The Second Coming of the Heartland

August 14, 2022

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

It’s tempting to visualize the overwhelming collective West debacle as a rocket, faster than free fall, plunging into the black void maelstrom of complete socio-political breakdown.

The End of (Their) History turns out to be a fast-forward historical process bearing staggering ramifications: way more profound than mere self-appointed “elites” – via their messenger boys/girls – dictating a Dystopia engineered by austerity and financialization: what they chose to brand as a Great Reset and then, major fail intervening, The Great Narrative.

Financialization of everything means total marketization of Life itself. In his latest book, No-Cosas: Quiebras del Mundo de Hoy (in Spanish, no English translation yet), the foremost German contemporary philosopher (Byung-Chul Han, who happens to be Korean), analyzes how Information Capitalism, unlike industrial capitalism, converts also the immaterial into merchandise: “Life itself acquires the form of merchandise (…) the difference between culture and commerce disappears. Institutions of culture are presented as profitable brands.”

The most toxic consequence is that “total commercialization and mercantilization of culture had the effect of destroying the community (…) Community as merchandise is the end of community.”

China’s foreign policy under Xi Jinping proposes the idea of a community of shared future for mankind, essentially a geopolitical and geoeconomic project. Yet China still has not amassed enough soft power to translate that culturally, and seduce vast swathes of the world into it: that especially concerns the West, for which Chinese culture, history and philosophies are virtually incomprehensible.

In Inner Asia, where I am now, a revived glorious past may offer other instances of “shared community”. A glittering example is the Shaki Zinda necropolis in Samarkand.

Afrasiab – the ancient settlement, pre-Samarkand – had been destroyed by the Genghis Khan hordes in 1221. The only building that was preserved was the city’s main shrine: Shaki Zinda.

Much later, in the mid-15th century, star astronomer Ulugh Beg, himself the grandson of Turkic-Mongol “Conqueror of the World” Timur, unleashed no less than a Cultural Renaissance: he summoned architects and craftsmen from all corners of the Timurid empire and the Islamic world to work into what became a de facto creative artistic lab.

The Avenue of 44 Tombs at Shaki Zinda represents the masters of different schools harmoniously creating a unique synthesis of styles in Islamic architecture.

The most remarkable décor at Shaki Zinda are stalactites, hung in clusters in the upper parts of portal niches. An early 18th century traveler described them as “magnificent stalactites, hanging like stars above the mausoleum, make it clear about the eternity of the sky and our frailty.” Stalactites in the 15th century were called “muqarnas”: that means, figuratively, “starry sky”.

The Sheltering (Community) Sky

The Shaki Zinda complex is now at the center of a willful push by the Uzbekistan government to restore Samarkand to its former glory. The centerpiece, trans-historical concepts are “harmony” and “community” – and that reaches way beyond Islam.

As a sharp contrast, the inestimable Alastair Crooke has illustrated the death of Eurocentrism alluding to Lewis Carroll and Yeats: only through the looking glass we can see the full contours of the tawdry spectacle of narcissistic self-obsession and self-justification offered by “the worst”, still so “full of passionate intensity”, as depicted by Yeats.

And yet, unlike Yeats, the best now do not “lack all conviction”. They may be few, ostracized by cancel culture, but they do see the “rough beast, its hour come out at last, slouching towards…” Brussels (not Jerusalem) “to be born”.

This unelected gaggle of insufferable mediocrities – from von der Leyden and Borrell to that piece of Norwegian wood Stoltenberg – may dream they live in the pre-1914 era, when Europe was at the political center. Yet now not only “the center cannot hold” (Yeats) but Eurocrat-infested Europe has been definitely engulfed by the maelstrom, an irrelevant political backwater seriously flirting with reversion to 12th century status.

The physical aspects of the Fall – austerity, inflation, no hot showers, freezing to death to support neo-Nazis in Kiev – has been preceded, and no Christianized imagery need apply, by the fires of sulphur and brimstone of a Spiritual Fall. The transatlantic masters of those parrots posing as “elites” could never come up with any idea to sell to the Global South centered on harmony and much less “community”.

What they sell, via their Unanimous Narrative, actually their take on “We Are the World”, is variations of “you will own nothing and be happy”. Worse: you will have to pay for it – dearly. And you have no right to dream of any transcendence – irrespective if you’re a follower of Rumi, the Tao, shamanism or Prophet Muhammad.

The most visible shock troops of this reductionist Western neo-nihilism – obscured by the fog of “equality”, “human rights” and “democracy” – are the thugs being swiftly denazified in Ukraine, sporting their tattoos and pentagrams.

The dawn of a new Enlightenment

The Collective West Self-Justification Show staged to obliterate its ritualized suicide offers no hint of transcending sacrifice implied in a ceremonial seppuku. All they do is to wallow in the adamant refusal to admit they could be seriously mistaken.

How would anyone dare to deride the set of “values” derived from the Enlightenment? If you don’t prostrate yourself in front of this glittering cultural altar, you’re just a barbarian set to be slandered, law-fared, canceled, persecuted, sanctioned and – HIMARS to the rescue – bombed.

We still do not have a post-Tik Tok Tintoretto to depict the collective West’s multi-wallowing in Dante-esque chambers of pop Hell. What we do have, and must endure, day after day, is the kinetic battle between their “Great Narrative”, or narratives, and pure and simple reality. Their obsession with the need for virtual reality to always “win” is pathological: after all the only activity they excel in is manufacturing fake reality. Such a pity that Baudrillard and Umberto Eco are not among us anymore to unmask their tawdry shenanigans.

