Graveyard of Empires

By Eric Margolis

Global Research, July 21, 2021

EricMargolis.com 19 July 2021

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The US-led war in Afghanistan looks to be ending, and not a day too soon. America’s father, Benjamin Franklin, wisely wrote: ‘No good war; no bad peace.’

Yet for 20 years, the United States waged all-out war against this small, remote, impoverished state whose only weapons were old AK47 rifles and the boundless courage of its fierce people.

In my first book about Afghanistan, ‘War at the Top of the World,’ written after being in the field with the anti-Soviet ‘mujahidin’ warriors, I called them ‘the bravest men on earth.’ Now, some 21 years later, I repeat this title.

For the past two decades, the Afghan nationalist mujahidin have faced the full might of the US empire: waves of B-1 and B-52 heavy bombers; fleets of killer drones, constant air strikes from US airbases in Afghanistan, Central Asia and the Gulf; 300,000 US-financed Afghan mercenary troops; up to 120,000 US and NATO troops and other US-paid mercenaries; the brutal Communist-run Afghan secret police, regular government police, Tajik, Hazara and Uzbek militias, hit squads sent by the US and Britain, plus famine and disease. Use of torture by western forces was rampant.

All this to defend the US-installed Afghan puppet governments whose main business was protecting the nation’s growing opium trade which made Afghanistan the world’s largest exporter of opium/morphine that was processed into heroin. Another proud moment for Washington which, in the 1970’s had been up to its ears in Indochina’s opium trade, and later in Central America’s cocaine business.

Afghanistan was a war of lies, sustained by the powerful US and British media. President George W. Bush, a man of deep ignorance, launched this war to cover being caught sleeping by the 9/11 attacks. Bush blamed Osama bin Laden, former US ally, and Afghanistan’s Taliban government for 9/11, though the Afghans were likely not involved with it.

The only proof of bin Laden’s involvement was a number of fake videos that I believe were made by Afghanistan’s Communist-run intelligence service or its former KGB bosses. When I pointed out these videos were fakes, CNN blacklisted me from further broadcasting. So too did Canada’s CBC TV and the Sun chain after I warned Canadian troops were being sent to Afghanistan under false pretenses.

Officially, the US lost 31,376 dead and seriously wounded in Afghanistan; Canada lost 158 dead; Britain 456 dead; the Afghans god knows how many. Estimates range from, 100,000 to one million. Two million Afghans reportedly died during the decade-long Soviet occupation. Almost anything that moved was bombed.

The known cost for this useless war was 2 trillion US dollars, plus hundreds of millions in secret payments to hire ‘volunteers’ from US allies to fight in Afghanistan. This was almost all borrowed money hidden in the US federal debt.

What next? The US is trying to find a way to stay engaged in Afghanistan via air attacks from its bases in the Gulf and possibly new ones in Central Asia. The world’s premier military power simply cannot endure the humiliation of defeat in Afghanistan, particularly so by a bunch of Muslim mountain warriors. All those US and British ‘experts’ who championed the Afghan war are now hiding their faces, as they did after the Iraq debacle.

America’s war party is trying to find ways to keep the conflict going by raising phony alarms about girl’s schooling, translators and woman’s rights. But we hear nothing at all from these pro-war hypocrites about the murder, rape and dowry killing of thousands of women in India each year. How many misinformed Americans know that Taliban was a religious movement formed to stop the rape of Afghan women and brigandage during the bitter 1990’s civil war? I was there and saw it.

What next? As US power wanes, CIA will try to bolster separatist movements among Afghanistan’s Tajik and Uzbek minorities. Iran will arm and finance the Shia Hazara minority. Still Communist dominated Tajikistan and Uzbekistan will support their ethnic brethren in Afghanistan. Most important, India will intensify intrigues in Afghanistan where its powerful intelligence agency, RAW, is increasingly active.

Meanwhile Pakistan quietly supports Taliban which, like a quarter of Pakistanis, is of Pashtun ethnicity. China for once does not know what to do in Afghanistan: it wants to block expansion of Indian influence in the subcontinent but deeply fears militant Islam and its rising influence in Chinese-ruled Xinjiang, formerly Turkistan.

So, Americans may have not seen the last of Afghanistan, one of the greatest follies of US foreign policy. To paraphrase the great Talleyrand, the US war in Afghanistan ‘was worse than a crime, it was a mistake.’

