Railway of Resistance: A grand project to connect Iran, Iraq, Syria

May 19 2023

Beyond its positive economic implications, the railway project connecting Iran, Iraq, and Syria will be a geopolitical game changer by connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Persian Gulf.

Photo Credit: The Cradle

By Mohamad Hasan Sweidan

Sir Halford John Mackinder, one of Britain’s most prominent theorists in the field of geopolitics, discusses the significance of land connectivity between nations in his 1904 essay called The Geographical Pivot of History.

Besides introducing his notable Heartland Theory, Mackinder argued that advancements in transportation technology, such as the development of railways, have altered the balance of power in international politics by enabling a powerful state or group of states to expand its influence along transport routes.

The establishment of blocs, like the EU or BRICS, for instance, aims to enhance communication between member states. This objective has positive implications for the economy and helps reduce the risk of tensions among them.

The cost of such tensions has increased considerably, given the growing benefits and common interests achieved through strengthened ties between nations. Consequently, reinforcing connections within a specific region has a positive impact on the entire area.

Therefore, any infrastructure project between countries cannot be viewed solely from an economic standpoint; its geopolitical effects must also be highlighted.

West Asia connected by railway

In July 2018, Saeed Rasouli, head of the Islamic Republic of Iran Railways (RAI), announced the country’s intention to construct a railway line connecting the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea, the Iran-Iraq-Syria railway link. This ambitious project would run from Basra in southern Iraq to Albu Kamal on the Iraqi-Syrian border and then extend to Deir Ezzor in northeastern Syria.

Undoubtedly, this project strengthens communication between the countries of West Asia and increases the need for other powers to collaborate with this important region, which is strategically located in parts of Mackinder’s “Heartland” and Nicholas Spykman’s “Rimland” of Eurasia.

Moreover, in accordance with Mackinder’s proposition, it can be argued that this railway project holds geopolitical significance for the three involved countries – Iran, Iraq, and Syria – and for West Asia as a whole.

The concept of a railway link between Iran and Iraq emerged over a decade ago. In 2011, Iran completed the 17-kilometer Khorramshahr-Shalamjah railway, which aimed to connect Iran’s railways to the city of Basra. Subsequently, in 2014, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between Tehran and Baghdad to construct the Shalamjah-Basra line.

As per the agreement, Iran was responsible for designing and building a bridge over the Arvand River, while the Iraqi side pledged to construct a 32-kilometer railway line from the Shalamjah border to the Basra railway station within Iraqi territory.

Final destination: Syria

On 14 August, 2018, Iran announced its intention to further extend the railway from its territory to Syria, with Iraq’s participation. This move aimed to counter western sanctions and enhance economic cooperation.

The railway project would begin at the Imam Khomeini port on the Persian Gulf, located in Iran’s southwestern Khuzestan province, to the Shalamjah crossing on the Iraqi border. From there, the railway traverses through the Iraqi province of Basra, crossing Albu Kamal on the Syrian border and ending at the Mediterranean port of Latakia.

Iranian official sources stated that this railway would contribute to Syria’s reconstruction efforts, bolster the transport sector, and facilitate religious tourism between Iran, Iraq, and Syria. Iran would bear the costs of the project within its own territory, while Iraq would contribute its share up to the Syrian border.

During the visit of former Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to Iraq in March 2019, a memorandum of understanding on the project was signed between Tehran and Baghdad. However, despite the agreements, the Iraqi side has faced economic challenges and a lack of funds, resulting in a delay in the construction of the railway.

Proposed railway links between Iran, Iraq, and Syria

Three Sections

The railway project can be divided into three sections: The first section links the Imam Khomeini Port to the Shalamjah crossing on the Iraqi border. According to the Iranian Minister of Roads and Urban Development Mehrdad Bazrpash, the railway line in Iran has been completed and has reached the zero border point.

The second section will link the Shalamjah Crossing to Basra in southern Iraq, then extend to Baghdad, Anbar province, and finally, the Syrian border. The financing of this section, according to the agreement, falls under the responsibility of the Iraqi government. The commencement of this phase is expected soon.

The third section, within Syria, encompasses two routes: The northern route extends between Iraq’s al-Qaim and Syria’s Albu Kamal, then heads west towards the Syrian port of Latakia. The southern route runs from the al-Qaim crossing on the Iraqi-Syrian border to Damascus via Homs.

It should be noted that although the shortest route to Damascus is through al-Tanf, due to the presence of the illegal US occupation forces there, the longer Homs-Damascus corridor was adopted. This also ensures the passage of railways through a greater number of Syrian cities.

Economic significance

Although the rail line between Iran and Iraq will only span 32 km and cost approximately $120 million, divided equally, its significance extends far beyond its length. It will serve as the sole railway connection between the two countries and play a crucial role in improving communication throughout the wider region by linking China’s Belt and Road Initative (BRI) lines to Iraq via Iran.

Once completed, the project will enable Iraq to easily connect to Iran’s extensive railway network, which extends to Iran’s eastern border. This linkage will open pathways for Baghdad to connect with Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, the Caucasus, Central Asia, and the Far East.

Moreover, in the future, the project positions Iraq as a transit route for trade between the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf region and Central Asia, as well as Russia. Incidentally, Iran and Russia have just inked an agreement to establish a railway connecting the Iranian cities of Astara with Rasht, as part of the International North–South Transport Corridor (INSTC).

The railway line also contributes to the promotion of religious tourism among the three countries, which are home to several important Shia shrines. In September 2022, more than 21 million people from around the world, including 3 million Iranians, visited Iraq for the annual Arbaeen pilgrimage in the holy city of Karbala. This figure is likely to increase significantly with a rail link, leading to increased revenues for the Iraqi treasury.

Furthermore, the project serves as a means to bypass western sanctions and external pressures on the three countries, particularly Iran and Syria. It strengthens the independence of these nations and reduces the likelihood of foreign powers interfering in the economic relations of the project countries.

Obstacles to project implementation

Despite the signed agreements, the Tehran-Baghdad-Damascus railway project has faced mixed reactions in Iraq, leading to a lack of enthusiasm for moving forward with the rail link. Only last month, the Ministry of Transport issued a clarification regarding its rail link with Iran, stressing that the project is related to “passenger transportation only.”

Iraqi politicians have expressed concerns that the rail link with Iran could hinder their country’s Dry Canal project, which aims to connect the port of Faw in Basra province to the Turkish and Syrian borders.

They believe that the Grand Faw Port is strategically positioned as the closest point for sea cargo to Europe, potentially bringing economic benefits and employment opportunities. These concerns arise from the fear that the Imam Khomeini port in Iran could gain increased importance, diminishing the significance of the Faw Port.

But Iraqi concerns actually present an opportunity to link Iran to the Dry Canal, enhancing the strategic importance of both projects and bolstering Iraq’s position as a regional trading hub. In the near future, communication and cooperation between these neighbors will be crucial in thwarting external efforts to impede the economic interdependence of the three countries.

A promising journey

The tripartite railway link project holds immense significance as it connects these countries within a larger network, resembling the historical Silk Road that facilitated trade between the east and the west for centuries.

The railway project has the ability to initiate a major transformation in West Asia if it materializes and expands further afield to countries like Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Lebanon.

Their participation would not only reduce tensions among regional states but also yield positive economic outcomes and bolster tourism, particularly religious tourism, and foster stronger inter-regional ties.

By connecting key players in a geopolitically strategic region, the Tehran-Baghdad-Damascus rail link has the potential to lay the foundation for a new West Asian paradigm that promotes connectivity, stability, and prosperity.

As seen by the recent Iran-Saudi and Syria-Saudi rapprochement agreements, the region is in a collaborative mood, actively seeking economic development instead of conflict. With China and Russia – two powers at the forefront of Eurasia’s biggest interconnectivity projects (BRI and INSTC) – brokering and impacting many of these diplomatic initiatives, expect railways, roads, and waterways to begin linking countries that have been at odds for decades.

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

Related Articles

Iran-Saudi detente is a setback for Israel

May 17 2023


The China-brokered Iran-Saudi deal marked a significant shift toward establishing Persian Gulf and regional stability, but is a major setback for Israelis who have cultivated Arab-Iranian divisions for years.

By Stasa Salacanin

The recent rapprochement between regional arch-rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran has added a new layer to the already complicated geopolitical landscape in West Asia, especially as the kingdom was once touted to be the next major Arab state to normalize relations with Israel.

Signed in March, the Chinese-brokered agreement, which reestablishes diplomatic relations and reopens embassies in Riyadh and Tehran after a seven-year hiatus, is seen by many as a watershed moment that could potentially reduce bilateral animosity and ease tensions throughout the region.

However, the deal has caused great dismay in Tel Aviv and caught Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu off guard.

It is understandable why Israel is disappointed, as the prioritization of the Abraham Accords has been a cornerstone of Israeli foreign policy in recent years. The accords, initially involving Israel, the UAE, and Bahrain in 2021, was a major foreign policy victory for Netanyahu and part of a broader strategy to isolate Iran in the region.

And normalizing relations with Saudi Arabia, the most influential Arab state today, would have solidified Israel’s ambition to establish diplomatic ties with its Arab neighbors and further enhance its diplomatic influence in West Asia.

Regional stability: A setback for Israel

Consequently, the Saudi-Iran deal is viewed by many observers as a setback to Israel’s ambitions, with some analysts even perceiving it as a diplomatic victory for the Iranians. Importantly, Riyadh’s resumption of diplomatic ties with Tehran has shifted perceptions across the Arab region, creating conditions that make the Saudis joining the Abraham Accords less likely than ever.

Equally, the resetting of relations does not necessarily mean that Iran and Saudi Arabia are putting their differences aside. As Professor Shahram Akbarzadeh of the Middle East Studies Forum at Deakin University, explains to The Cradle, “It does mean that both countries realize that escalation of tensions and the prospects of all-out conflict would be detrimental for both.”

He emphasizes that “diplomatic ties ensure viable lines of communication to ensure the cold war between the two remains on ice.”

Matteo Colombo, a researcher at Clingendael’s Conflict Research Unit, concurs, saying that a major indirect consequence of the shift in the Saudi-Iranian relationship is that regional conflicts are likely to become less violent than in previous years.

Uncertain impact on Saudi-Israeli ties

The impact of the Saudi-Iran detente on Saudi-Israeli ties remains uncertain. Russell Lucas, a professor of international relations and domestic politics and culture of the Middle East at the University of Michigan, believes that while Iran-Saudi normalization does not directly impact Saudi-Israeli relations, one should not expect dramatic moves between Tel Aviv and Riyadh who will maintain mostly discreet ties.

Akbarzadeh argues that expecting a normalization of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia was always going to be a challenging prospect. He highlights the deep sense of injury among Muslims and Arabs due to Israel’s continued occupation of Palestinian lands:

“How could Saudi Arabia overlook this sense of injustice and join the so-called Abraham Accords? … such a move would have delivered a major setback to Saudi’s self-image projection as the global champion of Islam.”

Dr. Mehran Kamrava, a professor of government studies at Georgetown University in Qatar, views Israel’s friendship with certain Arab states as purely instrumentalist, driven by the need to contain threats such as Iran. “A simple review of Israeli policies clarifies that Israel is among the biggest contributing factors to regional insecurity and tensions,” he tells The Cradle.

Arab reluctance to normalize

In fact, any prospects of further rapprochement between Israel and other Arab states, particularly Saudi Arabia, are complicated under the current far-right Israeli government. This may lead countries that were previously considering normalizing their relations with Tel Aviv to reevaluate their decisions.

While countries that have already normalized relations with Israel are unlikely to reverse the process, they may “apply the brakes at any time” on their joint initiatives in certain sectors, such as military collaboration.