Does that make any difference across vast swathes of Eurasia? Of course not. We just need to keep up with the dizzying succession of bilateral meetings, deals, and progressive interaction of BRI, SCO, EAEU, BRICS+ and other multilateral organizations to get a glimpse of how the new world-system is being configured.

In Samarkand, surrounded by mesmerizing instances of Timurid art coupled with a development boom that brings to mind the East Asian miracle of the early 1990s, it’s plain to see how the heart of the Heartland is back with a vengeance – and is bound to dispatch the pleonexia-afflicted West to the swamp of Irrelevancy.

I leave you with a psychedelic sunset facing the Registan, at the razor’s edge of a new sort of Enlightenment that is leading the Heartland towards a reality-based version of Shangri-La, privileging harmony, tolerance and most of all, the sense of community.

Samarkand at the crossroads: from Timur to the BRI and SCO

August 11, 2022

From its ancient Silk Road role to China’s BRI project, Uzbekistan is set to remain an important geoeconomic hub in Central Asia

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

SAMARKAND – The ultimate Silk Road city, set at an unrivaled Eurasian trade crossroads, is the ideal spot from which to examine where the New Silk Roads adventure is heading next. For starters, the upcoming summit of heads of state of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) will take place in Samarkand in mid-September.

The ancient city dazzled Alexander the Great in 329 BC and made the Tang dynasty crazy for its golden peaches. This was a cosmopolitan hub that embraced Zoroastrian fire-worship and even flirted with Nestorian Christianity, until Arab conquerors under the banner of the Prophet arrived in 712 and changed everything forever.

In the 13th century, the Mongols irrupted on the scene with the proverbial bang. But then Timur, the Turco-Mongol conqueror who founded the Timurid Dynasty in the late 14th century, set to embellish Samarkand into a resplendent diamond, drawing artists from across his vast empire – Persia, Syria, India – to make it “less a home than a marvelous trophy.”

And yet, ever the quintessential nomad, Timur lived in swank tents and gardens on the outskirts of his urban jewel.

The Silk Road trade frenzy died down in the 16th century after the Europeans finally “discovered” their own Maritime Silk Road.

Russia conquered Samarkand in 1868. It was, briefly, the capital of the Socialist Republic of Uzbekistan before the transfer to Tashkent and then, up to 1991, mired into invisibility. Now the city is all set to revive its ancient glory, as a key hub of the Eurasian Century.

What would Timur make of all this?

“Conqueror of the World”

Timur was born in a little village outside of Samarkand, into a clan of Turkicized Mongols, only a century after the death of Genghis Khan. Hit by arrows in his right shoulder and hip when he was only 27, he got slapped with the pejorative Persian nickname Timur-i-Leme (“Timur the Lame”), later Latinized into Tamerlane.

Just like with Genghis, you wouldn’t want to pick a fight with Timur. He single-mindedly set out to become “Conqueror of the World,” and delivered in droves.

Timur defeated the Ottoman Sultan Beyazid in Ankara (don’t mention that to Turks); destroyed the Golden Horde in the Kazakh steppes; bombed Christian armies in Smyrna (today’s Izmir) with cannonballs made of severed heads.

In Baghdad in 1401 – they still remember it, vividly, as I heard it in 2003 – his soldiers killed 90,000 residents and cemented their heads in 120 towers; he ruled over all trade routes from Delhi to Damascus; he evoked poetry by Edgar Allan Poe, drama by Christopher Marlowe, opera by Vivaldi.

The zombified, woke, collective west would deride Timur as the proverbial autocrat, or a “dictator” like Vladimir Putin. Nonsense. He was Islamicized and Turkicized – but never religiously fanatic like today’s Salafi-jihadis. He was illiterate, but spoke Persian and Turkic fluently. He always showed enormous respect for scholars. This is a nomad always on the move who supervised the creation of some of the most dazzling urban architecture in the history of the world.

Every night at 9 pm, in front of the psychedelic lighting enveloping the architectural treasure of the Registan (“sandy place”), originally a bazaar in a trade crossroads, amidst the blurred conversations of countless Samarkand families, Timur’s words still resonate: “Let he who doubts our power look upon our buildings.”

Timur died in 1405 in Otrar – today in southern Kazakhstan – when he was planning the Mother of All Campaigns: the invasion of Ming China. This is one of the greatest “what ifs” in history. Would Timur have been able to Islamicize Confucianist China? Would have he made his mark just like the Mongols who are still very much present in the Russian collective unconscious?

All these questions swirl in our mind when we are face to face with Timur’s tomb – a stunning slab of black jade in the Gur-i-Mir, actually a very modest shrine, surrounded by his spiritual adviser Mir Sayid Barakah and family members such as his grandson, star astronomer Ulug Beg.

From Timur to Putin and Xi

Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin are no Timur material, of course, much less current Uzbek President Shavkat Mirzoyoyev.

What’s striking now, as I’ve seen on the ground in bustling Tashkent and then on the road to Samarkand, is how Mirzoyoyev is skillfully profiting from both Russia and China via his multi-vector policy to configure Uzbekistan as a Central Asian – and Eurasian – powerhouse by the 2030s.

The government is heavily investing in a massive Center of Islamic Civilization in Tashkent, nearby the landmark Khast-Imam square, home to the deeply influential al-Bukhari Islamic Institute, and is also building a whole new business complex in the outskirts of Samarkand for the SCO summit.

The Americans have invested in a business center in Tashkent complete with a brand new slick Hilton attached; only a block away the Chinese are building their own version. The Chinese will also be involved in the construction of an essential New Silk Road transportation corridor: the $5 billion Pakistan-Afghanistan-Uzbekistan Pakafuz railway, also known as Trans-Afghan Railway.