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Featured image: An April 8, 2013 memorial service for Anne Smedinghoff at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. Anne was killed in an insurgent attack on Saturday April, 6. 2013 while traveling to donate books to a school in Qalat, Zabul province. (Photo by Musadeq Sadeq/U.S. State Department)

Today’s Taliban May Be Truly ‘New’, and the Shift Could Transform the Middle East

Today 20/07/2021

Source: Al Mayadeen

Most significantly, rather than having a tunnel vision limited to the narrow territory of Kandahar, the new young Taliban leaders want to play the strategic ‘Great Game’.

There is a subtle breeze blowing; it is too soon to call it ‘a wind’.  But a striking change has – and is – occurring.  Is it enough?  We should be rightly cautious; yet the Taliban that I knew, as it first coalesced – the brainchild of General Hamid Gul of Pakistan’s Intelligence service – is not the Taliban of today.  Perhaps we need, too, to avoid being locked into stale narratives. Suhail Shaheen, their spokesman, made this point when he lamented the “propaganda launched against us”, and by which he implied that the world should admit that the Taliban has indeed changed.

Several of these shifts are breathtaking: The Taliban were a narrow Pashtun revanchist movement, wholly Gulliverised by rigid tribal law, and influenced by intolerant Saudi Salafism and Pakistani Islamism.

What do we see today? The Taliban is engaging in extensive diplomacy with Iran. Tehran, it seems, is no longer apostate, no longer an ideological and theological foe.  The Taliban now seek to mesh Iran into their wider strategic interests. And more extraordinary, the Afghan Shi’i Hazaras – originally slaughtered and fearfully repressed by the Taliban – are now a component of the Taliban!  Then there is now also a ‘Tajik Taliban’, whereas before, the Taliban were a sworn enemy to the northern (mostly Tajik) forces of Ahmad Shah Massoud. Today’s Taliban is no longer a simple instrument of Pashtun hegemony – maybe up to 30% are Tajik, Uzbek, or Hazara. In other words, the kernel of inclusion is already in the soil.

Most significantly, rather than having a tunnel vision limited to the narrow territory of Kandahar, the new young Taliban leaders want to play the strategic ‘Great Game’. Their vision has broadened. They are saying as such, very forcibly to Moscow and Tehran: They will be inclusive; they will try to avoid major bloodshed, and they look to Moscow and Tehran as mediators for a new Afghan dispensation.  And there is something more: Saudi and Pakistan formerly controlled the money spigot. Now it is China.  For several years now, the Taliban has cultivated China – and China has cultivated the Taliban.

But we must keep our feet on the ground.  The Taliban is not autonomous. Both India and Pakistan wield weight in it, and the narco-gangs (the legacy of the CIA’s ill-considered earlier attempts to buy prominent Afghan warlords) may act as spoilers.

But the point here – aside from the caveats above – is, is this enough?  Enough for what? Enough to see the US out of the region, that is. There is here, a marked and unusual, constellation of interests.  All the principal actors want the US gone from the region.

It is not geo-strategic high science to understand that America’s withdrawal from Iraq and Syria will be contingent on what now happens in Afghanistan. If there is an unholy mess after August 31st, further US withdrawals from the region will become hugely more problematic in terms of domestic US opposition.  It is in the interest of the Taliban – as much as of Russia, Iran, and China – that Afghanistan does not now humiliate Biden through a descent into (very possible) bloody civil war.

A tough ‘ask’, but as Pepe Escobar points out, the SCO heavyweights, China and Russia, will be joined on July 14 in Dushanbe, by four Central Asian ‘stans’, plus India and Pakistan (Afghanistan and Iran attend as observers).

Wang Yi and Lavrov likely will tell Ghani’s FM, “in no uncertain terms, that there’s got to be a national reconciliation deal, with no American interference, and that the deal must include the end of the opium-heroin ratline”.  (Russia already has pocketed a firm promise from the Taliban that jihadism won’t be allowed to fester.  The endgame: loads of productive investment, Afghanistan is incorporated to Belt and Road and – later on – to the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU).

Why should the Taliban agree?  Well, they can be the facilitators of an American wider withdrawal (or, its’ spoiler). But, if they are patient – and agree to wait until US attention has moved on – they can allow Ghani to fall some months later – all in good time.  The Taliban might claim then to be the vanguard to a new more sophisticated, more inclusive Sunni Islamism that is aligned with a major Belt and Road infrastructure project.