Both Lucas and Akbarzadeh agree that one of the key effects of the Saudi-Iran rapprochement is the reluctance of Riyadh and other Arab states to be drawn into a confrontation with Iran on behalf of Israel. According to Lucas:

“Public opinion in the [Persian] Gulf registering concern about Israel’s right-wing government’s treatment of the Palestinians and fear of escalation has reached leaders in states like Saudi Arabia and the UAE.”

Therefore, the current developments suggest that Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf states now hold more leverage in their negotiations with Israel as a result of Riyadh’s deal with Tehran, giving them more license to shape their future dealings with Tel Aviv.

Saudi intent matters

Not all views are as rosy, however. Last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a CNBC interview that the agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran has very “little to do with Israel,” claiming that Saudi Arabia, “has no illusions about who their adversaries are and who their friends are in [West Asia].”

Nader Hashemi, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Denver, tells The Cradle that Netanyahu is actually right when he talks about Saudi Arabia’s orientation:

“Riyadh’s foreign policy is much more aligned with Israel while the recent reduction of tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia are to be very temporary – rooted in trying to reduce tensions so that Saudi Arabia can invest in its long term plan of trying to enhance economic development, attract tourists, more foreign investment, and to expand its new policy of modernization under Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MbS).”

Hashemi thinks that “behind the scenes, the Saudi crown prince and Netanyahu both have similar visions for the future of the Middle East [West Asia] rooted in blocking regional democratization, trying to contain Iran, and influence/expand the Abraham Accords between Israel and various Arab states.”

Furthermore, he predicts that “if Donald Trump or the Republicans take the White House, Saudi Arabia’s relations with Iran will go back to the period of 2017 when Saudi Arabia was very much supportive of Trump’s hawkish policy towards Iran.”

Israel’s miscalculation

But Netanyahu’s understanding of the shifting sands in Persian Gulf states – and his claims that Israel is “an indispensable partner for the Arab world in achieving security, prosperity, and peace” – may be oversimplified.

Kamrava, for example, observes that for a long time, Arab and Israeli policies toward Tehran have been guided by the assumption that Iran can be effectively marginalized and excluded from regional security arrangements:

“But the actual experience has shown that such an assumption is indeed incorrect. In fact, efforts to marginalize or exclude Iran only lead to further reactions from Iran. It is for this reason that first the UAE, and now Saudi Arabia, have changed course and have decided to engage with Iran,” he notes.

Tehran, on the other hand, “has consistently shown that it responds positively not to threats but to constructive engagement,” says Kamrava. So, “if a change in Iranian foreign policy is what regional states are after, then talking to Tehran is the best way of achieving that, rather than working to overthrow the entire Islamic Republic system, which is what Israel is advocating,” he explains.

Others concur. Israel would be mistaken to assume that hostility towards Iran is the defining dynamic in the region, as it has been for a significant part of the last decade, argues Matteo Colombo. This, he adds, “makes it more challenging for Tel Aviv to advocate for normalizing diplomatic relations with other countries in the region to contain Iran.”

The China factor

Hashemi offers another hypothesis for Saudi Arabia’s overriding strategy in its rapprochement with Iran. He believes that Riyadh’s latest moves may be viewed as a message to Washington: “Give us what we want in terms of weapon sales and security guarantees and new strategic vision arrangement that Saudi Arabia is demanding from the US for long-term commitments.”

If the US does not provide these guarantees, says Hashemi, “then Saudi Arabia may symbolically break from the US policy and start to engage with some US adversaries, including China.”  He notes that these are very short calculations, as the Saudis are still closely engaged with the west.

But the Beijing-brokered Saudi-Iran detente has created great unease in Tel Aviv and Washington, where the deal is viewed as a loss of US diplomatic initiative and influence on the world stage.

While the agreement has received broad international support, generating optimism for its potential impact against the backdrop of rapidly developing multipolarity, uncertainties persist regarding its specific outcomes. There is a lack of information over of tangible incentives and guarantees from China in ensuring the deal’s success – even while there is confidence in the motivations and commitments of the parties involved.

In terms of impartial and honest mediation, China is regarded more favorably than the US due to its positive and established relationships with both Saudi Arabia and Iran, and its vested interests in maintaining peace and stability in the Persian Gulf, from which it derives much of its energy supplies.

The US balks at thriving UAE-Russia relations

April 21 2023

The leak of classified documents suggesting Emirati-Russian intel against the US has caused uncertainty about the future of US-UAE relations amid significant shifts in the geopolitics of the Persian Gulf.

Photo Credit: The Cradle

By Stasa Salacanin

The leak of highly classified Pentagon documents, including reports of the UAE’s alleged intelligence collusion with Russia against the US and UK, has captured headlines both regionally and globally.

According to the US intel reports leaked to the Associated Press, a document implicating the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) entitled “Russia/UAE: Intelligence Relationship Deepening” states:

“FSB officials claimed UAE security service officials and Russia had agreed to work together against US and UK intelligence agencies, according to newly acquired signals intelligence.”

However, while US officials have declined to comment on the document, the Emirati government has vehemently denied any such accusation, calling it “categorically false.”

Although it is impossible to verify the authenticity of the leaked report, western officials and analysts have nonetheless been closely following increased cooperation between Abu Dhabi and Moscow, particularly since the outbreak of conflict in Ukraine.

Ties flourish between Russia and UAE

The claims are certainly credible, as close personal ties exist between the Kremlin and the Emirati ruling elite, and the two governments share similar views on several regional issues. The war in Ukraine has further boosted mutual commercial ties and cooperation between the Russia and the UAE, with non-oil trade increasing by 57 percent during the first nine months of the last year.

In early December 2022, Russia’s First Deputy Prime Minister Andrey Belousov estimated that mutual trade between Russia and the UAE will exceed $7.5 billion by the end of 2022 compared with $5.5 billion in 2021, reaching an all-time record in the history of their trade relations.

Additionally, UAE President Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan’s (MbZ) decision to support the OPEC+ move to slash oil production by two million barrels a day (bpd) in October despite pressure from the US and other countries, has been greatly praised by Kremlin.

It’s worth noting that the emirate of Dubai has witnessed an uptick in investments from affluent Russians, as real estate purchases by Russian nationals in Dubai surged by 67 percent year-on-year. Furthermore, the UAE continues to rank high on the list of preferred travel destinations for Russians, with over a million Russians having visited or relocated to the Emirates in 2022 – an impressive 60 percent increase from the previous year.

In light of the UAE having emerged as a significant destination for wealthy Russians seeking to circumvent western-imposed sanctions, Andreas Krieg, an associate professor at King’s College in London, has labeled the UAE as “the most crucial strategic partner for Russia in both the Middle East [West Asia] and Africa.” 

A ‘country of focus’ for the US

This flourishing partnership between Moscow and Abu Dhabi has not gone unnoticed in the west, and there are concerns about how cozying up with Russia may affect the UAE’s relations with the west, especially in light of the recent leak of compromising Pentagon intel.

As evidence of this, US Treasury official Assistant Secretary Elizabeth Rosenberg has explicitly designated the UAE as a “country of focus,” noting Russia has been able to evade sanctions and “obtain more than $5 million in US semiconductors and other export-controlled parts, including components with battlefield uses.”

While the UAE has historically been aligned with the US, it has developed its own foreign policy in recent years, according to Dr. Giuseppe Dentice, an expert on International Relations of the Middle East from Centro Studi Internazionali Ce.S.I and a teaching assistant at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan. As Dentine explains to The Cradle:

“The UAE has positioned itself as a free rider in the international arena, able to dialogue with the west and Russia and China. This has led the UAE to pursue its own agenda increasingly distant from the US and western interests, but in any case still extremely connected to many of Washington’s objectives in the large quadrant between the Mediterranean, Africa and Asia.”

For Joost Hiltermann, program director of the Middle East and North Africa section at the International Crisis Group think tank, Abu Dhabi is not likely to turn against the US in a major way. Despite pursuing closer ties with Beijing and Moscow, the UAE and other Persian Gulf states have emphasized that the US remains their primary external security partner.

Persian Gulf states pursue strategic balancing

In essence, “the UAE and other Gulf Arab states pursue a foreign policy of strategic balancing and hedging among both regional and global actors,” he tells The Cradle.

Yet, the UAE, along with other Persian Gulf countries, has refrained from aligning with the US in the new cold war, which has become evident in the case of US escalation over Taiwan and the war in Ukraine. In this context, the UAE does not want to miss out on the lucrative opportunity to engage with wealthy Russians, even if it means turning down the west and its preoccupation with the proxy war in Ukraine.

Dentice observes that many regional powers, especially those in the Persian Gulf have taken advantage of this new competitive environment to raise their own ambitions and develop their interests. The case of Russia and its businessmen is emblematic of this condition.

While the US does not necessarily oppose Russians visiting and residing elsewhere, Hiltermann notes that:

“They have an issue with the UAE becoming a hub for sanctions-busting and illicit economies, and they’ve had this concern for some time as US concerns relate to Russia sanctions violations and Iran and Syria sanctions violations.”

However, Hiltermann points out that the US has not always been clear on its sanctions policies and enforcement, which has confused and frustrated regional actors like the UAE. He says “Gulf Arab officials express significant dissatisfaction with US sanctions politics in the region, and often underline their lack of impact and how much they hurt local populations.”

Feeling the pressure

Additonally, Dentice emphasizes that the “UAE must be very careful to balance its own interests with the ambitions of the great powers.” Abu Dhabi should avoid any unnecessary confrontations or the risk of being labeled as a “pariah state” as this could harm its development and reputation as a commercial hub.

Irrespective of growing ties, the UAE has introduced some strict requirements for Russian businessmen and real estate investors who find it ever more difficult to purchase or rent space in Dubai. According to reports, financial and consultancy firms have are being closely observed by US financial regulators, so country business subjects have to be more cautious when dealing with Russia.

Also, despite its “free-rider” foreign policy approach, which requires a difficult balancing act, the UAE as well as other Persian Gulf states still heavily rely on US security arrangements, so many observers believe that sooner or later the UAE will have to agree on some compromise related to western sanctions issues.

Due to US pressure, the UAE has already canceled a license it had issued to Russia’s MTS Bank, and Russia’s largest bank Sberbank was also forced to close its office in Dubai.

Abu Dhabi’s diplomatic dilemma  

Despite efforts by Abu Dhabi and other Persian Gulf capitals to appeal to Washington about the importance of maintaining ties with Moscow by supporting de-escalation measures between Russia and the west – such as prisoner exchanges – it is becoming increasingly challenging to maintain good relations with a Russia so profoundly vilified in western capitals.

Hiltermann doubts whether this approach will be effective in the long run. He points out that while the “US claims that it does not push Gulf Arab states to choose sides, Russia has turned into an existential issue for the US and Europe in many ways, and sooner or later western pressures on the UAE will increase.”

It is clear that the UAE’s foreign policy approach is complex and involves a delicate balancing act between its own interests and the ambitions of great powers. Withstanding its efforts to maintain good relations with both Washington and Moscow, the UAE is increasingly feeling the western pressure to untangle from Russia, especially in the form of sanctions threats.

While Abu Dhabi’s strategic partnerships with a broad range of countries have reaped economic benefits, in the foreign policy realm, the same choices have caused acute diplomatic challenges.

But the UAE cannot merely focus on the great power contests unfolding abroad. Closer to home, Abu Dhabi has had to navigate the changing dynamics in West Asia, including peace talks to end the conflict in Yemen and the game-changing, Beijing-brokered rapprochement between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

The UAE’s success and stability in its own region will ultimately hinge on its proficiency in managing these local shifts. Meanwhile, the entry of China and Russia into West Asia offers Abu Dhabi some further leverage in managing Washington’s demands. Unless and until the US decides to draw a hard red line, the Emiratis will likely play all their cards in all arenas.