Uzbekistan has not bought into the idea – at least not yet – of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), which calls for free movement of goods, people, capital and services. The country privileges its own autonomy. Russia accepts this because bilateral relations with Tashkent remain strong, and there’s no way the latter will get closer to NATO.

So from Moscow’s perspective, getting cozier with post-Islam Karimov Uzbekistan remains a must, at the same time without coercing it to join the Eurasia integration institutions. That may come in time; there’s no rush. Russia enjoys huge approval ratings in Uzbekistan – even though not as high as in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.

As many as 5 million migrants from the Central Asian “stans” are working in Russia – mostly Uzbeks and Tajiks, even as they now also seek jobs in the Persian Gulf, Turkey and South Korea.

As one of its top “secured” spheres of influence, Moscow regards Central Asian states as critical partners, part of a consolidated Eurasian vision which is in total contrast with the western borderlands and the fast disintegrating Ukraine.

All roads lead to BRI

The Chinese angle, defined by its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), is way more nuanced. For all of Central Asia, BRI equals infrastructure development and integration in global trade supply chains.

Uzbekistan, like its neighbors, linked its national development strategy to BRI under President Mirziyoyev: that’s inbuilt in the official “Strategy of Actions in Five Priority Directions of Development.” Uzbekistan is also an official member of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

China’s relationship with Central Asia draws of course on the Soviet era, but also carefully takes into account territorial divisions and mind-boggling border issues.

The collapse of the USSR saw, for instance, a river, an irrigation ditch, a bunch of trees or even a roadside brutalist monument suddenly converted into external borders of new sovereign nations – with unpredictable results.

In the Ancient Silk Road era this made no sense. Timur conquered everything from northern India to the Black Sea. Now, it’s hard to find somebody in Tashkent to take you across the border to Turkestan via Shymkent – both now in southern Kazakhstan – and back, with minimum border hassle. Sultan Erdogan wants to bolster Turkestan’s reputation by naming it the capital of all Turkic peoples (that’s hugely debatable, but another long story).

And we’re not even talking about the hotbed of the Ferghana valley, still prone to the fanatical jihadi influence of outfits of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) kind.

All that was festering for three decades as each of these new Central Asian nations had to articulate a distinct national ideology coupled with a vision for a progressive, secular future. Under Karimov, Uzbekistan swiftly recovered Timur as its definitive national hero and heavily invested in reviving all the glory of the Timurid past. In the process, Karimov could not miss the opportunity of expertly styling himself as the modern Timur in a business suit.

Back to the geoeconomic limelight

The SCO shows how China’s approach to Central Asia is defined by two central vectors: security and the development of Xinjiang. Stronger regional states such as Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan deal with Beijing, as with Moscow, via their carefully calibrated multi-vector foreign policy.

Beijing’s merit has been to expertly position itself as a provider of public goods, with the SCO functioning as a top lab in terms of multilateral cooperation. This will be bolstered even more at the Samarkand summit next month.

The destiny of what is in effect Inner Eurasia – the heartland of the Heartland – is inescapable from a subtle, very complex, multilevel competition between Russia and China.

It’s crucial to remember that in his landmark 2013 speech in Nur-Sultan, then Astana, when the New Silk Roads were formally launched, Xi Jinping stressed that China stands “ready to enhance communication and coordination with Russia and all Central Asian countries to strive to build a region of harmony.”

These were not idle words. The process involves a conjunction of BRI and the SCO – which has progressively evolved into a mechanism of economic cooperation as much as security.

In the 2012 SCO summit, then Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Cheng Gouping had already been adamant: China would absolutely not allow the unrest that happened in West Asia and North Africa to happen in Central Asia.

Moscow could have said the exact same thing. The recent (failed) coup in Kazakhstan was swiftly dealt with by the six-member, Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).

China is increasingly invested in using the SCO to turbo-charge a geoeconomic overdrive – even as some of its proposals, such as establishing a free trade zone and a joint SCO fund and development bank still have not materialized. That may eventually happen, as in the wake of western Russophobic sanctions hysteria the SCO – and BRI – progressively converge with the EAEU.

At every SCO summit, Beijing’s loans are gleefully accepted by Central Asian actors. Samarkand next month may herald a qualitative convergence leap: Russia and China even more involved in bringing back Inner Asia to the geoeconomic limelight.

BRICS is turning into a collective “Non-West”

June 30, 2022

Elena PaninaDirector of the RUSSTRAT Institute – Machine Translated and cleaned up from the Russian original.

MOSCOW, June 29, 2022, RUSSTRAT Institute.

BRICS expansion has been discussed for a long time. It is significant that the last summit on June 24 in the BRICS Plus format was attended by such countries as Algeria, Argentina, Cambodia, Egypt, Fiji, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Senegal, Thailand and Uzbekistan.

At the same time, the fact that the first applications for membership were submitted by Argentina and Iran, which did not take part in the BRICS Plus meeting, does not seem accidental.

Initially, the BRICS group was created as an association of the largest developing economies in the world. However, in the modern world, it is political decisions that determine the nature of the development of economic ties. It is quite logical that the first countries with a pronounced geopolitical sovereignty and having their own geopolitical scores with the collective West are preparing to join the expanded BRICS.

Iran is already almost two and a half thousand years old, since the time of Cyrus the Great is a powerful historical power, and its geopolitical significance cannot be overestimated. The geography itself determines the potential of its influence on the countries of the Arab world up to the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and the Persian Gulf, in the Transcaucasus, Central Asia, as well as on the Afpak region (Afghanistan and Pakistan). Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iran’s state ideology has been anti-Western. Tehran is engaged in an intense struggle with the US-British coalition for influence in Iraq, and is helping Syria in the fight against terrorism.