How did this happen?  Professor Rabbani just might be smiling from his grave.  It seems the ‘new’ Taliban may have taken the Tajik leader’s political clothing.The opinions mentioned in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Al mayadeen, but rather express the opinion of its writer exclusively.

Turkey and Russia.. Central Asia after Afghanistan?

 ARABI SOURI 

Turkey and Russia Central Asia after Afghanistan

Ankara sees the American withdrawal from Afghanistan as its valuable opportunity to gain several footholds in this country neighboring the Central Asian republics of Turkish origin.

The following is the English translation from Arabic of the latest article by Turkish career journalist Husni Mahali he published in the Lebanese Al-Mayadeen news site Al-Mayadeen Net:

With the approach of the complete American withdrawal from Afghanistan, the competition intensified between Turkey and each of Russia, Iran, and other countries, with the aim of gaining more positions, not only in this country but through it in Central Asia in general as well. With the “Taliban” movement controlling more areas, and the Afghan forces fleeing en masse, Russian President Vladimir Putin called the President of Tajikistan, Emomali Rahman, and assured him of his country’s support for him in the face of possible developments in the Afghan crisis, after thousands of Afghan soldiers sought refuge in this neighboring country.

Last Tuesday, the Russian army announced the readiness of the S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems at the Russian base in Tajikistan, which in turn does not hide its concern about the possibility of an explosion in the security situation in Afghanistan, which may be exploited by the various jihadist groups, which some of them are present in Idlib and other areas of Syria, under the protection of Turkey, which prevents President Putin from any action that directly targets these groups.

President Putin also made a second phone call to his Uzbek counterpart Shaukat Mir Daif and discussed with him the details of coordination and joint cooperation to confront possible developments in Afghanistan.

In turn, Foreign Minister Lavrov said, “The main problem is the growing threat of terrorist attacks because the Taliban is behaving more aggressively. Also, the terrorist organization ISIS is strengthening its presence in the northern parts of Afghanistan near the border with Russia’s allies.”

And the Russian security announced the thwarting of many terrorist attacks planned by the militants of the Islamist “Tahrir Party”, which is mainly active in the autonomous republics within the borders of the Russian Federation, whose population is mostly Muslims, and their number exceeds 20 million.

Iran – which has a common border with Afghanistan with a length of 936 km, Pakistan with a length of 909 km, and Turkmenistan with a length of 992 km – are closely watching the Afghan developments, given the direct relationship of the matter to Iran’s national security. Last Tuesday, Tehran hosted a meeting between representatives of the “Taliban” and the Afghan government, in an attempt to achieve peaceful reconciliation between the two parties after the US withdrawal at the end of next month.

In turn, Ankara sees this withdrawal as its valuable opportunity to gain several footholds in this country neighboring the Central Asian republics of Turkish origin, namely Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. Defense Minister Hulusi Akar visited Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan at the end of last month, in a new attempt by Ankara to develop military relations with these two countries, and later with Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan, all of which constitute the backyard of Russia, which President Erdogan has previously challenged in Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Lithuania.

He also challenged it by lighting the green light for Atlantic maneuvers which included the British and Dutch provocations in the Black Sea, which Washington, with the support of Ankara, wants to turn into an Atlantic basin after the annexation of Georgia and Ukraine to the alliance. NATO membership mainly includes Turkey, Romania, and Bulgaria, which overlook the Black Sea, while Turkey controls the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits, which connect the Black Sea to both the Sea of Marmara and the Aegean.

Ankara signed several military cooperation agreements with Bulgaria and Romania and then sold its drones to Lithuania, Ukraine, Albania, and Azerbaijan, which achieved quick victories in their war with the Armenians in the Nagorno-Karabakh region thanks to Turkish support.

The information then spoke of Turkey’s efforts to establish several military bases in Azerbaijan, including a base near the Caspian Sea (also overlooked by Iran), which is rich in oil and gas. This may constitute a new and dangerous crisis between Ankara and Moscow, which previously expressed its dismay and rejection of Turkish bases in Azerbaijan in general, which President Erdogan will not care about, who did not care about Russian threats in Syria and Libya, and continued to implement what he had previously planned on the road back to the dreams of the Ottoman Empire.