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

Russiatourismtrade and investmentUAE

Iran and Saudi Arabia: a Chinese win-win

April 07 2023

The single Iranian-Saudi handshake buried trillions of dollars of western divide-and-rule investments across West Asia, and has global leaders rushing to Beijing for global solutions.

Photo Credit: The Cradle
Pepe Escobar is a columnist at The Cradle, editor-at-large at Asia Times and an independent geopolitical analyst focused on Eurasia. Since the mid-1980s he has lived and worked as a foreign correspondent in London, Paris, Milan, Los Angeles, Singapore and Bangkok. He is the author of countless books; his latest one is Raging Twenties. 

By Pepe Escobar

The idea that History has an endpoint, as promoted by clueless neoconservatives in the unipolar 1990s, is flawed, as it is in an endless process of renewal. The recent official meeting between Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud and Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in Beijing marks a territory that was previously deemed unthinkable and which has undoubtedly caused grief for the War Inc. machine.

This single handshake signifies the burial of trillions of dollars that were spent on dividing and ruling West Asia for over four decades. Additionally, the Global War on Terror (GWOT), the fabricated reality of the new millennium, featured as prime collateral damage in Beijing.

Beijing’s optics as the capital of peace have been imprinted throughout the Global South, as evidenced by a subsequent sideshow where a couple of European leaders, a president, and a Eurocrat, arrived as supplicants to Xi Jinping, asking him to join the NATO line on the war in Ukraine. They were politely dismissed.

Still, the optics were sealed: Beijing had presented a 12-point peace plan for Ukraine that was branded “irrational” by the Washington beltway neocons. The Europeans – hostages of a proxy war imposed by Washington – at least understood that anyone remotely interested in peace needs to go through the ritual of bowing to the new boss in Beijing.

The irrelevance of the JCPOA

Tehran-Riyadh relations, of course, will have a long, rocky way ahead – from activating previous cooperation deals signed in 1998 and 2001 to respecting, in practice, their mutual sovereignty and non-interference in each other’s internal affairs.

Everything is far from solved – from the Saudi-led war on Yemen to the frontal clash of Persian Gulf Arab monarchies with Hezbollah and other resistance movements in the Levant. Yet that handshake is the first step leading, for instance, to the Saudi foreign minister’s upcoming trip to Damascus to formally invite President Bashar al-Assad to the Arab League summit in Riyadh next month.

It’s crucial to stress that this Chinese diplomatic coup started way back with Moscow brokering negotiations in Baghdad and Oman; that was a natural development of Russia stepping in to help Iran save Syria from a crossover NATO-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) coalition of vultures.

Then the baton was passed to Beijing, in total diplomatic sync. The drive to permanently bury GWOT and the myriad, nasty ramifications of the US war of terror was an essential part of the calculation; but even more pressing was the necessity to demonstrate how the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or Iran nuclear deal, had become irrelevant.

Both Russia and China have experienced, inside and out, how the US always manages to torpedo a return to the JCPOA, as it was conceived and signed in 2015. Their task became to convince Riyadh and GCC states that Tehran has no interest in weaponizing nuclear power – and will remain a signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Then it was up to Chinese diplomatic finesse to make it quite clear that the Persian Gulf monarchies’ fear of revolutionary Shi’ism is now as counter-productive as Tehran’s dread of being harassed and/or encircled by Salafi-jihadis. It’s as if Beijing had coined a motto: drop these hazy ideologies, and let’s do business.

And business it is, and will be: better yet, mediated by Beijing and implicitly guaranteed by both nuclear superpowers Russia and China.

Hop on the de-dollarization train

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) may exhibit some Soprano-like traits, but he’s no fool: he instantly saw how this Chinese offer morphed beautifully into his domestic modernization plans. A Gulf source in Moscow, familiar with MbS’ rise and consolidation of power, details the crown prince’s drive to appeal to the younger Saudi generation who idolize him. Let girls drive their SUVs, go dancing, let their hair down, work hard, and be part of the “new” Saudi Arabia of Vision 2030: a global tourism and services hub, a sort of Dubai on steroids.

And, crucially, this will also be a Eurasia-integrated Saudi Arabia; future, inevitable member of both the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and BRICS+ – just like Iran, which will also be sitting at the same communal tables.

From Beijing’s point of view, this is all about its ambitious, multi-trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). A key BRI connectivity corridor runs from Central Asia to Iran and then beyond, to the Caucasus and/or Turkey. Another one – in search of investment opportunities – runs through the Arabian Sea, the Sea of Oman, and the Persian Gulf, part of the Maritime Silk Road.

Beijing wants to develop BRI projects in both corridors: call it “peaceful modernization” applied to sustainable development. The Chinese always remember how the Ancient Silk Roads plied Persia and parts of Arabia: in this case, we have History Repeating Itself.

A geopolitical revolution

And then comes the Holy Grail: energy. Iran is a prime gas supplier to China, a matter of national security, inextricably linked to their $400 billion-plus strategic partnership deal. And Saudi Arabia is a prime oil supplier. Closer Sino-Saudi relations and interaction in key multipolar organizations such as the SCO and BRICS+ advance the fateful day when the petroyuan will be definitely enshrined.

China and the UAE have already clinched their first gas deal in yuan. The high-speed de-dollarization train has already left the station. ASEAN is already actively discussing how to bypass the dollar to privilege settlements in local currencies – something unthinkable even a few months ago. The US dollar has already been thrown into a death by a thousand cuts spiral.

And that will be the day when the game reaches a whole new unpredictable level.

The destructive agenda of the neocon leaders in charge of US foreign policy should never be underestimated. They exploited the 9/11 “new Pearl Harbor” pretext to launch a crusade against the lands of Islam in 2001, followed by a NATO proxy war against Russia in 2014. Their ultimate ambition is to wage war against China before 2025.

However, they are now facing a swift geopolitical and geoeconomic revolt of the World’s Heartland – from Russia and China to West Asia, and extrapolating to South Asia, Southeast Asia, Africa and selected latitudes in Latin America.

The turning point came on 26 February, 2022, when Washington’s neocons – in a glaring display of their shallow intellects – decided to freeze and/or steal the reserves of the only nation on the planet equipped with all the commodities that really matter, and with the necessary nous to unleash a momentous shift to a monetary system not anchored in fiat money.

That was the fateful day when the cabal, identified by journalist Seymour Hersh as responsible for blowing up the Nord Stream pipelines, actually blew the whistle for the high-speed de-dollarization train to leave the station, led by Russia, China, and now – welcome on board – Iran and Saudi Arabia.

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

Syria, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Turkiye: Truces, not peace

April 04 2023

As reconciliation efforts sweep through West Asia to mend ties between old foes, the new China- and Russia-brokered deals will not usher in real peace until the US stops prolonging conflict.

By Hasan Illaik

The mid-March Moscow summit between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin was notable for being publicized in advance. Since the outbreak of the Syrian war, Assad’s foreign visits have not been publicly revealed until after they have occurred. This small but significant detail suggests the Syrian president has a newfound confidence in the political and security conditions outside his national borders.

While the participants kept a tight lid on leaks, informed sources from both Moscow and Damascus disclosed to The Cradle that the Syrian and Russian presidents discussed the following issues:

Economic ties: With a focus on Syria’s energy sector, Putin expressed Russia’s readiness to invest in the production of electricity in the Levantine state, which post-conflict, suffers from a 75 percent deficit in production. Putin also expressed Moscow’s willingness to help Syria meet its vital grain needs.

Relations with Turkiye: While in Moscow, Assad reportedly refused to hold a four-way meeting between the deputy foreign ministers of Syria, Turkiye, Russia, and Iran. The Syrian president reiterated that Turkiye occupies Syrian lands, and negotiations between the two countries cannot advance from the security to the political level without a clear and public pledge from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to withdraw his military forces from the occupied territories, and open the main roads linking Syrian provinces – particularly the Latakia-Aleppo road, known as the M4 highway.

However, Moscow pressed its case, and reportedly reached an agreement between Damascus and Ankara stipulating that their negotiations would continue and move to the political level, with the main item on the table being Turkish withdrawal from Syrian lands. The basis for a much-awaited summit between Assad and Erdogan will be discussed at a later date.

The sources say that, for domestic political purposes, Erdogan needs to meet Assad before Turkiye’s May presidential elections, to convey to voters that he seeks to stop the war at his country’s southern borders, intends to repatriate the approximately three million Syrian refugees back home – a hot topic for voters – and to assure the Turkish Alevi electorate that he is not hostile to their sect, to which his rival Kemal Kilicdaroglu belongs.

Relations with Saudi Arabia: Putin, who has been leading the mediation efforts to normalize Saudi-Syrian relations, briefed Assad on the results of his talks with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS). According to official sources in Damascus and Moscow, Putin’s initiative has made progress in reactivating critical communication between Damascus and Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia’s strategic shifts

On 23 March, 2023, the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced the start of talks with Syria to reactivate consular work, which is a prelude to the return of normal diplomatic relations between the two countries, as reported by Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat.

Sources speaking to The Cradle have confirmed that any potential progress in Syrian-Saudi relations are the result of these Russian mediation efforts, and are unrelated to the game-changing Saudi-Iran agreement struck in Beijing on 10 March. The sources believe that a meeting between Riyadh and Damascus may occur after the end of the month of Ramadan.

While the success of Saudi-Iran negotiations under Chinese auspices, and the potential breakthrough in Saudi-Syria relations under Russian sponsorship, suggest a strategic eastward turn for the kingdom, sources close to Riyadh emphasize that there is no change in the Saudi-US relationship.

While Riyadh’s relations with Washington have experienced declines in the past, recent shifts in the global political, economic, and military landscapes have prompted MbS to diversify his country’s partnerships, while preserving the strategic alignment with Washington.

Yemen: Riyadh’s regional albatross

Today, the Saudi crown price is pursuing a “zero problems” policy with neighboring countries. After failing to “transfer the [regional] battle into Iran,” and after his war on Yemen transformed Yemeni Resistance movement Ansarallah from a small organization into a regional force, MbS has realized that his domestic economic, financial, and entertainment mega-projects are doomed without ensuring calm on the kingdom’s borders.

Therefore, since late 2022, he began earnest negotiations with Iran, responded assertively to Russian efforts to mediate with Syria, and began direct talks with Ansarallah in their Sanaa stronghold. The discussions reportedly made significant progress, then stalled in January over several key points, including Riyadh’s “inability” (or unwillingness) to lift the siege on Yemen, the withdrawal of foreign forces from the country, and agreement over an internal political solution to the Yemeni crisis.

As things stand, Riyadh claims that it “cannot force its partners” in the aggression – the UAE and US, in particular – to withdraw their forces from Yemeni territory.

Several Ansarallah allies have assessed that the Saudis want to end the war, but have been prevented from doing so by the US, UK, UAE, and France. However, this estimate changed after Saudi Arabia retracted a number of the pledges it made in the negotiations.

After initially ceasing restrictions on the port of Hodeidah, the UN has returned to obstructing the arrival of some ships to the port. The siege renewal coincided with a visit by US Ambassador to Yemen Stephen Fagin to the UN Verification and Inspection Mechanism (UNVIM) personnel in Djibouti which is tasked with inspecting ships bound for Hodeidah.

In a renewed escalation of tensions, Ansarallah threatened to expel the UN mission in Sanaa within 72 hours if a container ship seized by inspectors in Djibouti was not released. Indeed, before the deadline expired, the UN released the ship.

