restoration of the economic cycle.  We would hope that Chinese companies start looking and studying the Syrian market which is improving quickly and constantly in terms of security.

It is essential that we start discussing investment opportunities, because it is well-known that rebuilding countries destroyed partially or totally by war is very profitable and has high returns-on-investment.  The process is not limited to loans or providing aid without any returns, it is a profitable investment in every sense of the word.

We have started talking to a number of Chinese companies on finding ways to evade sanctions and have access to the Syrian market.  They have shown an interest because the process is profitable, but investors and investment companies still have concerns about the way sanctions could impact them.  We have found certain formulas, which will not be disclosed of course, for them to enter the Syrian market safely and consequently contribute to the reconstruction process in Syria.

I would like to emphasize that this support is not limited to the economy; reconstruction ultimately means contributing to Syria’s stability for two reasons.  First, in the past two years, millions of Syrians have returned from abroad without finding sufficient job opportunities, which in itself is a factor that can be used by terrorists and outside powers.  Second, the reconciliation we have achieved in Syria, was in part with those who worked with the militants or the terrorists at a certain period.  They agreed to lay down their weapons and return to their normal lives – this return requires job opportunities.  So, the support from China and other friendly countries in Syria’s reconstruction, is as important as the military efforts to restoring stability in Syria, and striking and fighting terrorism.

crimes-against-peace
Central Homs rebuilt by Syrian government with help of China. Dedicated May 2015
crimes-against-peace
Old Clock in Central Homs bombed by US-funded “moderates.”

Question 3:  So, can we ask about the concrete measures that are being taken by the Syrian government in order to attract investors coming from China and other friendly countries?

President Assad:  The first thing an investor needs is security.  When we talk about a country coming out of war: we have achieved great milestones in this respect, but we are not completely finished.  The first question an investor asks is about security, this is what we are doing on a daily basis – fighting terrorists and liberating areas one by one.

As to the investment environment, there are requirements any investor would need, regardless of whether there is a war or not.  In this regard, we are focusing on two things:  the urgent, which is improving this investment environment by addressing necessary measures, like transparency, clarity on investors’ rights and obligations in the country and the legal or judicial aspects of their investments.  With all these issues, we are currently drawing up clear guidelines for investors.

However, the more important and comprehensive step is the investment law.  We have achieved significant progress in developing our investment law in-line with similar laws in many other countries around the world, thus ensuring it is based on international investment standards.

This law clearly identifies the guarantees given to investors concerning their investment in Syria:  legal guarantees, financial guarantees, exemptions clearly laid out, the tax situation for their investments – and any other aspects which constitute a guarantee to ensure that this investment is completely safe and profitable.  We are now in the final stages of this law and it will be passed soon.

Question 4:  Well, Mr. President, are there specific measures taken to ensure the existence of a safe investment environment which assure Chinese investors to come and not face any security problems?  Chinese investors are very concerned about this.

President Assad's interview with Chinese channel

President Assad:  That’s right, this is a serious challenge.  In fact, there are two challenges.  First, is the current lack of sufficient or effective financial channels between Syria and China for the transfer of money.  This is a real problem caused mainly by the sanctions.  A solution must be found if we want investors to come to Syria; a solution needs the engagement of relevant financial institutions from both countries, which requires discussion at a state level.  This is a major obstacle that needs to be overcome.

The second issue is the fear that many Chinese companies still have.  Today, there are companies which are willing to send experts to Syria.  This is important because many Syrian industries have started to show interest in the Chinese market, for example Syrian factories which buy their equipment from China.  Previously, Chinese experts had concerns about coming to Syria; this has recently started to improve, which is a new step.

However, when we talk about Chinese investment with Chinese capital, this needs more assurances; we must exert greater effort in this regard as a Syrian state and we hope the Chinese state with its relevant institutions – like the China Export and Credit Insurance Corporation, to encourage investors to come to Syria or at least to the areas which have become completely safe.  In this interview I confirm this and since you are in Syria, you are able to convey the true, unexaggerated picture about the extent of security achieved recently.

Intervention: So, the Syrian government guarantees security to all Chinese companies which might come to Syria, and that there is no problem in terms of safety?

President Assad:  Certainly.

Question 5:  Mr. President, I would like to ask you about the Belt and Road Initiative.  How do you see this initiative in general?

President Assad:  From a strategic perspective, it constitutes a worldwide transformation, a transformation in the nature of international relations.  If we look at the current situation in the world, we see that it is governed by Western attempts of domination, particularly on the part of the United States.  In the past during the Cold War, there was a period of conflict among states.  This conflict was based on the degree of dominance of each pole, particularly the Western pole over a group of states, in order to achieve its interests against the other pole.

Before that, World War II and the preceding period of full colonialization; states occupied other nations and wherever they did so, they defined the interests of those peoples under their domination.  In most cases there were no mutual interests; those peoples were enslaved by the more powerful states.