This (Ottoman) empire had many reasons for entering into 16 fierce wars with the Russian Empire, of which it was defeated in 11. Many see President Putin as the heir of this empire, as Erdogan sees himself as the heir to the Ottoman Empire and its Islamist caliphate, which may make the possible Turkish dialogue, coordination, and cooperation with Kabul after the Taliban control it much easier, even if Turkey is the only Muslim country within NATO that has occupied Afghanistan under the leadership of the United States in 2001. After his meeting with President Biden, on the 14th of last month in Brussels, Erdogan announced that Turkey is ready to send additional forces to Afghanistan to protect the security of Kabul Airport and international facilities, which will be contributed by his ally, Sheikh Tamim, Emir of Qatar, who played and still is, an important role in the American reconciliation with the “Taliban”.

Al-Jazeera was the mouthpiece of the Taliban during its war with the “Great Satan” America, at a time when Osama bin Laden sent his tapes exclusively to the aforementioned channel before and after the American occupation and until his death in May 2011, that is, after the emergence of ISIS, and “Al-Nusra” in Syria and Iraq, which are the arenas for America and its new allies to settle scores with the resistance countries and for “Israel”.

All this explains the new US military position in Jordan, adjacent to Syria, Iraq, and “Israel”, after Washington transferred some of its forces from Qatar, where the Al-Udeid base is still located, which is the most important US base in the region. This base was and will remain, the headquarters of the Central Command of the US Air Force in the Middle East, and it houses 100 warplanes used by US forces against Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.

In all cases, and whatever the result of the Turkish moves in Afghanistan, through it in the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea and all the countries that overlook them or close to them, it has become clear that the Turkish President was, and will remain, a source of concern for President Putin, especially if Ankara succeeds in its relationship with the Taliban. Everyone was surprised by its (Taliban) agreement with President Erdogan, who declared himself “the protector of Islam and Muslims.”

In turn, the Taliban leaders, with Qatari mediation, might consider cooperating with him, especially if he proves his authority in the Central Asian republics of Turkish origin, an authority that the late President Turgut Ozal sought after fall and disintegration of the Soviet Union. Erdogan sees himself as Ozal’s successor and before him Adnan Menderes, who made Turkey “a fish on American hook” for the period 1950-1960.

Erdogan and others did not ignore the strategic location of Afghanistan, which is rich in gold, iron, cobalt, copper, uranium, and rare minerals, including niobium and molybdenum, which are invested by Chinese companies that control the extraction and export of most of the world’s rare minerals everyone needs in sensitive industries, including warplanes and missiles.

In the end, the bet remains on the possible policies of the Taliban. If they remain on their approach as they were 20 years ago, history will repeat itself, and everyone will return to their interests in the extremist Islamist movements that have become more famous for their brutality after the so-called “Arab Spring,” especially in Syria. Libya, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, and the extension of these countries in Africa, the Middle East, Bahrain, the Red Sea and the Mediterranean, and the Gulf region.

Erdogan has proven that he has a long experience in all of them after he succeeded in establishing and developing distinguished relations with all Islamist movements, both political and armed, many of whose leaders had previously been present and fought in Afghanistan. These leaders had a relationship with “Al-Qaeda”, and later “Taliban”, which seems clear that, with its next actions, it will decide the fate and future of Afghanistan, and all its neighboring countries as well, most of which are within the borders of Russia’s backyard.

This may be the “hidden satanic” reason for Washington’s decision to withdraw, which wants Russia to afflict Afghanistan again as it afflicted it during the Soviet occupation, and Turkey was at the time on the neutral, but this time it will be a direct party, as is the case on many fronts, which it proved with the transfer of mercenaries from Syria to Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh. Now, some expect it to transfer their likes to Afghanistan, which is what America might do by transferring what it has of ISIS detainees in Syria and Iraq to Afghanistan!

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The long and winding multipolar road

July 01, 2021

The West’s ‘rules-based order’ invokes rulers’ authority; Russia-China say it’s time to return to law-based order

The long and winding multipolar road

By Pepe Escobar with permission and first posted at Asia Times

We do live in extraordinary times.