Although the threat coincided with the US ambassador’s provocative visit, and while it appears that the Americans were trying to undermine the Saudi-Ansarallah understandings, Yemeni sources tell The Cradle that the obstruction of the ships was not exclusively a US decision, but also a Saudi one.

Furthermore, the UN explicitly informed the Sanaa government that the detention of ships proven to be weapons-free was carried out by a decision of the “coalition leadership” – that is, from the Saudis.

So what is Riyadh up to, and who is really obstructing a final solution to the war in Yemen? Is it the Saudis or the Americans?

Sources close to the Sanaa government say that “a comprehensive US-Saudi consensus” still exists over Yemen. The two allies may differ sometimes, but until now, they say:

“Washington and Riyadh still agree on calming things down in Yemen, while keeping the blockade in place. They also agree that Yemen should not be an independent and strong country, capable of controlling its resources or exploiting its geographical location, because that entails strategic risks for Saudi Arabia’s regional role, and for US and Israeli interests in West Asia, the Horn of Africa, and the Red Sea.”

The sources add: “Saudi Arabia and America cannot afford to grant Ansarallah conditions that would enable it to accumulate additional strength and a larger and more effective arsenal.” Simply put, the duo are not seeking an actual end to the war, but are instead pursuing a drawn-out truce.

MbS wants some calm to ensure that missiles and drones do not rain down on his ambitious entertainment and development projects, while the US and the UAE want to keep Yemen fragmented, persist in the theft of its vital oil resource, and at the same time, hold Ansarallah (in northern Yemen) responsible for managing a country that continues to buckle under siege.

Truces, not peace – yet

In short, from Yemen in the south, to Iran in the east, and Syria, Iraq and Turkey in the north, West Asia has entered the post-Arab Spring phase, where once-battling neighbors are seeking to reconnect.

This is a phase governed by ‘armistice agreements’ between countries that have fought each other, directly or via proxies, for more than a decade. Armistice agreements, it should be noted, are not peace treaties, and what this suggests is the continuation of the US-style legacy of “managing conflict,” and never actually ending it.

As multipolarism beckons the world around, it is yet to be seen if Chinese and Russian efforts to stabilize the region in order to advance sweeping connectivity, economic, and development projects will be able to overcome the old “conflict management” and “forever wars” paradigm of the declining unipolar order.

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

See Also

للتاريخ مساره وتوقيته

الاحد 2 نيسان 2022

بثينة شعبان 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

فيديوات ذات صلة

مقالات ذات صلة

Xi’s ‘Chilling’ Remarks: A Multipolar World Offers Challenges and Opportunities to the Middle East and Africa

March 28, 2023

Chinese President Xi Jinping with Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Photo: Presidential Executive Office of Russia, via Wikimedia Commons)
– Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of six books. His latest book, co-edited with Ilan Pappé, is “Our Vision for Liberation: Engaged Palestinian Leaders and Intellectuals Speak out”. Dr. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net

By Ramzy Baroud

The final exchange, caught on camera between visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Russian host and counterpart, Vladimir Putin, sums up the current geopolitical conflict, still in its nascent stages, between the United States and its Western allies on the one hand, and Russia, China and their allies, on the other.

Xi was leaving the Kremlin following a three-day visit that can only be described as historic. “Change is coming that hasn’t happened in 100 years and we are driving this change together,” Xi said while clasping Putin’s hand.

“I agree,” Putin replied while holding Xi’s arm. ‘Please take care, dear friend,” he added.

In no time, social media exploded by sharing that scene repeatedly. Corporate western media analysts went into overdrive, trying to understand what these few words meant.

“Is that part of the change that is coming, that they will drive together?” Ian Williamson raised the question in the Spectator. Though he did not offer a straight answer, he alluded to one: “It is a chilling prospect, for which the west needs to be prepared.”

Xi’s statement was, of course, uttered by design. It means that the Chinese-Russian strong ties, and possible future unity, are not an outcome of immediate geopolitical interests resulting from the Ukraine war, or a response to US provocations in Taiwan. Even before the Ukraine war commenced in February 2022, much evidence pointed to the fact that Russia and China’s goal was hardly temporary or impulsive. Indeed, it runs deep.

The very language of multipolarity has defined both countries’ discourse for years, a discourse that was mostly inspired by the two countries’ displeasure with US militarism from the Middle East to Southeast Asia; their frustration with Washington’s bullying tactics whenever a disagreement arises, be it in trade or border demarcations; the punitive language; the constant threats; the military expansion of NATO and much more.

One month before the war, I argued with my co-writer, Romana Rubeo, that both Russia and China might be at the cusp of some kind of unity. That conclusion was drawn based on a simple discourse analysis of the official language emanating from both capitals and the actual deepening of relations.

At the time, we wrote,

“Some kind of an alliance is already forming between China and Russia. The fact that the Chinese people are taking note of this and are supporting their government’s drive towards greater integration – political, economic and geostrategic – between Beijing and Moscow, indicates that the informal and potentially formal alliance is a long-term strategy for both nations”.

Even then, like other analysts, we did not expect that such a possibility could be realized so quickly. The Ukraine war, in itself, was not indicative that Moscow and Beijing will grow closer. Instead, it was Washington’s response, threatening and humiliating China, that did most of the work. The visit by then-US House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, to Taiwan in August 2022 was a diplomatic disaster. It left Beijing with no alternative but to escalate and strengthen its ties with Russia, with the hope that the latter would fortify its naval presence in the Sea of Japan. In fact, this was the case.

But the “100 years” reference by Xi tells of a much bigger geopolitical story than any of us had expected. As Washington continues to pursue aggressive policies – with US President Joe Biden prioritizing Russia and his Republican foes prioritizing China as the main enemy of the US – the two Asian giants are now forced to merge into one unified political unit, with a common political discourse.

“We signed a statement on deepening the strategic partnership and bilateral ties which are entering a new era,” Xi said in his final statement.

This ‘no-limits friendship’ is more possible now than ever before, as neither country is constrained by ideological confines or competition. Moreover, they are both keen on ending the US global hegemony, not only in the Asia and Pacific region, but in Africa, the Middle East and, eventually, worldwide as well.

On the first day of Xi’s visit to Moscow, Russia’s President Putin issued a decree in which he has written off debts of African countries worth more than $20 billion. Moreover, he promised that Russia is “ready to supply the whole volume sent during the past time to African countries particularly requiring it, from Russia free of charge ..,” should Moscow decide “not to extend the (grain) deal in sixty days”.

For both countries, Africa is a major ally in the upcoming global conflict. The Middle East, too, is vital. The latest agreement, which normalized ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia is earth-shattering, not only because it ends seven years of animosity and conflict, but because the arbitrator was no other than China itself. Beijing is now a peace broker in the very Middle East which was dominated by failed US diplomacy for decades.

What this means for the Palestinians remains to be seen, as too many variables are still at work. But for these global shifts to serve Palestinian interests in any way, the current leadership, or a new leadership, would have to slowly break away from its reliance on western handouts and validation, and, with the support of Arab and African allies, adopt a different political strategy.

The US government, however, continues to read the situation entirely within the Russia-Ukraine war context. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken responded to Xi’s trip to Moscow by saying that “the world should not be fooled by any tactical move by Russia, supported by China or any other country, to freeze the war (in Ukraine) on its own terms.” It is rather strange, but also telling that the outright rejection of the potential call for a ceasefire was made by Washington, not Kyiv.

Xi’s visit, however, is truly historic from a geopolitical sense. It is comparable in scope and possible consequences to former US President Richard Nixon’s visit to Beijing, which contributed to the deterioration of ties between the Soviet Union and China under Chairman Mao Zedong.

The improved relationship between China and the US back then helped Washington further extend its global dominance, while putting the USSR on the defensive. The rest is history, one that was rife with geostrategic rivalry and divisions in Asia, thus, ultimately, the rise of the US as the uncontested power in that region.

Nixon’s visit to Beijing was described by then-Ambassador Nicholas Platt as “the week that changed the world”. Judging that statement from an American-centric view of the world, Platt was, in fact, correct in his assessment. The world, however, seems to be changing back. Though it took 51 years for that reversal to take place, the consequences are likely to be earth-shattering, to say the least.

Regions that have long been dominated by the US and its western allies, like the Middle East and Africa, are processing all of these changes and potential opportunities. If this geopolitical shift continues, the world will, once again, find itself divided into camps. While it is too early to determine, with any degree of certainty, the winners and losers of this new configuration, it is most certain that a US-western-dominated world is no longer possible.

The Collapse of U.S. Policy in the Middle East


Now, it is abundantly clear that the United States’ dishonest and aggressive Middle East strategy, which is at odds with the aspirations of the Arab world, has utterly failed. The establishment of a multipolar world by Russia, China, and Iran was a significant milestone in this process. The convergence of these three nations and the global support for this new diplomatic triangle have been impossible for the United States and its allies to prevent.

Around the world, anti-Russian sentiment is being stoked to confront the White House’s growing Russophobia, Sinophobia, tightening of unlawful sanctions measures, and even outright terrorism: the illegal undermining of the Nord Stream pipelines in the Baltic Sea and the apparent planning of similar terrorist activities against the TurkStream in particular (the activation of flights of the U.S. MQ-9 Reaper drones in the Black Sea, one of which crashed on March 14, can confirm this).

The US intelligence agencies continue to seek to arm ISIS (a terrorist organization banned in the Russian Federation) fighters, particularly at the US military base Al-Tanf in Syria, in order to exacerbate the chaos in the region. According to incoming information, the Islamists would soon get several dozen four-wheel drive pickup trucks equipped with heavy machine guns, BGM-71 ТOW and NLAW missile defense systems, 9K38 Igla, and other weapons.

While American hegemony, which Washington has been actively trying to impose on the world in recent years, is being eroded with each passing day, the concept of a multipolar world promoted by Russia and China is being further strengthened. Beijing’s efforts to mediate the dispute between Iran and Saudi Arabia were also a crucial stage in the process. This is supported even by American media, which saw the announcement of the restoration of diplomatic ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran as a direct challenge to Washington’s quest for dominance in the Middle East and around the globe. The signing in Beijing on March 10 of a peace treaty between the head of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council and his Saudi counterpart and the decision to open Embassies within two months show the intention and willingness of Middle Eastern states to solve pressing regional problems without American involvement, to seek ways out of existing conflict situations, the vast majority of which were created and fomented by the White House.

The situation in Iraq, which was invaded by the US and its allies without the consent of the UN Security Council 20 years ago, is a stark example of how Washington’s policies and authority have collapsed. The United States, which had promised to create a “free nation,” has reduced this nation to corruption and the ruins of what was once a powerful, affluent state, and has thrown it into an economic and political catastrophe. The US invasion, civil war and rampant terrorism killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. By international agreement, the United States and its allies’ attack was unleashed to enable the Anglo-Saxons’ unchecked looting of Iraq’s economy and oil fields. According to Orientalists, it was this policy that led to a surge of sectarian conflict, rampant terrorism and a series of civil wars throughout the Middle East. The US intervention, like with past armed aggressions by Washington in recent decades, has shown America’s dedication to militarily interfering in sovereign states and utterly eliminating their statehood, which is openly despised in the Middle East.

Washington made contempt for the interests of the countries in the region the defining feature of its policy in the rush to bolster its global hegemony following the fall of the Soviet Union. And this position was reinforced by the unrelenting US military presence in the region, the continuing attachment of Middle Eastern companies to Western markets, and the regional elites to the “democratic and financial values” of the United States. Following the election of US President Donald Trump, the White House began to focus primarily on the needs of Israel, so that the idea of the Abraham Accords, without resolving the Palestinian issue, began to be misrepresented in Washington as the ideal way to befriend Jews and Arabs on the grounds of instilling fear of Iran.