From an economic point of view, Iran’s potential is also great. The Iranian economy is in the world’s top 20 in terms of purchasing power parity, the country is third in the world after Saudi Arabia and Venezuela in terms of proven oil resources, and has 16 percent of the world’s proven gas reserves.

Argentina, since the time of General Juan Domingo Peron, has also clearly felt its geopolitical role, being one of the regional leaders in Latin America. This role is recognized all over the world. Argentina, while not one of the world’s largest economies, is nevertheless a full member of the G20. Having survived the failed war with Great Britain over the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), as well as the collapse of liberal reforms according to the IMF recipes, the country has an obvious request to find an independent path of development. Today, Argentina is in a difficult economic situation, it has a huge external debt. However, the potential of Argentina as one of the global food exporters has significantly increased in recent years.

For various reasons, both Iran and Argentina are extremely interested in BRICS projects to create new international settlement systems that are alternative to the global hegemony of the dollar. Iran, which is under sanctions, life itself has forced to go to “de-dollarization”, the country practically does not use the US currency. For Argentina, the transition to a hypothetical new monetary and financial zone would mean an escape from the stranglehold of the IMF, from the pressure of American creditors, which today have an extremely destructive impact on the national economy.

In any case, against the background of aggressive pressure from the United States and its allies on potential new BRICS members, the desire of Iran and Argentina to join the community requires a certain amount of foreign policy courage. There is reason to assume that the process of their joining the BRICS will be successful, since both countries do not cause rejection even in India, which until recently was the main opponent of expansion. We can confidently predict that in the near future the process of adding new members to the BRICS will continue due to the entry of a number of Asian and African countries.

But even now, the BRICS expansion at the expense of Iran and Argentina is the final departure of the community from the idea of Goldman Sachs analyst Jim O’Neill, who coined this abbreviation twenty years ago, who decided to designate such a term as “emerging economies” that are “catching up” with the developed West.

We can say that BRICS is confidently turning into a “collective Non-West”, from a community of emerging markets it is finally transformed into a community of world powers with a pronounced geopolitical sovereignty.

Playing the mighty Wurlitzer vs Reality

FEBRUARY 26, 2022

Source

By Chris Faure

Do people seriously imagine Russia simply blundered into the Ukraine not knowing what the west would do?

You may be surprised to hear that the world is actually still spinning.  All we have to deal with is the mighty Wurlitzer which is an old-style pipe organ for theaters, and also a propaganda instrument.

Allow me a moment to explain:

In 1967 the magazine Ramparts ran an exposé revealing that the Central Intelligence Agency had been secretly funding and managing a wide range of citizen front groups intended to counter communist influence around the world. In addition to embarrassing prominent individuals caught up, wittingly or unwittingly, in the secret superpower struggle for hearts and minds, the revelations of 1967 were one of the worst operational disasters in the history of American intelligence and presaged a series of public scandals from which the CIA’s reputation has arguably never recovered.

CIA official Frank Wisner called the operation his “mighty Wurlitzer,” on which he could play any propaganda tune.   Hugh Wilford provides the first comprehensive account of the clandestine relationship between the CIA and its front organizations. Using an unprecedented wealth of sources, he traces the rise and fall of America’s Cold War front network from its origins in the 1940s to its Third World expansion during the 1950s and ultimate collapse in the 1960s.

Covering the intelligence officers who masterminded the CIA’s fronts as well as the involved citizen groups—émigrés, labor, intellectuals, artists, students, women, Catholics, African Americans, and journalists—Wilford provides a surprising analysis of Cold War society that contains valuable lessons for our own age of global conflict.

Now, the Mighty Wurlitzer, exposed during the cold war, has never ended.  We see it in full swing now.  Here are a few snippets, a few items from memory (it has to be from memory as most of the Russian sites are still down, or up or down, in a relentless cyber propaganda war and this cannot be meticulously linked to source).  And you know what, the Ukraine inherited its own theater and mighty Wurlitzer, where they are designing and producing for the common man, theater productions for this current time.  Excepting now, it is all done in studio with breathless journalists playing war and running around in front of green screens.

So, while the tinny and discordant theater music sometimes drowns out even our own ability to think (it is torture, you know!) let’s look at a few realities.

Sanctions.  Big Big Headlines – Russia is sanctioned for this or that and for basically everything, even Vodka.  The latest is SWIFT (but only for a few banks).  Take a good look at the sanctions.  It is paper production for the purpose of paper production.  The German sanctions on Russian banks for example have fine print.  (They all have).  They’re sanctioning Russia from hell, but of course, this does not apply to gas or oil payments.  Those will continue, says the fine print.

Sanctions on Russia are now the latest fashion accessory.  The one that can play that Wurlitzer the loudest is the one who wins.  So what happens if they don’t win?  What happens if they are busy shooting themselves in the heart, and not even in the foot?.  What happens if the fervor to punish Russia simply accelerates their own demise?

Russia is decoupling as fast as what the West is sanctioning.  A headline that comes to mind is: “European Commission: The disconnection of a number of banks from SWIFT “will actually block Russian exports and imports”.

No Einstein, it will hasten de-dollarization.

This morning from Medvedev:

‘Final review’ of Russia’s relations with West now possible – former president

Dmitry Medvedev has dubbed European organizations “meaningless almshouses”

Western sanctions could be an “excellent reason for a final review” of Russia’s relations with the nations that have imposed the restrictions, the deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council and former president, Dmitry Medvedev, said on Saturday.