On the day of the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), President Xi Jinping, in Tiananmen square, amid all the pomp and circumstance, delivered a stark geopolitical message:

The Chinese people will never allow foreign forces to intimidate, oppress or subjugate them. Anyone who tries to do this will find themselves on a collision course with a large steel wall forged by more than 1.4 billion Chinese.

I have offered a concise version of the modern Chinese miracle – which has nothing to do with divine intervention, but “searching truth from facts” (copyright Deng Xiaoping), inspired by a solid cultural and historical tradition.

The “large steel wall” evoked by Xi now permeates a dynamic “moderately prosperous society” – a goal achieved by the CCP on the eve of the centennial. Lifting over 800 million people out of poverty is a historical first – in every aspect.

As in all things China, the past informs the future. This is all about xiaokang – which may be loosely translated as “moderately prosperous society”.

The concept first appeared no less than 2,500 years ago, in the classic Shijing (“The Book of Poetry”). The Little Helmsman Deng, with his historical eagle eye, revived it in 1979, right at the start of the “opening up” economic reforms.

Now compare the breakthrough celebrated in Tiananmen – which will be interpreted all across the Global South as evidence of the success of a Chinese model for economic development – with footage being circulated of the Taliban riding captured T-55 tanks across impoverished villages in northern Afghanistan.

History Repeating: this is something I saw with my own eyes over twenty years ago.

The Taliban now control nearly the same amount of Afghan territory they did immediately before 9/11. They control the border with Tajikistan and are closing in on the border with Uzbekistan.

Exactly twenty years ago I was deep into yet another epic journey across Karachi, Peshawar, the Pakistan tribal areas, Tajikistan and finally the Panjshir valley, where I interviewed Commander Masoud – who told me the Taliban at the time were controlling 85% of Afghanistan.

Three weeks later Masoud was assassinated by an al-Qaeda-linked commando disguised as “journalists” – two days before 9/11. The empire – at the height of the unipolar moment – went into Forever Wars on overdrive, while China – and Russia – went deep into consolidating their emergence, geopolitically and geoeconomically.

We are now living the consequences of these opposed strategies.

That strategic partnership

President Putin has just spent three hours and fifty minutes answering non-pre-screened questions, live, from Russian citizens during his annual ‘Direct Line’ session. The notion that Western “leaders” of the Biden, BoJo, Merkel and Macron kind would be able to handle something even remotely similar, non-scripted, is laughable.

The key takeaway: Putin stressed US elites understand that the world is changing but still want to preserve their dominant position. He illustrated it with the recent British caper in Crimea straight out of a Monty Python fail, a “complex provocation” that was in fact Anglo-American: a NATO aircraft had previously conducted a reconnaissance flight. Putin: “It was obvious that the destroyer entered [Crimean waters] pursuing military goals.”

Earlier this week Putin and Xi held a videoconference. One of the key items was quite significant: the extension of the China-Russia Treaty of Good Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation, originally signed 20 years ago.

A key provision: “When a situation arises in which one of the contracting parties deems that…it is confronted with the threat of aggression, the contracting parties shall immediately hold contacts and consultations in order to eliminate such threats.”

This treaty is at the heart of what is now officially described – by Moscow and Beijing – as a “comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for a new era”. Such a broad definition is warranted because this is a complex multi-level partnership, not an “alliance”, designed as a counterbalance and viable alternative to hegemony and unilateralism.

A graphic example is provided by the progressive interpolation of two trade/development strategies, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU), which Putin and Xi again discussed, in connection with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which was founded only three months before 9/11.

It’s no wonder that one of the highlights in Beijing this week were trade talks between the Chinese and four Central Asia “stans” – all of them SCO members.

“Law” and “rule”

The defining multipolarity road map has been sketched in an essay by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that deserves careful examination.

Lavrov surveys the results of the recent G7, NATO and US-EU summits prior to Putin-Biden in Geneva:

These meetings were carefully prepared in a way that leaves no doubt that the West wanted to send a clear message: it stands united like never before and will do what it believes to be right in international affairs, while forcing others, primarily Russia and China, to follow its lead. The documents adopted at the Cornwall and Brussels summits cemented the rules-based world order concept as a counterweight to the universal principles of international law with the UN Charter as its primary source. In doing so, the West deliberately shies away from spelling out the rules it purports to follow, just as it refrains from explaining why they are needed.