Today, we see that there is a superpower – China, trying to strengthen its influence in the world. But what kind of influence?  It is not the negative influence we have become accustomed to, but rather an influence in the sense of relying on friends and an influence based on mutual interests.  When we in Syria think about being part of the Silk Road and Syria is a small country – by international, geographic, demographic, economic and military standards…

Intervention: But historically, it is on the Silk Road.

President Assad:  It is exactly on the Silk Road, but what is more important is that this new approach is derived from history but is suitable for the 21st century; it is an approach built on parity.  When we are part of this Road, China treats us as equals and not as a superpower dealing with a small country.  There are mutual interests: it is beneficial to China, Syria and all the countries on this Road.

Another aspect, is that it is not limited to China’s bilateral relations with these countries but rather it is a relationship among all the countries on this axis.  So, it is a relationship of culture and civilization which ultimately leads to greater prosperity and investment, and the improvement of the social, economic and security conditions in these countries.  This means more stability in the world, which is contrary to what we have known in our modern and recent history.  This is what we see in the Silk Road (Belt and Road Initiative): stability and prosperity.

Question 6:  Syria, for its part, expressed its desire to take part in the Belt and Road Initiative.  Are there any developments in this regard?

President Assad:  During the previous period, and especially in the early years of the war due to the instability, it wasn’t our priority.  Perhaps because it didn’t make sense to talk about infrastructure when you are in a state of life or death, not as individuals but as a homeland, as a nation – Syria.

Now that we have overcome this stage and with the increased stability and the improvement of the economic cycle in Syria, we have started this year a serious dialogue with the Chinese government on how Syria can become part of the Silk Road (Belt and Road Initiative).  At present Syria is not on the route; there are different routes and Syria is not on them.  However, part of the initiative includes cultural, educational and scientific domains, and through the direct relationship between us and China, there has been a large number – which has increased in recent years – of scholarships offered to Syria that we are benefitting from.  The discussions have recently started concerning infrastructure, which is one of the most important elements and could make Syria a part of the Silk Road (Belt and Road Initiative) in the future.  We have proposed a number of projects only a few months ago.

Intervention:  In specific areas.

President Assad:  Of course.  In areas related to infrastructure, we have proposed around six projects to the Chinese government in line with the Belt and Road methodology and we are waiting for the Chinese government to determine which project, or projects, is in line with their thinking.  I think when this infrastructure is developed, with time, the Silk Road (Belt and Road Initiative) passing through Syria becomes a foregone conclusion, because it is not a road you only draw on a map.  Whilst it is true that historically the Silk Road passed through Syria, Iraq and this region, today however, this initiative takes into account the available infrastructure required for these routes.  Therefore, by establishing, strengthening, and developing this infrastructure, the Silk Road (Belt and Road Initiative) will pass through Syria in the future.

Manufacturing returns to Aleppo.
Rebuilt souks in Aleppo.

Question 7:  Do you think that Syria has now become ready, security-wise, to be part of this initiative?

President Assad:  Precisely, because we are ready security-wise, we have started discussions with our Chinese friends.  Before that, it wasn’t logically or practically possible to initiate such a dialogue.

Question 8:  Mr. President, I would like to ask you about the situation in America.  The United States holds presidential elections next year.  If Trump is not reelected for a new presidential term, would that failure, in your opinion, be useful to Syria or not?

President Assad:  In one of my interviews, I referred to Trump as being the best because he is the most transparent.  Of course, being the best doesn’t mean that he is good; but transparency is a good thing especially that when it comes to Western politics because we have become accustomed to masks which hide real Western intentions regarding the world.

However at the same time, we need to realise that the American political system is not a state system in the sense that we understand.  It is a system comprised of lobbies.  The rulers of America are the money lobbies, whether in the form of oil, weapons, banks, or others. These lobbies control all parts of American politics.

When Trump tried to be independent, albeit in a very limited degree, the attack against him started.  We are now witnessing the impeachment process aimed at bringing the President back into line with the lobbies.  All the presidents we have dealt with in Syria, from Nixon in 1974 – when relations with America were restored, up to Trump today are controlled by these lobbies.   No matter how much good will any president has, he cannot act outside the policies of these lobbies.  Therefore, betting on the change of presidents is misplaced and unrealistic and I don’t think that this American policy will change in the next few years.  That’s why during the election campaign, they say one thing and once they are elected, they do the complete opposite.  For those reasons in Syria we never consider which American president comes and which one leaves.

Intervention:  In this context, I pose the question: after the American president announced his intention to withdraw American forces from Syria, he suddenly backtracked and said that he will leave American troops in Syria in order to protect oil wells in the area east of the Euphrates.  So, he suddenly takes a decision, and then goes back on it.