Russia’s military operation in Ukraine, which was launched on February 24, has prompted outrage in the West and a new wave of harsh sanctions against Russia. In a lengthy post on the Russian social network VK, Medvedev called the restrictions “a myth, a figment, a figure of speech.”

Sanctions could be an excellent reason for the final review of all relations with those states that have introduced them. Including interruption of the dialogue on strategic stability,” Medvedev wrote.

[sidebar] Take another look at that sentence – why now? It is because most of the western world do not have answers to Russia on strategic stability, so they decided to play that Wurlitzer pretty loud to attempt to hide their inability). 

He added that in principle, it is possible “to renounce everything,” including the New START Treaty.

Yes, and diplomatic relations, in principle, are not particularly needed. It’s time to close the embassies with barn locks. And to continue contacts by examining each other only through binoculars and weapons’ optical systems,” Medvedev said.

Commenting on the decision by the Council of Europe and Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to suspend Russia’s membership, the former president said that while this is a “flagrant injustice,” it could still be considered as a good reason “to finally slam the door and forget about these meaningless almshouses forever.” This development could also be used to “restore a number of important institutions for prevention of especially serious crimes in the country,” he said, such as the “death penalty for the most dangerous criminals, which, by the way, is being actively used in the United States and China.

He has no assets abroad and to the UK sanctions against Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wrote:

Neither Putin, nor Lavrov have accounts neither in Britain nor anywhere abroad. Maybe the kingdom’s government got something frozen off rather than it froze something?”

We are in a new world.

A few more:

Russia has just suspended cooperation with NASA on the international space station .. including the launch team which will not be available to the US.  Russia will work with China.  Zap!  Are there any US astronauts there at the moment?  I don’t know, but Elon Musk will have to get them home.

Let’s take a look at few more of Mr Putin’s actions these last days.

Russia’s President Meeting (http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/67851) with Security Council permanent members

 Vladimir Putin: According to available information, and this is confirmed by objective monitoring – we are seeing this; Banderites and neo-Nazis are putting up heavy weapons, including MLRS, right in the central districts of large cities, including Kiev and Kharkov. They plan to force return fire by Russian strike systems vs residential quarters. They are acting in the same way terrorists act all over the world – using people as shields.

It is known for a fact that all this is being done on the recommendations of foreign consultants, primarily American advisors.

 Once again, I am appealing to the military of the armed forces of Ukraine. Do not allow neo-Nazis and Banderites to use your children, wives and elders as a live shield. Take power into your own hands. It seems it will be easier for us to come to terms with you than with this gang of drug addicts & neo-Nazis that have settled in Kiev and that have taken the Ukrainian people.


President Vladimir Putin had a telephone conversation (https://is.gd/m8pf2L) with President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev.

The Presidents discussed developments related to the special military operation designed to protect peaceful civilians in Donbass as well as Ukraine’s demilitarisation and denazification.

 Shavkat Mirziyoyev expressed understanding of Russia’s actions.

The Presidents also touched upon certain current issues on the bilateral agenda. They reaffirmed their shared intention to continue the development of the Russian-Uzbek strategic partnership with a focus on implementing specific trade, economic, and humanitarian projects.

#RussiaUzbekistan


President Vladimir Putin had a telephone conversation (https://is.gd/322XIF) with President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping.

The President of Russia gave the President of China a detailed account of the reasons behind the recognition of the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Lugansk People’s Republic and the start of a special military operation to protect civilians from genocide and ensure the demilitarisation and denazification of the Ukrainian state. Vladimir Putin also noted that considering the signals received from Kiev he was ready to send a delegation to Minsk to hold talks with representatives of Ukraine.

 Xi Jinping stressed that he respected the actions of the Russian leadership in the current crisis.

The two Leaders assessed the current international situation from a common perspective. They reaffirmed a mutual readiness to closely cooperate and support each other further at the UN and in other multilateral platforms.


Held at Kyrgyzstan’s initiative, the telephone conversation (https://is.gd/Ppnjou) between President Vladimir Putin and President of the Kyrgyz Republic Sadyr Japarov focused on the situation with the special military operation carried out by Russia in Ukraine.

 Sadyr Japarov said that Kiev was responsible for derailing the Minsk agreements and expressed his support for Russia’s decisive actions to protect civilians in Donbass. Vladimir Putin thanked the President of Kyrgyzstan for his principled solidarity.

The two Presidents reaffirmed their mutual commitment to strengthening the strategic partnership and allied relations between Russia and Kyrgyzstan in all areas.


President Vladimir Putin had a telephone conversation (https://is.gd/oACYDq) with Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan.

The Parties continued their exchange of views on the practical aspects of the implementation of the agreements documented by the November 9, 2020, January 11 and November 26, 2021, tripartite statements by the leaders of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia on Nagorno-Karabakh, including efforts to ensure stability and security on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. Some items on the current bilateral agenda were also touched upon.


The Ukraine is dancing to the music of the Mighty Wurlitzer.  Don’t you do that too!  Turn the music off. Zone B is way behind Zone A in playing the organ, but way ahead in creating a life friendly to human people, for this planet.

Margarita Simonyan focused on the 5th and 6th columns with a devasting phrase:

“If you are now ashamed that you are Russian, do not worry, you are not Russian,” she wrote in her Telegram channel.

And in the event that you are worried about China, they just posted this from their Russian embassy.  They truly understand that this time it is Russia, but for the throw of a set of dice, or a different tune on the Wurlitzer, it could have been China.

Has the US begun its “great retreat”?