As he dismisses how Russia and China have been labeled as “authoritarian powers” (or “illiberal”, according to the favorite New York-Paris-London mantra), Lavrov smashes Western hypocrisy:

While proclaiming the ‘right’ to interfere in the domestic affairs of other countries for the sake of promoting democracy as it understands it, the West instantly loses all interest when we raise the prospect of making international relations more democratic, including renouncing arrogant behavior and committing to abide by the universally recognized tenets of international law instead of ‘rules’.

That provides Lavrov with an opening for a linguistic analysis of “law” and “rule”:

In Russian, the words “law” and “rule” share a single root. To us, a rule that is genuine and just is inseparable from the law. This is not the case for Western languages. For instance, in English, the words “law” and “rule” do not share any resemblance. See the difference? “Rule” is not so much about the law, in the sense of generally accepted laws, as it is about the decisions taken by the one who rules or governs. It is also worth noting that “rule” shares a single root with “ruler,” with the latter’s meanings including the commonplace device for measuring and drawing straight lines. It can be inferred that through its concept of “rules” the West seeks to align everyone around its vision or apply the same yardstick to everybody, so that everyone falls into a single file.

In a nutshell: the road to multipolarity will not follow “ultimatums”. The G20, where the BRICS are represented, is a “natural platform” for “mutually accepted agreements”. Russia for its part is driving a Greater Eurasia Partnership. And a “polycentric world order” implies the necessary reform of the UN Security Council, “strengthening it with Asian, African and Latin American countries”.

Will the Unilateral Masters ply this road? Over their dead bodies: after all, Russia and China are “existential threats”. Hence our collective angst, spectators under the volcano.

Eurasian Economic Union Enjoying Broader Cooperation

By Vladimir Odintsov
Source: New Eastern Outlook

EUR8311

Noteworthy events to do with increased integration within the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) took place in the first half of December 2020.

On December 7, representatives of the EAEU and China met during the special negotiation session called “Towards a bigger Eurasia via the integration of nations, businesses and people”, which was organized by the Eurasian Development Bank (EDB) and the Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC) within the framework of the First Eurasian Congress. The head of the PRC delegation, Deputy Minister of Commerce Yu Jianhua, made a number of fairly interesting proposals aimed at expanding cooperation between China and the EAEU member states. For instance, he suggested adding an economic dimension (a feasibility study) to it so that a free trade zone agreement between the PRC and the EAEU could be implemented. Such a deal will, unquestionably, promote all aspects of mutual cooperation, strengthen the foundations of global trade, foster bilateral dialogue and lead to more unified standards. A joint commission for implementing the agreement between the EAEU and China will facilitate the adoption of measures that will ease global trade involving e-commerce to ensure an uninterrupted supply of goods.

Participants at the joint session discussed another proposal made by the Chinese delegation regarding the creation of a steel caravan of the Eurasian continent in order to establish joint logistics and warehouse hubs comprising networks of cross-border railways, which will cover the entire Eurasia with trade routes for cargo transportations, thus encouraging the construction of economic corridors, similar to the New Eurasian Land Bridge. Yu Jianhua emphasized that to ensure the trade ties between the PRC and the EAEU continued to strengthen and all the participants of the initiative derived benefits from the process of integration, it was important to facilitate the smooth functioning of green transport corridors and to streamline customs procedures at relevant border harbors.

At present, Central Asia has the necessary infrastructure on the basis of which a broad range of opportunities for continent-wide collaboration could be created. That is why, the session participants actively discussed all the proposals on increased integration. Kairat Kelimbetov, the head of Astana International Financial Centre and the Chairman of the Agency for Strategic Planning and Reforms, pointed out that it would be easy to create a framework for cooperation within the nations of the region, which would, for instance, provide access to sea routes to those countries (such as Kazakhstan) that did not have it.

During the session, Vladimir Chizhov, the Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the European Union (EU), stated that there could be a reshuffle among the global players. Such processes occur naturally, which means that the ever-expanding and transforming Greater Eurasia may become one the new global centers as a result.

Another important event in the region, from the point of view of further Eurasian integration, was the online meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council (SEEC) on December 11, which not only leaders of the 5 core member-states took part in but so did heads of observer states (Moldova) and of nations vying for such a status (Uzbekistan and Cuba). The agenda included more than 20 issues that directly dealt with the resolution of outstanding integration-related problems and the provision of economic support to member-states still facing socio-economic hardships, such as Armenia and Kyrgyzstan.