President Assad:  Exactly, what you are saying confirms my point that the lobbies are the ones in charge of the policies.  It also confirms that this state is not governed by principles, but rather by the interests of those companies; if they have an interest in occupying the oil wells, stealing and selling them one way or another, then this state and this regime will act in favor of these companies, regardless of international law and regardless of American law.  They violate American laws for the sake of these companies because if they don’t make them happy, the president might be impeached.

Question 9:  Mr. President, what is the number of the remaining American troops on Syrian territories now?

President Assad:  The funny thing in American politics is that they announce the number between thousands and hundreds.  When they say thousands: it is to make the the pro-war lobby – particularly the arms companies, happy that they are in a state of war.  When they say hundreds: they are addressing the people who oppose the war by saying that they are only “a few hundred.”  In actual fact, both figures are incorrect for a simple reason; even if these figures were correct, they are based on the number of American soldiers and not the number of individuals fighting with the American army.  The American regime relies significantly in its wars on private firms like Blackwater in Iraq and others.  So even if they had a few hundred American soldiers in Syria, they still also have thousands – maybe tens of thousands, of civilians working for such companies and fighting in Syria.  That’s why it is difficult to know the real number, but it is certainly in the thousands.

Question 10:  The Americans say that they will protect oil wells in the east of Euphrates area in Syria; but in the end, what are they going to do with the oil produced from those wells?

President Assad:  Before the Americans, in the early days Jabhat al-Nusra used these wells; after ISIS came and drove out al-Nusra – or rather when ISIS merged with al-Nusra and they all became ISIS, it also stole and sold oil.  Where? It used to sell it through Turkey.  Now America is the one stealing oil and selling it to Turkey.  Turkey is an accomplice, with all these groups, in selling oil; it doesn’t have a problem – Turkey is ready.  The Turkish regime plays a direct part in selling the oil, previously with al-Nusra, later with ISIS and today with the Americans.

Erdogan thief أردوغان اللص
Erdogan: Syrian factories and economy thief.

Question 11:  In this situation, what is the impact on Syrian oil returns?

President Assad:  At a certain point at the beginning of the war, oil returns dropped to almost zero.  Today – after restoring a small number of wells during the past two years – we have a little amount of oil.  However, there is still limited positive impact on the Syrian economy from oil because most of the wells are either under the control of terrorist groups or groups acting outside the law and under American command.  So, the situation with the oil has not changed much.

Question 12:  Yes. So, how is the Syrian government going to face the question of American presence in the oil fields area east of the Euphrates?

President Assad:  First, the Americans rely on terrorists.   The terrorists must be attacked, this is a priority for us in Syria.  Striking the terrorists weakens the American presence one way or another.  At a later stage: there are Syrian groups acting under American command and these groups must be persuaded, one way or another and particularly through dialogue, that it is in all our interests in Syria that they embrace the homeland and join the Syrian state’s efforts to liberate all its territories.  At that point, it’s only natural that there will be no prospect for an American presence.  However, if they remained, they have their experience in Iraq to consider; there will be a popular resistance and they will pay the price.  Ultimately, the Americans will leave.

Question 13:  Mr. President, we have witnessed recently popular protests and riots in some neighboring countries, including Iraq, Lebanon, and even Iran.  In fact, these countries are considered, to a certain extent, Syria’s allies.  How do you view what happened and is happening in these countries?

President Assad:  Of course, neighboring countries have a direct impact on us because there are direct family and economic relations, as well as other types of relations that exist between any two neighboring countries.  At the same time, the Middle East as a whole is one area; the social fabric is similar, beliefs are similar and interests are intertwined even when these countries are not direct neighbors.

If we assume that the movements taking place aim to address the problems faced by the population and that they would lead to improving economic, political and other conditions in these countries, then I can say that the impact will be positive.

However, if we think logically, would the Western countries and in particular the United States, leave these countries to continue spontaneously?!  They would definitely interfere and would certainly exploit every movement in order to create chaos, because American policy – at least since 2000 and since the Iraq war – is to create chaos. This is what they called ‘constructive chaos;’ that is how George Bush and Condoleezza Rice referred to it.  This ‘constructive chaos’ which they are looking for, is a type of chaos that achieves their interests.  That’s why when this chaos takes place in our region, or in any other region, it will have a negative impact on us.  Chaos is contagious, it’s like a disease, it spreads; so, we can only hope that these events remain in the internal, spontaneous, popular framework.

Question 14:  Would it be possible to say that one should look for an American role wherever there is chaos?

President Assad:  This is self-evident and has become well-known throughout the world.  What is the difference between the policies of superpowers: America, and those who stand with it – like France and Britain, believe or think – which we see as wrong but they see as right – that the interests of these countries or this axis, lies in creating chaos; whereas Russia, China and most other countries believe that stability and international law are in the best interest of the world and its states, big or small.

Journalist:  Mr. President, thank you very much for availing us this opportunity and we wish you continued success and progress.

President Assad:  Thank you and I also thank Phoenix Television for this interview.

Journalist:  Thank you very much.

President Assad:  You are welcome.

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