AUGUST 06, 2021

THE SAKER • AUGUST 5, 2021

I have to begin this column by admitting that “Biden” (note: when in quotation marks, I refer to the “collective Biden”, not the clearly senile man) surprised me: it appears that my personal rule-of-thumb about US Presidents (each one is even worse than his predecessor) might not necessarily apply in “Biden’s” case. That is not to say that “Biden” won’t end up proving my rule of thumb as still applicable, just that what I am seeing right now is not what I feared or expected.

Initially, I felt my the rule still held. The total US faceplant in Alaska when Blinken apparently mistook the Chinese for woke-neutered serfs and quickly found out how mistaken he was.

But then there was the meeting with Putin which surprised many, including myself. Initially, most Russian observers joined one of two groups about the prospects for this summit:

  1. This summit will never happen, there is nothing to discuss, Biden is senile, his Admin is filled wall to wall with harcore russophobes and, besides, the (US) Americans are “not agreement capable” (недоговороспособные) anyway, so what is the point?
  2. If the summit takes place, it will be a comprehensive failure. At best a shouting match or exchange of insults.

Neither of these happened. Truth be told, we still do not really know what happened. All we have are some vague declarations of intent and worded pious intentions. And even those were minimalistic! In fact, after the summit most Russian observers, again, broke into two main camps:

  1. “Biden” threw in the towel and gave up. Russian won this round. Hurray!
  2. “Biden” only changed tactics, and now the new US posture might well become even more aggressive and hostile. Russia is about to see a major surge in anti-Russian provocations. Alarm!

I think that both of these grossly oversimplify a probably much more complex and nuanced reality. In other words, “Biden” surprised many, if not most, Russians. That is very interesting by itself (neither Bush, nor Obama nor Trump ever surprised the Russians – who knew the score about all of them – in any meaningful way).

My strictly personal guess is that there is some very serious infighting currently taking place inside the US ruling class. Furthermore, that serious infighting is not about core principles or even strategy – it is a dispute over tactics only.

We have to keep in mind an old truism about outcomes: John F. Kennedy once said that “victory has a hundred fathers, but defeat is an orphan” and he was right. When any group seizes power and effectively controls its interests, all is well, and everybody is busy consuming the proverbial milk and honey. But when this group suffers a series of humiliating defeats, a typical cascade of events begins:

  • Finger pointing: everybody blames everybody else (but never himself/herself)
  • Hindsight wisdom: “if I had been in charge, this would not have happened!
  • Infighting over quickly shrinking spoils of war
  • A collapse of the centralized center of authority/decision-making centers
  • Generation of subgroups, fighting each other over their sub-interests

In other words, following many years of extremely weak presidential administrations (since Clinton, imho), it is hardly a surprise that infighting would take place (in both parties, by the way). In fact, an apparently chaotic set of uncoordinated, or even contradictory, policies is what one should expect. And that is exactly what we have been observing since 1993 and this dynamic has been getting worse and worse with each passing year).

Needless to say, the main outcome of such defeat-induced infighting is to weaken all the groups involved, regardless of their objectives and policies. Some might believe that this is a positive development, but I am not so sure at all (see below).

That being said, there are some observations which might be helpful when trying to at least (indirectly) identify who are the main groups fighting each other.

The hardcore, really nutty, russophobes are still here, especially in the US media which seems to be serving not so much “Biden” as much as some “crazies in the basement” kind of cabal. Next to the legacy ziomedia, there is an increasing number of US/NATO/UK military officials who are foaming at the mouth with threats, warnings, complaints and insults, all against Putin and Russia. This is important because:

  • The “Zone A” media has comprehensively and very effectively concealed the very real risks of war with Russia, China and Iran. And if this was mentioned, the presstitutes always stressed that the US has the “best military in the history of the galaxy” and that Uncle Sam will “kickass” anybody he chooses to. If the people of the USA were informed of the truth of the matter, they would freak out and demand that this path to war be immediately abandoned and replaced with a meaningful dialog.
  • US/NATO/UK authorities have talked themselves into a corner where they have only two outcomes left: they can do what the US always does, that is to “declare victory and leave”, or they can force Russia to protect her borders on land, air and sea and, thereby, face a major military humiliation delivered by Russia.

Truth be told, during the recent naval exercises UK and US officials made a lot of threats and promises to ignore Russian warnings, but in the end, they quietly packed and left. Smart choice, but it must have been painfully humiliating for them, which is very dangerous by itself.

How much of these statements/threats actually were done with “Biden’s” approval? I don’t know. But I am unaware of any reprimands, demotions or any other action taken against the crazies who are calling for a war against Russia, China or Iran. That does not mean that it did not happen, only that it was not publicized. My feeling is, however, that even if “Biden” did object to this kind of dangerous sabre rattling, “he” is too weak to do anything about it. It is quite possible that “Biden” is gradually losing control of his own administration.

I recently had a good laugh hearing NATO naval personnel saying that Russians made “imitation attacks” on NATO ships by overflying them several times. Apparently, these folks sincerely think that gravity bombs are the main/only threat from the Russian Aerospace Forces and coastal defenses which, in reality, can sink US/UK/NATO ships without ever approaching them or even getting in their radar range. Not to mention 6-7 extremely quiet and heavily armed advanced diesel-electric subs of the Black Sea Fleet. While I don’t doubt the “diversity” of these NATO naval crews, I am now having major doubts about even their basic competence.

There will be many more NATO exercises in the Black Sea in the future. Ditto for USN operations off the Chinese, Iranian or DPRK coasts. This (always explosive) combo of ignorance, arrogance and incompetence could result in a major war.