During the SEEC discussion of the points tied to integration, the participants backed an initiative on strategic directions for promoting EAEU integration by 2025, focusing on completing the creation of a common market for goods, services, capital, workers as well as an integrated digital environment. Essentially, the aim is to stimulate the growth of member states’ economies, and to improve the well-being and quality of life of these nations’ inhabitants.

Another important achievement of the recent SEEC video conference, aside from the approval of strategic directions to encourage integration by year 2025, was Uzbekistan and Cuba obtaining observer status within the EAEU.

According to Article 109 of the Treaty on the Eurasian Economic Union, observer states can, upon invitation, attend meetings of EAEU bodies but without the right to participate in decision-making processes and receive any documents approved by the Union that are not confidential in nature.

Incidentally, the EAEU began its life on January 1, 2015, and its member states include Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia. In year 2020, Belarus has the chairmanship within the EAEU. Moldova has been an observer state within the organization since May 2018. The EAEU is an economic union only.

Uzbekistan has been fostering ties with its member states for a long time. As a result of these joined efforts, bilateral trade worth $4.5 billion in 2016 increased two-fold by the end of 2019 to more than $9 billion. In fact, transactions with the Eurasian Economic Union account for one third of all of Uzbekistan’s external trade in value, while their share in the agricultural sector exceeds 75%.

Uzbekistan gaining the observer status with the EAEU was the result of ongoing policies, pursued by the its government and its President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, aimed at promoting an open national economy and at utilizing the country’s transport corridors and logistics networks. Hence, at present, the common EAEU market with its 180 million consumers is increasingly becoming the target for products from Uzbekistan, and of all of this is, in turn, laying the groundwork for closer collaboration and mutual cooperation within Eurasia. The observer status will enable Uzbekistan to build up capabilities in its economy to better meet the demands of the EAEU common market and to increase the share within it taken up by Uzbek manufacturers and suppliers.

Similarly, Cuba also became an observer state in the EAEU. Thus, the organization is expanding not only its economic but also its geopolitical reach. This new status within the Eurasian Economic Union allows Cuba to foster closer economic ties and cooperation not only with Russia and Belarus (which it already collaborates with) but also with other EAEU member states. Cuba needs to increase revenues it earns from its global exports, particularly, from the products and services of the economy’s medical sector. Sugar production is a key sphere of Cuba’s economy, and sugar cane is a crucial agricultural commodity. Recently, the Cuban economy has been experiencing a two-fold crisis: due to the COVID-19 pandemic and tightening US sanctions. In 2020, the nation’s economy will have contracted for the first time in 26 years. Its government has put forward an economic strategy focused on opening up the country to international travelers, stimulating Cuba’s food production sector and introducing economic reforms faster. Hence, a closer relationship between this nation and the EAEU could, in the opinion of the Cuban government, help, in large part, to resolve the country’s current economic woes.

Vladimir Odintsov, a political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

AFTER DEFEAT IN SYRIA ISIS MILITANTS’ INTERESTS DRIFT TO CIS STATES: RUSSIAN INTERIOR MINISTRY

Source

29.03.2019

After Defeat In Syria ISIS Militants’ Interests Drift To CIS States: Russian Interior Ministry

ILLUSTRATIVE IMAGE: Valery Sharufulin/TASS

The news agency TASS reports (source):

After the defeat in Syria the interests of the leaders of the Islamic State are drifting towards the CIS, the chief of the extremism resistance directorate of Russia’s Interior Ministry, Oleg Ilyinykh, said on Friday.

“Islamic State militants are hatching plots for creating a world terrorist network of sleeper cells, capable of demonstrating their ability to stage terrorist attacks around the world. The Caliphate’s strategic defeat in Syria and Iraq inevitably shifts the interests of the Islamic State to Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Armenia,” he said.

Ilyinykh noted the growing strength of the Taliban and IS militants in the northern provinces of Afghanistan bordering on the CIS countries and Central Asia.

“These processes are becoming particularly dangerous because several thousand CIS citizens had been fighting for the Islamic State in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan and now they have plans for returning to their home countries. With this in mind we focus attention on cooperation with partners within the SCO, the CIS and BRCS,” Ilyinykh said.

‘Defeated ISIS’ Carries Out New Deadly Attacks Against US-Backed Forces

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