The White House therefore experienced Iran’s diplomatic successes in collaboration with Russia and China as well as the “treachery” of former American allies, the Saudis, with great agony. Furthermore, Washington’s realization of the decline in American influence in the region was a dreadful wakeup from its previous Middle East slumber.

The United States is currently unable to manage the Middle East crises and build a consensus among the region’s nations due to Washington’s deadlocked relations with the major Persian Gulf powers. This became particularly clear after Russia launched its special operation in Ukraine: except from Israel’s modest actions, not a single nation in the area has applied even the most rudimentary sanctions against Moscow. Concurrently with Trump’s 2015 decision to pull out of the nuclear deal with Iran, relations between Washington and Riyadh have deteriorated significantly in recent years, and against this backdrop the Saudi government has been forced to worry about both their own security and efforts to bring about peace in the region.

As a result of the US credibility being completely called into question by the White House’s tardy backing of the sheikhs’ activities in the adjacent Yemen, Riyadh is now looking for ways to resolve the conflict through direct communication with Tehran. And these contacts proved to be very effective, with Iran agreeing to stop clandestine arms shipments to the Houthi militia in Yemen as part of a historic agreement with Saudi Arabia to restore diplomatic relations. The region’s nations have a chance to move toward peace on their own, without relying on Washington. And since Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has invited Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi to visit Riyadh, these actions will undoubtedly be quite spectacular in the near future.

In light of these circumstances, there is growing discussion in the area about the necessity for the United States to end its aggressive actions in the Middle East and sail back home before a regional wave of protest in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, and many other nations forces it to do so.

Valery Kulikov, political expert, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.

In Moscow, Xi and Putin bury Pax Americana

March 22 2023

Photo Credit: The Cradle

In Moscow this week, the Chinese and Russian leaders revealed their joint commitment to redesign the global order, an undertaking that has ‘not been seen in 100 years.’

By Pepe Escobar

What has just taken place in Moscow is nothing less than a new Yalta, which, incidentally, is in Crimea. But unlike the momentous meeting of US President Franklin Roosevelt, Soviet Leader Joseph Stalin, and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in USSR-run Crimea in 1945, this is the first time in arguably five centuries that no political leader from the west is setting the global agenda.

It’s Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin that are now running the multilateral, multipolar show. Western exceptionalists may deploy their crybaby routines as much as they want: nothing will change the spectacular optics, and the underlying substance of this developing world order, especially for the Global South.

What Xi and Putin are setting out to do was explained in detail before their summit, in two Op-Eds penned by the presidents themselves. Like a highly-synchronized Russian ballet, Putin’s vision was laid out in the People’s Daily in China, focusing on a “future-bound partnership,” while Xi’s was published in the Russian Gazette and the RIA Novosti website, focusing on a new chapter in cooperation and common development.

Right from the start of the summit, the speeches by both Xi and Putin drove the NATO crowd into a hysterical frenzy of anger and envy: Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova perfectly captured the mood when she remarked that the west was “foaming at the mouth.”

The front page of the Russian Gazette on Monday was iconic: Putin touring Nazi-free Mariupol, chatting with residents, side by side with Xi’s Op-Ed. That was, in a nutshell, Moscow’s terse response to Washington’s MQ-9 Reaper stunt and the International Criminal Court (ICC) kangaroo court shenanigans. “Foam at the mouth” as much as you like; NATO is in the process of being thoroughly humiliated in Ukraine.

During their first “informal” meeting, Xi and Putin talked for no less than four and a half hours. At the end, Putin personally escorted Xi to his limo. This conversation was the real deal: mapping out the lineaments of multipolarity – which starts with a solution for Ukraine.

Predictably, there were very few leaks from the sherpas, but there was quite a significant one on their “in-depth exchange” on Ukraine. Putin politely stressed he respects China’s position – expressed in Beijing’s 12-point conflict resolution plan, which has been completely rejected by Washington. But the Russian position remains ironclad: demilitarization, Ukrainian neutrality, and enshrining the new facts on the ground.

In parallel, the Russian Foreign Ministry completely ruled out a role for the US, UK, France, and Germany in future Ukraine negotiations: they are not considered neutral mediators.

A multipolar patchwork quilt

The next day was all about business: everything from energy and  “military-technical” cooperation to improving the efficacy of trade and economic corridors running through Eurasia.

Russia already ranks first as a natural gas supplier to China – surpassing Turkmenistan and Qatar – most of it via the 3,000 km Power of Siberia pipeline that runs from Siberia to China’s northeastern Heilongjiang province, launched in December 2019. Negotiations on the Power of Siberia II pipeline via Mongolia are advancing fast.

Sino-Russian cooperation in high-tech will go through the roof: 79 projects at over $165 billion. Everything from liquified natural gas (LNG) to aircraft construction, machine tool construction, space research, agro-industry, and upgraded economic corridors.

The Chinese president explicitly said he wants to link the New Silk Road projects to the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU). This BRI-EAEU interpolation is a natural evolution. China has already signed an economic cooperation deal with the EAEU. Russian macroeconomic uber-strategist Sergey Glazyev’s ideas are finally bearing fruit.

And last but not least, there will be a new drive towards mutual settlements in national currencies – and between Asia and Africa, and Latin America. For all practical purposes, Putin endorsed the role of the Chinese yuan as the new trade currency of choice while the complex discussions on a new reserve currency backed by gold and/or commodities proceed.

This joint economic/business offensive ties in with the concerted Russia-China diplomatic offensive to remake vast swathes of West Asia and Africa.

Chinese diplomacy works like the matryoshka (Russian stacking dolls) in terms of delivering subtle messages. It’s far from coincidental that Xi’s trip to Moscow exactly coincides with the 20th anniversary of American ‘Shock and Awe’ and the illegal invasion, occupation, and destruction of Iraq.

In parallel, over 40 delegations from Africa arrived in Moscow a day before Xi to take part in a “Russia-Africa in the Multipolar World” parliamentary conference – a run-up to the second Russia-Africa summit next July.

The area surrounding the Duma looked just like the old Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) days when most of Africa kept very close anti-imperialist relations with the USSR.

Putin chose this exact moment to write off more than $20 billion in African debt.

In West Asia, Russia-China are acting totally in synch. West Asia. The Saudi-Iran rapprochement was actually jump-started by Russia in Baghdad and Oman: it was these negotiations that led to the signing of the deal in Beijing. Moscow is also coordinating the Syria-Turkiye rapprochement discussions. Russian diplomacy with Iran – now under strategic partnership status – is kept on a separate track.

Diplomatic sources confirm that Chinese intelligence, via its own investigations, is now fully assured of Putin’s vast popularity across Russia, and even within the country’s political elites. That means conspiracies of the regime-change variety are out of the question. This was fundamental for Xi and the Zhongnanhai’s (China’s central HQ for party and state officials) decision to “bet” on Putin as a trusted partner in the coming years, considering he may run and win the next presidential elections. China is always about continuity.

So the Xi-Putin summit definitively sealed China-Russia as comprehensive strategic partners for the long haul, committed to developing serious geopolitical and geoeconomic competition with declining western hegemons.

This is the new world born in Moscow this week. Putin previously defined it as a new anti-colonial policy. It’s now laid out as a multipolar patchwork quilt. There’s no turning back on the demolition of the remnants of Pax Americana.

‘Changes that haven’t happened in 100 years’

In Before European Hegemony: The World System A.D. 1250-1350, Janet Abu-Lughod built a carefully constructed narrative showing the prevailing multipolar order when the West “lagged behind the ‘Orient.’” Later, the West only “pulled ahead because the ‘Orient’ was temporarily in disarray.”

We may be witnessing a similarly historic shift in the making, trespassed by a revival of Confucianism (respect for authority, emphasis on social harmony), the equilibrium inherent to the Tao, and the spiritual power of Eastern Orthodoxy. This is, indeed, a civilizational fight.

Moscow, finally welcoming the first sunny days of Spring, provided this week a larger-than-life illustration of “weeks where decades happen” compared to “decades where nothing happens.”

The two presidents bid farewell in a poignant manner.

Xi: “Now, there are changes that haven’t happened in 100 years. When we are together, we drive these changes.”

Putin: “I agree.”

Xi: “Take care, dear friend.”

Putin: “Have a safe trip.”

Here’s to a new day dawning, from the lands of the Rising Sun to the Eurasian steppes.

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

Russia and China: a summit of important international agreements and messages

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

March 21 2023

Photo Credit: The Cradle

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

By Mohamad Hasan Sweidan

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

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

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

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

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

Great Power competition: a heavy burden on Israel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

China’s presence in West Asia and North Africa

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

WANA states that have joined China’s BRI

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

WANA states with bilateral strategic partnerships with China

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

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

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

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

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

Iranian cooperation with Russia and China

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Israel’s shrinking geopolitics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

balance of powerBRIBRICS+ChinaChinese investmentsGlobal Power conflictIranIsraelmilitary deterrencenational security

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

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

March 13 2023

Photo Credit: The Cradle

By Pepe Escobar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The road to ‘de-offshorization’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hezbollah, Anti-imperialism, and the Compatible Left

March 11,

Source: Al Mayadeen English

By Sammy Ismail 

A review of Banerjee’s “Fighting Imperialism and Authoritarian Regimes: Between the Devil and the Deep Sea” (2003) and Salamey’s “Hezbollah, Communitarianism, and Anti-Imperialism” (2019).

“such power and the people who excercised it, embodied a mystique, expressed not simply in guns but in books, uniforms, social behavior and a mass of manufactured products. Only by accepting these things and those who brought them would it be possible to penetrate this mystique and grasp the power which lay behind it” (Chris Calpham, Third World Politics: an introduction, 1985)

According to the Middle East Institute, the Washington-based think-tank, Hezbollah today stands as the “most formidable” armed non-state actor in the world. Hezbollah has developed exponentially since the 1980s growing to be the most numerously large political party in the Arab world, and spearheading the Axis of Resistance coalition against Zionism and US imperialism [and its Arab allies] in West Asia at large. The stance on Hezbollah has recurrently caused sharp disagreements among the Left in the Arab World and abroad: whereby some would promote anti-imperialist solidarity with the party, and others would explain away the party’s anti-imperialist achievements to critique other factors.  


In “Fighting Imperialism and Authoritarian Regimes: Between the Devil and the Deep Sea”, Sumanta Banerjee introduces a pertinent debate of leftist circles into academia (2003). Banerjee offers a critique of post-soviet anti-imperialism: contrasting old leftist anti-imperialist liberation movements with contemporary identity-based anti-imperialist liberation movements which presumably fall short of leftist standards of social liberation. He argues that the Left is regressing by uncritically prioritizing the contradiction of imperialism while overlooking other tenants of social liberation which he characterizes as violating “the beliefs and operative norms” of “the Left and democratic forces” (S. Banerjee, 2003, p:183). 

The regression and eventual dissolution of the USSR stifled the popularity of socialist ideals and did away with the blanket ideology that most anti-imperialist actors adopted a variant of. It became a notable trend of liberation movements, especially in West Asia, to turn towards their respective cultures for revolutionary inspiration rather than turning to the literature of scientific socialism. The prior leftwing secular character of liberation movements was replaced by cultural indigenous ideologies: the most distinguished among which is Hezbollah.  