Another option is the terminally delusional UK government (supported by those Brits who still have phantom pains about their lost empire and, of course, by the largely irrelevant 3B+PU gang) might do something really stupid (say, like this) and trigger a war with the DPRK, Russia, China or Iran and then the US would have to move to defend/save a British Navy which is mostly a joke (at least by Russian or Chinese standards). The main problem here being that the USN is also in a terrible shape and cannot compete against Russian and Chinese standoff weapons (I mean that literally, there are currently no defenses against maneuvering hypersonic missiles! The only exception would be the Russian S-500). The latter two nations, by the way, have joined into an informal and unofficial military alliance for many years already; check out this article and video or this one for a recent update).

But opposite, de-escalatory developments are also taking place. First and foremost, “Biden” seemed to have “farmed out” the “Ukrainian dossier” to the Germans and washed Uncle Shmuel’s hands from it. If so, that was a very slick and smart move (which is something we have not witnessed from any administration in decades!). I highly recommend this translation of a most interesting article by arguably the best Ukraine specialist out there, Rostislav Ishchenko.

Ishchenko goes into a lot of interesting details and explains what “Biden” apparently just did. Frankly, the Germans richly deserve this full-spectrum mess and they will be dealing with the consequences of this disaster for a long time, possibly decades. In fact, the Germans are stuck: they want to be the Big European Leader? Let them. After all, the EU politicians, led by Germany, did all they could to create what is now often called “country 404” – a black hole in the heart of the European continent. Germany is the biggest economic power of the EU? Good, then let the Germans (and the rest of the EU) pay for the eventual reconstruction of the Ukraine (or of the successor-states resulting from the breakup of the country)! Russia simply cannot foot that bill, China most definitely won’t (especially after being cheated several times by the Ukies) and the USA has absolutely no reasons whatsoever to do so. I would even argue that chaos (social, economic, political, cultural. etc.) in Europe is probably seen by the US ruling class as highly desirable since it 1) weakens the EU as a competitor 2) justifies, however hypocritically and mistakenly, a “strong US presence” in Europe and 3) gives NATO a reason (however mistaken, misguided and even immoral) to exist

The US is protected from the fallout (immigrants, violence, extremism, etc.) of the Ukrainian disaster by distance, the Atlantic, a much stronger military (at least compared to anybody else in NATO). The US can print money in any way it wants and has no interests whatsoever in the (dying) Ukraine. If Ishchenko is right, and I agree with him, then there is somebody (possibly a group of somebodies) who is a lot smarter than anybody in the Trump Admin and who figured out that the Nazi-occuppied Ukraine should be an German/EU problem, not one for the US.

There is, of course, also the pessimistic analysis: the US is on the retreat everywhere, but only for the following reasons:

  • Regroup, reorganize, buy time to develop some kind of coherent strategy
  • Focus on each adversary separately and prioritize (divide et impera at least!)
  • Re-analyze, re-plan, re-design, re-develop, re-train, re-equip and re-test pretty much everything in the US armed forces (which have not been shaped by any rational force planning in decades)

Those who believe the strategic retreat theory (I am not personally discounting this version, but I do not see enough evidence – yet – to endorse it either) typically add that “the US only left Afghanistan to hand it over to the Taliban/al-Qaeda and unleash them against “soft underbelly of Russia”. Now, that is utter nonsense, if only because Russia does not have a common border with Afghanistan.

Yes, sure, what is currently taking place in Afghanistan greatly worries all the leaders of the region, including the leaders of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Iran. But it just so happens that the Russians have been in intense consultations with all these regional powers. Not only that, but Russia already has forces deployed in the region (including the 201st base in Tajikistan) and she has been substantially reinforcing them with no protests from the Empire (at least so far). Finally, all of Central Asia, the Caucasus and even the Middle-East is well within reach of numerous types of Russian long-range standoff weapons. Apparently, the Taliban know that, because they went to great lengths to promise all their neighbors that the (now inevitable) regime-change in Kabul will not represent a threat for anybody. Can we trust them? Nope, of course not. But can we trust them to be smart enough to realize that while they are currently the biggest force in Afghanistan, they don’t even come close to having what it takes to fight a war against any of Afghanistan’s neighbors? Yes, I think we can. After many years of fighting, and the Taliban already in control of part of Kabul, the Taliban will finally achieve their goals and become the true, official, leaders of Afghanistan. Should they try to attack or destabilize any of their neighbors, the very first thing they would lose would be Kabul and any chance to be accepted as the legitimate government of Afghanistan. Remember that, like the US, neither Russia nor Iran need to invade Afghanistan to strike at the Taliban, they can use proxies and they have the kind of weapon systems and launch platforms from which the Taliban cannot protect themselves. Last, but certainly not least, the Taliban know how the Russians and the Iranians fought in Syria, and they will not want to trigger anything similar in Afghanistan.

Furthermore, Russia’s “soft underbelly” is a 19th century concept. In the 21st century only the least informed and least competent people would ever use such a concept. Furthermore, only somebody with zero knowledge of actual military capabilities of the Southern and Central Military Districts of Russia could mention such a silly and outdated notion with a straight face. Besides, while the Afghans can be superb guerillas (but not always, contrary to the popular myth!), they cannot conduct combined arms offensive operations, while Russia and Iran can. Again, I will never say never, especially with Takfiris in the loop, but I don’t see the Taliban attacking anybody, least of all Russian or Iranian allies in the region

Coming back to “Biden’s” great retreat: if “Biden” is smart enough to hang the Ukraine on Germany, “he” is probably too smart to predicate the US foreign policy towards Russia predicated around the “soft underbelly” thingie. As for all the “fire and brimstone” threats of war against Russia, they are not impressing anybody as the Russians, the Chinese and the Iranians know that a confident and powerful country does not need to threaten anybody, if only because the actual capabilities of these country are a very telling “threat” by themselves. But when a former superpower is weak, confused and frightened, it will make many roaring statements about how it can defeat the entire planet if needed (after all, the US military is “the best military in the history of the galaxy”! If you doubt that, just listen to Toby Keith!). In other words, while in the West threats are an instrument of foreign policy, in Russia, and in the rest of Asia, they are inevitably seen as a sign of weakness, doubts and even fear.