In his article, Banerjee condemns these non-socialist anti-imperialist movements as ‘authoritarian’. He doesn’t directly address Hezbollah but poses a critique generally to all non-socialist anti-imperialist actors. He argues that they hardly any better than their imperialist oppressors such that they too stifle social liberation: thus allegorizing the latter as the ‘Devil’ and the former as the ‘Deep Sea’ (S. Banerjee, 2003, p:184). He adds that the anti-imperialist struggle against US hegemony has been distorted since the time of ‘Che Guevara’ and ‘Nelson Mandela’ (S. Banerjee, 2003, p:183). Many leftists, he argues, have remained uncritically fixated on supporting any party opposing US hegemony regardless of other factors; he theorizes that they have been so blinded by the evils of the Devil that they have obliviously backed up into the embrace of the Deep Sea (S. Banerjee, 2003).

Banerjeee’s argument, essentially, challenges the precedence of the struggle against imperialism in leftist lore and activism. The novel significance of his article is that it formulates a topic heatedly debated in vintage cafes and niche pubs, and introduces it into academia where it can be scientifically unpacked. While he doesn’t address Hezbollah directly, his arguments echo those posed by some leftists against initiatives for political affinity with Hezbollah. 


Imad Salamey (2019) comports the aforementioned argument to be point-precise geared toward Hezbollah by introducing the prospect of “communitarianism”. Salamey explains in “Hezbollah, Communitarianism, and Anti-Imperialism” that Hezbollah is one byproduct of the global trend of communitarianism (2019). Communitarianism, Salamey explains, arises as a result of the ferocious expansion of capitalism and the equivocal decline of nation-states with the curbing of governments in favor of laissez-faire market policies (2019).

In the absence of the state’s welfare role, communities turn inwards for a safety net. Hezbollah’s inception in Lebanon came in this context: in light of the Shia community’s social marginalization, the sectarian chaos of the Lebanese civil war, and the recurrent Zionist attacks on the predominantly shia-populated south. Hezbollah arose as the safety net for its immediate community against the ills of capitalism and imperialism. 

Salamey explains that communitarianism is rooted in a “primordial cultural solidarity” which undermines the nation-state (2019); In the case of Hezbollah, this underlying cultural solidarity was of that between the Iranian and Lebanese Shias: which was optimized ultimately in the form of the robust alliance between Hezbollah and the Islamic Revolution’s Guard Corps. 

Before unpacking the communitarian basis of Hezbollah, Salamey aimed to synthesize the general conception of anti-imperialism in Marxist lore and then presented the two as incompatible. He argues that:

  1. The Marxist directive for revolution, and by extension anti-imperialist praxis, is premised upon the Westphalian conception of the nation-state (liberation is the liberation of a nation within a state),
  2. Communitarianism by definition undermines the nation-state, and Hezbollah is manifestly communitarian (primarily because of its substate identity)
  3. Thus, Hezbollah isn’t anti-imperialist (the strive against American imperialism is accidental and not decisively anti-imperialist).  

The conclusion of Salamey’s article builds on that of Banerjee’s: leftists in support of Hezbollah under the pretext of anti-imperialist solidarity are violating the ideological beliefs and operative norms of the Left (Salamey, Hezbollah, Communitarianism, and Anti-Imperialism, 2019; Banerjee, Between the Devil and the Deep Sea, 2003). This Post-Soviet Communitarian critique of Hezbollah roughly presents some arguments typically posed by western and westernized leftists denouncing affinity with Hezbollah. 

Argument 1: Hezbollah isn’t Leftist  

One of the typical discourse narratives posed against affinity with Hezbollah is by wistfully contrasting Hezbollah with the romanticized leftist anti-imperialist icons such as Che Guevara or Nelson Mandela. While this is a unscientific criticism of Hezbollah that is uncommon among credible Leftist intellectuals or noteworthy parties, it is popular among the contemporary ‘woke’ left as a to-go-to argument. 

The objective of conjuring the picturesque revolutionary experiences of Guevara and Mandela is to undermine Hezbollah’s strive for liberation in contrast. Proponents of such speaking points aim to marginalize Hezbollah’s achievements against Zionist colonialism and Takfiri fascism by putting it in competition with icons like Guevara or Mandela: In an effort to present Hezbollah’s anti-imperialist efforts as ‘accidental’ or ‘isolated incidents’ sidelining them in the assessment of Hezbollah’s character. 

These speaking points offer no real critique but only employ symbolic smearing to contain Hezbollah’s popularity momentum from extending to the Left-wing in the Arab World and the West. Such smear-campaigning speaking points are comparable to that posed against the Red Army in the late 1940s. The Red Army led by Stalin had taken on the full brunt of the Nazi war machine and liberated Europe from the ruthless rule of Nazism suffering 8.6 million deaths in the process (which is 10 times more than the deaths suffered by the US, Britain, and France combined). However this fact was actively distorted for western public opinion: presenting the victory over Fascism as a victory of all the “Allied Powers”, presenting the Red Army as only a marginal contributor to this victory, and presenting Stalin as an anti-christian-church-destroyer to the conservative working class in Europe and the US.

Argument 1 marginalizes Hezbollah’s admirable strife against the Zionist and Takfiri footsoldiers of US imperialism. It conditions support for Hezbollah upon the party’s self-identification as a leftist party, factoring out the consequential significance of Hezbollah’s strife against the forces of reaction. A bullet that pierces the heart of a colonizing soldier or a fanatic fascist promotes people’s liberation regardless of the ideological incentives which motivate the soldier.  

Argument 2: Hezbollah isn’t Secular

While argument 1 stands as a strawman argument against leftist solidarity with Hezbollah, other arguments present a more sophisticated version of Argument 1. Primarily, and most commonly, is the argument referring to the Islamic ideology of Hezbollah: an argument that is alluded to by the aforementioned prospect of communitarianism (Salamey, 2019). 

It is argued that Leftists can’t stand in solidarity with Hezbollah despite its anti-imperialist practice and stance because of its Islamic ideology. The Shia Islamic ‘communitarian’ character (or the ‘sectarian’ character of Hezbollah, to put it in the language of Lebanese political discourse), is argued, to devalue Hezbollah’s revolutionary anti-imperialist character.

Proponents of this argument explain that Hezbollah’s strife against Zionists and Takfiris arises from an in-group (shia community) v out-group (non-shia communities) rationale rather than a scientific understanding of imperialism: whereby imperialism is defined as the byproduct of the disproportionate accumulation of capital in favor of some nations at the expense of others, which entails the exploitation of the latter by the former for the purposes of maximizing economic interests (Lenin, Imperialism: the Highest Stage of Capitalism, 1917).

Hezbollah, however, isn’t sectarian despite adopting a religious ideology and employing religious discourse. The party’s praxis isn’t a zero-sum game of competition with other religious groups and this is assessed consequentially (i.e. in terms of results). Even if we were to entertain this faulty accusation and grant the validity of inferring chauvinistic sectarianism from religiosity, Hezbollah’s anti-imperialist character still holds. Assuming that Hezbollah is a “sectarian” communitarian party and interpreting wars in the “middle east” from an orientalist lens as irrational wars between different tribes motivated by identitarian chauvinism, Hezbollah’s praxis remains consequentially anti-imperialist praxis. Even if we were to assume that the Party’s wars against Zionists and Takfiris is motivated by an inter-communitarian feud, this doesn’t change the fact that (1) Zionists and Takfiris were acting as footsoldiers of Imperialism and (2) Hezbollah’s strife against them was successful and effective.  

This line of reasoning is cited by prominent theorists of Scientific Socialism. Marx and Engels hailed the Irish struggle for independence from British colonialism while acknowledging that the Irish liberation movement was prominently led by Catholic clergymen and that the conflict of decolonization had manifested for the Irish fighters as a war for protecting the catholicization of the indigenous population of the Island against the Protestant British invaders (Marx &Engels, On the Irish Question,1867). 

Additionally, Stalin, in “Foundations of Leninism” when addressing the monarchist Emir’s efforts for liberation in Afghanistan, emphasized assessing liberation movements according to the results which they yield rather than according to a checklist of democratic standards (1924). “The national movement of the oppressed countries should be appraised not from the point of view of formal democracy, but from the point of view of actual results, as shown by the general balance sheet of the struggle against imperialism. The revolutionary character of a national movement under the conditions of imperialist oppression does not necessarily presuppose the existence of proletarian elements in the movement, the existence of a revolutionary or a republican program of the movement, or the existence of a democratic basis of the movement.” (Stalin, 1924). 

More so, however, Hezbollah stands as significantly more politically sophisticated than the Irish liberation movement in the 1860s (endorsed by Marx and Engels) or the Afghan Emir’s liberation attempt (endorsed by Stalin). The party’s religious and cultural ideology doesn’t exclude a scientific conception of imperialism as expressly stated in their 2009 manifesto. In the Chapter on Domination and Hegemony, it reads “Savage capitalism forces – embodied mainly in international monopoly networks of companies that cross the nations and continents, networks of various international establishments especially the financial ones backed by superior military force have led to more contradictions and conflicts – of which not less important – are the conflicts of identities, cultures, civilizations, in addition to the conflicts of poverty and wealth. These savage capitalism forces have turned into mechanisms of sowing dissension and destruction of identities as well as imposing the most dangerous type of cultural, national, economic as well as social theft. Globalization reached its most dangerous facet when it turned into a military one led by those following the Western scheme of domination – of which it was most reflected in the Middle East, in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, and Lebanon, where the latter’s share was the July 2006 aggression by the ‘Israelis’ ”(2009). 

Islamic Fervor 

Marxism isn’t as vehemently anti-religion as McCarthyists and infantile leftists make it seem. Dominoquo Losurdo unpacks this adequately in “Class Struggle: A Political and Philosophical History” (2016). He explains that, historically, the classes of society achieved initial awareness of the national question through religion: that It was through religious idioms and prospects that people became conscious of real material contradictions. “Marx and Engels carefully avoided indiscriminate liquidation of movements inspired by religion… Religious affiliation can be experienced very intensely and mobilized effectively in political and historical upheaval, but is not the primary cause of such conflict” (Losurdo, 2016). 

In the case of Hezbollah, political theory and praxis of anti-zionism and anti-imperialism was developed in reference to the Epic of Karbala, in which Al-Hussein fought ferociously for justice against the tyranny of Yazid. This cultural narrative is native to the Lebanese Shia even prior to the inception of Hezbollah. The cultural significance and religious rituals of Aashura weren’t parachuted from Iran on the eve of the Islamic revolution. Aashura is a historic watershed of Arab history. It symbolizes an indigenous revolution against the tyranny of the Islamic caliphate: the descendants of the Prophet contended the distorted interpretation of Islam which manufactured political legitimacy for tyrant caliphs by triumphing the authentic interpretation of Islam which promotes the normative ideal of justice.   

One would dismiss this, citing Marx: “religion is the opiate of the masses” (Marx, Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of the Right, 1843). Aashura, however, unlike the religious narratives which promote pacifism referenced by Marx in his opiate metaphor, acted as a catalyst for the masses of the Lebanese Shia community to bear arms against Imperialist projects.

Hezbollah capitalized on the Epic of Aashura which has long been transmitted from generation to generation in this community. The narrative was allegorically projected to contemporary politics following a scientific analysis of the material contradictions as the 2009 manifesto expressly elaborates. The cultural spite against Yazid’s injustice and tyranny was evoked by Hezbollah’s clergymen to be compared to the hegemony of the US empire, and consequently mobilizing hundreds against the proxies of imperialism. This tactic of mobilization proved exceptionally effective in consolidating the world’s most powerful non-state actor, reversing the Arab nation’s setback in their struggle against Israeli colonialism, and snuffing out the deviant Takfiri fascist enterprise in the Levant.

“What human consciousness does is try to understand the world. When social life is calm, so are ideologies; when class conflicts come to existence so too do competing ideologies and conscious statements; and only when a revolutionary class arises can revolutionary ideas come into being” (Peter Stillman, Marx Myths and Legends, 2005)  

Picturesquely, it is the whispered Islamic idioms that teemed serenity and discipline in the hearts of fighters fortified in Bint Jbeil as they took on the full brunt of the Israeli war machine, and it is the battle cry of “Ya Zaynab” which resounded as Kornet ATGMs flattened Israeli tanks back in 2006.  

The Compatible Left 

However, acknowledging criticism and engaging in self-criticism is central to the development and optimization of political praxis. A scientific analysis, regardless of the conclusion it’s comported towards, is generally beneficial. It introduces theoretical concepts that allow one to think better of complicated issues and theorize about them: like the allegory of the devil and the deep sea (S. Banerjee, 2003) or the trend of ‘communitarianism’ (I. Salamey, 2019). 

In the same context, to frame the discourse and filter critique from smear campaigning, it is notable to introduce a term coined by CIA strategists: The Compatible Left.  Which refers to leftist intellectuals and parties coopted by the CIA in an effort to manufacture a Left that is compatible with imperialism. The Compatible Left is also comparable with the Neo-comprador class which James Petras theorizes about in “NGOs: In the Service of Imperialism” (2007). The compatible left is an inconsequential left: it employs leftist lore and language while ensuring that the status quo of imperialism remains robust and unchallenged.

Related Stories

Scott Ritter on Why Syria and Russia Allow the USA to Steal Syrian Oil?


On his popular online show, the Scott Ritter Extra, former US Marine intelligence officer and former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter answers a question boggling the minds of many in regard to the US forces stealing the Syrian oil.

A viewer of the Scott Ritter Extra’s show asked the following question:

Please tell me why Syria and Russia allow the U.S. to steal Syria’s oil. Why can’t they be kicked out?

Mr. Ritter’s response corroborates with general agreement among the Syrian analysts in taking time to continue to make the US forces’ presence in the whole region harder to maintain and let them withdraw without dragging the region to a wide-scale confrontation that only the people in this region will suffer from to the joy of the US weapons manufacturers and evil ruling class.

Here’s how Mr. Ritter put it, with Arabic subtitles:

The video is also available on RumbleBitChute,


Because neither Syria nor Russia wants a direct confrontation with the United States, that’s what would be required.

For Syria, the last thing they need is the United States to be bombarding its critical infrastructure with long-range cruise missiles and air power.

The last thing Russia wants is to take a militarily inferior position posture in Syria and expose it to piecemeal destructure by a superior American force in the Middle East, because not only would the Russians be defeated in Syria, this would lead to a force-on-force confrontation between Russia and the United States which eventually will lead to a nuclear conflict.

So for the time being, the Syrians and the Russians would do what they always do, be patient, put pressure, and eventually the United States will be forced to withdraw from Syria as we withdraw from everywhere where our presence is illegitimate, ill-advised, and has no viable future.

End of the transcript.

Link to the episode on Scott Ritter Extra show: Click Here

Follow Mr. Ritter on Twitter and on his website: https://www.scottritterextra.com.

The US official narrative is the US troops are deployed in Syria to combat ISIS (ISIL – Daesh); the same narrative has been debunked by no other than the former US President and Commander in Chief of the US Armed Forces Trump:


Syria News is a collaborative effort by two authors only, we end up most of the months paying from our pockets to maintain the site’s presence online, if you like our work and want us to remain online you can help by chipping in a couple of Euros/ Dollars or any other currency so we can meet our site’s costs.You can also donate with Cryptocurrencies through our donate page.
Thank you in advance.

Related Videos

Press _ conference by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates, Dr. Faisal Al-Miqdad, and his Iranian counterpart, Hussein Amir Abdullahian
Syria Insider Weekly 
Lattakia: A delegation from the Emirates Red Crescent provides medical materials and medicines to the Syrian people

Related Videos

The Valdai meeting: Where West Asia meets multipolarity

March 04 2023

Photo Credit: The Cradle

At Russia’s Valdai Club meeting – the east’s answer to Davos – intellectuals and influencers gathered to frame West Asia’s current and future developments.

Pepe Escobar is a columnist at The Cradle, editor-at-large at Asia Times and an independent geopolitical analyst focused on Eurasia. Since the mid-1980s he has lived and worked as a foreign correspondent in London, Paris, Milan, Los Angeles, Singapore and Bangkok. He is the author of countless books; his latest one is Raging Twenties.

By Pepe Escobar

The 12th “Middle East Conference” at the Valdai Club in Moscow offered a more than welcome cornucopia of views on interconnected troubles and tribulations affecting the region.

But first, an important word on terminology – as only one of Valdai’s guests took the trouble to stress. This is not the “Middle East” – a reductionist, Orientalist notion devised by old colonials: at The Cradle we emphasize the region must be correctly described as West Asia.

Some of the region’s trials and tribulations have been mapped by the official Valdai report, The Middle East and The Future of Polycentric World.  But the intellectual and political clout of those in attendance can provide valuable anecdotal insights too. Here are a few of the major strands participants highlighted on regional developments, current and future:

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov set the stage by stressing that Kremlin policy encourages the formation of an “inclusive regional security system.” That’s exactly what the Americans refused to discuss with the Russians in December 2021, then applied to Europe and the post-Soviet space. The result was a proxy war.

Kayhan Barzegar of Islamic Azad University in Iran qualified the two major strategic developments affecting West Asia: a possible US retreat and a message to regional allies: “You cannot count on our security guarantees.”

Every vector – from rivalry in the South Caucasus to the Israeli normalization with the Persian Gulf – is subordinated to this logic, notes Barzegar, with quite a few Arab actors finally understanding that there now exists a margin of maneuver to choose between the western or the non-western bloc.

Barzegar does not identify Iran-Russia ties as a strategic alliance, but rather a geopolitical, economic bloc based on technology and regional supply chains – a “new algorithm in politics” – ranging from weapons deals to nuclear and energy cooperation, driven by Moscow’s revived southern and eastward orientations. And as far as Iran-western relations go, Barzegar still believes the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or Iran nuclear deal, is not dead. A least not yet.

‘Nobody knows what these rules are’

Egyptian Ramzy Ramzy, until 2019 the UN Deputy Special Envoy for Syria, considers the reactivation of relations between Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE with Syria as the most important realignment underway in the region. Not to mention prospects for a Damascus-Ankara reconciliation. “Why is this happening? Because of the regional security system’s dissatisfaction with the present,” Ramzy explains.

Yet even if the US may be drifting away, “neither Russia nor China are willing to take up a leadership role,” he says. At the same time, Syria “cannot be allowed to fall prey to outside interventions. The earthquake at least accelerated these rapprochements.”

Bouthaina Shaaban, a special advisor to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, is a remarkable woman, fiery and candid. Her presence at Valdai was nothing short of electric. She stressed how “since the US war in Vietnam, we lost what we witnessed as free media. The free press has died.” At the same time “the colonial west changed its methods,” subcontracting wars and relying on local fifth columnists.

Shaaban volunteered the best short definition anywhere of the “rules-based international order”: “Nobody knows what these rules are, and what this order is.”

She re-emphasized that in this post-globalization period that is ushering in regional blocs, the usual western meddlers prefer to use non-state actors – as in Syria and Iran – “mandating locals to do what the US would like to do.”

A crucial example is the US al-Tanf military base that occupies sovereign Syrian territory on two critical borders. Shaaban calls the establishment of this base as “strategic, for the US to prevent regional cooperation, at the Iraq, Jordan, and Syria crossroads.” Washington knows full well what it is doing: unhampered trade and transportation at the Syria-Iraq border is a major lifeline for the Syrian economy.

Reminding everyone once again that “all political issues are connected to Palestine,” Shaaban also offered a healthy dose of gloomy realism: “The eastern bloc has not been able to match the western narrative.”

A ‘double-layered proxy war’

Cagri Erhan, rector of Altinbas University in Turkey, offered a quite handy definition of a Hegemon: the one who controls the lingua franca, the currency, the legal setting, and the trade routes.

Erhan qualifies the current western hegemonic state of play as “double-layered proxy war” against, of course, Russia and China. The Russians have been defined by the US as an “open enemy” – a major threat. And when it comes to West Asia, proxy war still rules: “So the US is not retreating,” says Erhan. Washington will always consider using the area “strategically against emerging powers.”

Then what about the foreign policy priorities of key West Asian and North African actors?

Algerian political journalist Akram Kharief, editor of the online MenaDefense, insists Russia should get closer to Algeria, “which is still in the French sphere of influence,” and be wary of how the Americans are trying to portray Moscow as “a new imperial threat to Africa.”

Professor Hasan Unal of Maltepe University in Turkiye made it quite clear how Ankara finally “got rid of its Middle East [West Asian] entanglements,” when it was previously “turning against everybody.”

Mid-sized powers such as Turkiye, Iran, and Saudi Arabia are now stepping to the forefront of the region’s political stage. Unal notes how “Turkiye and the US don’t see eye to eye on any issue important to Ankara.” Which certainly explains the strengthening of Turkish-Russian ties – and their mutual interest in introducing “multi-faceted solutions” to the region’s problems.

For one, Russia is actively mediating Turkiye-Syria rapprochement. Unal confirmed that the Syrian and Turkish foreign ministers will soon meet in person – in Moscow – which will represent the highest-ranking direct engagement between the two nations since the onset of the Syrian war. And that will pave the way for a tripartite summit between Assad, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Note that the big regional reconciliations are being held – once again – either in, or with the participation of Moscow, which can rightfully be described as the capital of the 21st century multipolar world.

When it comes to Cyprus, Unal notes how “Russia would not be interested in a unified state that would be EU and NATO territory.” So it’s time for “creative ideas: as Turkey is changing its Syria policy, Russia should change its Cyprus policy.”

Dr. Gong Jiong, from the Israeli campus of China’s University of International Business and Economics, came up with a catchy neologism: the “coalition of the unwilling” – describing how “almost the whole Global South is not supporting sanctions on Russia,” and certainly none of the players in West Asia.

Gong noted that as much as China-Russia trade is rising fast – partly as a direct consequence of western sanctions – the Americans would have to think twice about China-hit sanctions. Russia-China trade stands at $200 billion a year, after all, while US-China trade is a whopping $700 billion per annum.

The pressure on the “neutrality camp” won’t relent anyway. What is needed by the world’s “silent majority,” as Gong defines it, is “an alliance.” He describes the 12-point Chinese peace plan for Ukraine as “a set of principles” – Beijing’s base for serious negotiations: “This is the first step.”

There will be no new Yalta

What the Valdai debates made crystal clear, once again, is how Russia is the only actor capable of approaching every player across West Asia, and be listened to carefully and respectfully.

It was left to Anwar Abdul-Hadi, director of the political department of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the latter’s official envoy to Damascus, to arguably sum up what led to the current global geopolitical predicament: “A new Yalta or a new world war? They [the west] chose war.”

And still, as new geopolitical and geoeconomic fault lines keep emerging, it is as though West Asia is anticipating something “big” coming ahead. That feeling was palpable in the air at Valdai.

To paraphrase Yeats, and updating him to the young, turbulent 21st century, “what rough beast, its hour come out at last, slouches towards the cradle [of civilization] to be born?

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

In Munich: West sounds alarm over Global South stances

The recent conference on international security policy focused extensively on the significance of the Global South to the west’s security. As power competition with China and Russia intensifies, the west is compelled to reassess its approach to relations with these countries.