Then there seems to be a long list of weapons systems, procurement plans and “defense” monies which have been pulled back, including the (truly awful) LCS and F-35. While it is true that the US is gradually phasing out fantastically expensive weapons systems and platforms which were also more or less useless, this show the ability to at least admit that all that talk about super-dooper US superweapons was just that, talk, and that in reality the US MIC is incapable of producing the kind of superb high quality systems which it used to produce in large quantities in the past (Arleigh Burke, F-15, Jumbo 747, the Willys Jeep, F-16, A-10, Los Angeles SSN, KH satellites, etc.). This is why the F-15X is designed to “augment” the F-35 feet (by itself a very smart move!).

Such an admission, even if indirect and only logically implied, might show a level of maturity, or courage, by “Biden” which his predecessors did not have.

Could it be that the folks at the Pentagon, who do know the reality of the situation (see here for a very good Moon of Alabama article about this), figured out that Clinton, Bush, Obama and Trump vastly over extended the Empire and now they need to regroup and “re-everything” to achieve a more sustainable “defense” posture?

Could it be that “Biden” will deliver what Trump promised, i.e. to end the useless (and unwinnable!) wars, stop caring too much about the agonizing EU, silently accept that Russia has no intentions (and no need!) whatsoever to attack anyone and focus on the biggest non-military threat out there: China. Maybe.

As far as I know, many (all?) simulations – by RAND and the US military – and command staff exercises have shown that the US would lose badly to both Russia or China. Could it be that “Biden” wants to put Russia and China on the backburner and “deal” with Iran first? The latest news on the US/Israel vs Iran front is not good, to say the least.

I still believe that following the murder of General Suleimani and the retaliatory Iranian missile strikes the US seems to have given up on the idea of a direct attack on Iran. After all, not only did Trump let the “most powerful military in the history of the galaxy” be humiliated and seriously scared – for good reason – by the extremely accurate Iranian missile strikes, but the entire world witnessed this humiliation. After that disaster, why would “Biden” decide to attack?

Could “Biden” be even dumber than Trump? I very much doubt it. Besides, both Trump and Biden were equally subservient to the Israel Lobby anyway, so I would never say never, especially since all Israel has to do to force the US to attack Iran, is to attack first, then present any Iranian response as a planned “genocide of 6 million Jews” (what else?), but this time in Israel and by the Iranians (who might even use gas, who knows?). At these words, both the GOP and the Dems will snap to attention and immediately rush to save America’s most precious and beloved “ally” (in reality, its colonial master and overlord, of course). About Israel, we can only sadly conclude that it really makes no difference whatsoever whether the Demolicans or the Republicrats (mostly RINOs anyway) happens to be in the White House.

So what are we left with?

Frankly, I am not sure.

I think that there is very strong, even if only indirect, evidence which there is some very serious in-fighting taking place in the “Biden” administration and there is also strong, but also indirect, evidence that the military posture of the United States is undergoing what might end up being a major overhaul of the US armed forces.

If true, and that is a big “if”, this is neither good news nor bad news.

But this might be big news.

Why?

Because, objectively, the current US retreat on most fronts might be the “soft landing” (transition from Empire to “normal” country) many Trump voters were hoping for. Or it might not. If it is not, this might be a chaos-induced retreat, indicating that the US state is crumbling and has to urgently “simplify” things to try to survive, thereby generating a lot of factional infighting (at least one Russian observer specialized in “US studies”, Dmitrii Drobnitskii, believes to be the case: see the original article here, and its machine translation here). Finally, the state of decay of the US state might already be so advanced that we can consider it as profoundly dysfunctional and basically collapsing/collapsed. The first option (soft landing) is unlikely, yet highly desirable. The second option (chaos-induced retreat) is more likely, but much less desirable as it is only a single step back to then make several steps forward again. The last option (profoundly dysfunctional and basically collapsing/collapsed) is, alas, the most likely, and it is also, by far, the most perilous one.

For one thing, options #2 and #3 will make US actions very unpredictable and, therefore, potentially extremely dangerous. Unpredictable chaos can also quickly morph into a major war, or even several major ones, so the potential danger here is very real (even if totally unreported in Zone A). This, in turn, means that Russia, China, Iran, the DPRK, Venezuela or Cuba all have to keep their guard up and be ready for anything, even the unthinkable (which is often what total chaos generates).

Right now, the fact that the US has initiated a “great retreat” is undeniable. But the true reasons behind it, and its implications, remain quite obscure, at least to me.

I will conclude by asking you, the readers, for your opinion: do you think that the US is currently in a “contraction phase”? If yes, do you believe that this is a short-term only phenomenon, or will this retreat continue and, if yes, how far?

Graveyard of Empires

By Eric Margolis

Global Research, July 21, 2021

EricMargolis.com 19 July 2021

All Global Research articles can be read in 51 languages by activating the “Translate Website” drop down menu on the top banner of our home page (Desktop version). 

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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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