February 23 2023

Photo Credit: The Cradle
Mohamed Sweidan is a strategic studies researcher, a writer for different media platforms, and the author of several studies in the field of international relations. Mohamed’s main focus is on Russian affairs, Turkish politics, and the relationship between energy security and geopolitics.

By Mohamad Hasan Sweidan

“I am struck by how much we are losing the trust of the Global South.”

French President Emmanuel Macron during the Munich Security Conference 2023

The 59th Munich Security Conference (MSC) held from 17 to 19 February, was attended by over 150 senior officials, including more than 40 heads of state and international organizations. The conference focused on three main topics: the war in Ukraine, the need to confront China and Russia, and the importance of the Global South in the struggle between the great powers.

As in the previous year, Russia was not present at the Munich conference. However, this year marked the first time in twenty years that Moscow was not even invited to participate. With both Russia and Iran absent, the conference became a platform for attacking opponents of western policies.

The Great Game for the Global South

The conference took place against a backdrop of international turmoil and competition among great powers for influence in the emerging multipolar order. Several western countries expressed their dissatisfaction with the positions of Global South countries in relation to the conflicts involving China and Russia.

During her speech, US Vice President Kamala Harris stated that:

“We have invited a record number of representatives from the so-called “Global South,” because while we have this unity between us, when you talk to representatives of the Global South – and we had them on the podium this morning – you see that many countries sit on the fence.”

Accordingly, Christoph Heusgen, chairman of the MSC, announced at the opening ceremony that this year’s conference would “put a spotlight on the Global South” and “listen to their concerns.”

France’s Macron pointed out that efforts in reshaping the global order should be more inclusive: “The west has been losing the Global South and hasn’t done enough to respond to the charge of double standards, including by not helping poor countries fast enough with Covid vaccines,” he said. “One way to address the concerns of the Global South is to bring about reforms in the United Nations.”

A wake-up call for the west

While the discussions and outcomes of the conference suggest that western powers have come to recognize the significance of nations in the Global South, this appears to be mainly because of the necessity in rallying their support in major conflicts against Russia and China.

The conflict in Ukraine fully demonstrated that the refusal of many Latin American, African, and Asian countries to support western sanctions was a significant factor in the failure of the west’s attempts to isolate Russia.

The MSC’s final report states: “The wake-up call provided by Russia’s war and the diffidence of many countries in the ‘Global South’ has roused liberal democracies from their complacency, reminding them that the international order, just like democracy itself, is in constant need of renewal.”

The report added that “countries in the Global South can become crucial ‘swing states.’ They can tip the balance between systemic competitors and therefore determine the fate of the international rules-based order.” It also recognized that:

“Influential states such as India, Turkey, or Saudi Arabia are quite actively hedging their bets in the current geopolitical standoff – both when it comes to Ukraine but also on many other policy issues. Rather than being guided by deep feelings about the international order, their responses to the war in Ukraine and their stances in the broader international contest over the international order seem to be guided by much more pragmatic reasoning.”

The report also found that:

“Many countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America have steadily lost faith in the legitimacy and fairness of an international system which has neither granted them an appropriate voice in global affairs, nor sufficiently addressed their core concerns. To many states, these failures are deeply tied to the west. They find that the western-led order has been characterized by post-colonial domination, double standards, and neglect for developing countries’ concerns.”

Legacy of colonialism

It is clear from the statements made at the Munich Security Conference that the west recognizes the need to change its approach to development cooperation with the countries of the Global South, in order to counter the increasing influence of Beijing and Moscow.

However, this will require a fundamental shift in attitudes and policies towards these countries, which have historically been viewed as objects of aid and development rather than equal partners in a mutually beneficial relationship. This too is pointed out in the MSC report:

“The United States and Europe will have to rethink their approaches to development cooperation with countries in the Global South. They need to make their development models more attractive, as China offers an alternative model based on a narrative of solidarity and mutual benefits. To compete with China, the approach must focus on the novelty on short-term emergency relief as well as long-term financing enables sustainable and resilient systems in partner countries.”

The colonialist legacy of the west continues to cast a long shadow over its relations with the Global South, and it will take sustained effort and genuine commitment to overcome this legacy and build a more equitable and productive relationship.

This will require a shift away from the donor-recipient model towards one based on partnership and mutual benefit, and a recognition that the interests and aspirations of the countries of the Global South must be taken seriously and respected.

Looting wealth, interfering in the policies of states, and waging wars are hallmarks of western policies in the developing world. Those states who do not adhere to western diktats are regularly subjected to ominous sanctions or extreme economic pressures.

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the support for authoritarian regimes and coups, the economic vise on countries like Lebanon and Venezuela, and the unequal distribution of vaccines during the COVID-19 pandemic are just a few examples of the ways in which western powers have acted against the interests and well-being of Global South countries.

In 2019, when former US President Donald Trump triumphantly claimed ownership of Syrian oil, it marked a clear example of the problematic and exploitative attitudes that continue to plague western policies toward the Global South. The fact that western leaders did not anticipate the rise of the developing countries to become decisive “swing states” – as noted in the final report of the Munich conference – is a reflection of the west’s ongoing ignorance and neglect of the interests and aspirations of these vital states.

West Asia at the MSC

The MSC also highlighted the increasing importance of West Asia in global energy politics and the west’s alarm about China’s growing influence in this region. The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) projection that West Asian countries will meet a large share of China and India’s growing oil needs has raised the region’s strategic value for these influential emerging powers.

Washington’s frustration with Saudi Arabia’s standing in the Ukrainian conflict was also evident at the conference, as the west seeks to prevent a repeat of such behavior in the more important conflict with China. Per the conference report:

“Amid the decline of the American presence in the Middle East [West Asia], liberal democracies are increasingly concerned about China’s growing influence. Deeper relations between China and the Middle East [West Asia] may evolve to include a stronger Chinese military and security footprint, which could undermine the west’s security partnerships with countries in the region.”

In essence, the Munich meeting provided a platform for declining western powers to express their concerns about the growing influence of China in West Asia, as well as their frustration with Saudi Arabia’s perceived lack of loyalty. It highlighted the need for the west to adapt its strategies in dealing with the developing world and to foster new forms of international solidarity and cooperation.

However, it is important to acknowledge that the term “Global South” itself reflects a colonial mindset that continues to shape the west’s perception of developing nations, and that such imperial policies will continue as long as such attitudes persist.

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

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

February 17 2023

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

Photo credit: The Cradle

By Pepe Escobar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Iran: gotta modernize everything

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The core of multipolarity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trials and Tribulations of the Collective West

February 01, 2023

by Pepe Escobar, widely distributed on the Internet and posted with the author’s permission

Sit back, relax and enjoy a race to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. The only question is who will get there first: the EU, NATO, or both. 

One may be excused to imagine all sorts of amusement games unrolling at the HQ of the Russian General Staff as The Empire and NATO go literally bonkers. What crazy stunt will they come up with next – short of WWIII?

Here is a delightful put down of NATO’s dementia praecox. Everything so far has failed, from “crippling sanctions” to all sorts of wunderwaffen, while the whole Global South marvels at the exploits of Wagner PMC – now configured as the planet’s top urban fighting machine.

CIA mouthpiece Washington Post duly released how Washington, once again, had the Liver Sausage Chancellor Scholz for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The idea was floated by Secretary of State Tony Blinken: let’s announce we will deliver M1 Abrams to Ukraine in a hazy, unspecified future, thus providing cover for Scholz to release the Leopards now.

Don’t you just love German sovereignty in action?

Every military analyst with an IQ over room temperature knows all those Leopards will be duly incinerated – or better yet, captured, and dissected by Russian military specialists.

So what happens next is yet another vector of the – very successful so far – U.S.-unleashed German de-industrualization racket: the Americans will invade the German industrial military complex with their “much improved” Abrams – which may perhaps arrive in 2024, when only a rump Ukraine may still exist, or never arrive at all. So no need for the Abrams to prove themselves in actual combat – as in being captured and/or incinerated.

Rumors in Washington advance that the U.S. “strategy” in Ukraine – extensively detailed by endless think tank reports – had to be adapted. It’s not about “defeating Russia” anymore, but providing Kiev with the means to “scare” Russia. The Russian General Staff must be trembling in their boots.

Meanwhile, in real life, nearly every possible scenario gamed in Washington and Brussels finishes with NATO like a giant, armoured version of Wile E. Coyote plunging to the depths of the Grand Canyon. And that happens even if the much ballyhooded “Big Arrow” Russian offensive starts in a few days or weeks, or never starts at all.

Arguably the Russian General Staff has concluded a long time ago there’s no point in reducing Ukraine to rubble in a matter of hours – something they could easily accomplish. Thus the fabled mincing machine approach – offering no excuses for NATO to “escalate” (which they continue to do anyway, as Jens “War is Peace” Stoltenberg is so fond of parroting).

The trick is that NATO’s escalation overdrive, as it happens, is somewhat controlled by the Russian General Staff, which is always calculating which optimal maneuvers will consume NATO’s military hardware faster. Call it a Russian version of the popular axiom “frog in a boiling pot doesn’t realize it’s being cooked until it croaks.”

Attacking Russia-China-Iran

Absolute desperation is now graphically extrapolating into attacks on Iran. Both Russia and China have Iran as their key ally in West Asia for the whole, complex process of Eurasia integration; strategic partnerships interlink the trio.

So attacking the Ministry of Defense in Isfahan with drones – total fail – and bombing an IRGC convoy of humanitarian aid crossing from Iraq to Syria is a serious U.S.-Israel-coordinated provocation.

Essentially these are also attacks against Russia and China. Israel cannot lift its hand or foot without U.S. permission. Iranian intel may be able to establish how the Straussian neo-con and neoliberal-con cabal in charge of U.S. foreign policy authorized if not ordered these attacks, which of course are directly connected to NATO’s desperation in Ukraine.

When in doubt, just come back to Zbig “Grand Chessboard” Brzezinski: “Potentially, the most dangerous scenario would be a grand coalition of China, Russia and perhaps, Iran, an ‘anti-hegemonic’ coalition united not by ideology but by contemporary grievances. It would be reminiscent in scale and scope of the challenge once posed by the Sino-Soviet bloc.”

And mirroring Ukraine/Russia there’s of course Taiwan/China.

As Credit Suisse strategist Zoltan Pozsar has extensively explained, if Taiwan manufactures chips for U.S. missiles Washington then sends to Taiwan for its “self-defense”, but Taiwan needs to wait because the missiles are needed in Ukraine instead, or chips can’t be shipped to the U.S. owing to a possible sea and air blockade imposed by China, the Americans will be operationally ill-equipped to support their two-front war against peer competitors Russia and China.

Bye bye Pax Americana. It’s the fear, actually paranoia, of a destroyed Taiwan – and the destruction in every scenario would be provoked by the Americans themselves – that has led the Straussian neo-con and neoliberal-con cabal to demand their chips be Made in USA.

On the energy front, since U.S. energy costs are low, Washington gambled that much of the deindustrialization of Germany would revert to American benefit. Yet since Iranian, Russian and Venezuelan oil prices are lower than the U.S., not much production may be shifting to the Hegemon: it will go to China.

To the bottom of the Grand Canyon!

The January 10 joint declaration between EU-NATO graphically shows how the EU is no more than the P.R. arm of NATO.

This NATO-EU joint mission consists in using all economic, political and military means to make sure the “jungle” always behaves according to the “rules-based international order” and accepts to be plundered ad infinitum by the “blooming garden”.

So in the end what’s left of “Europe”, when it’s NATO – actually Washington – that really rules?

“Europe”, according to relentless propaganda, means defending “our values” – as in peace, democracy and prosperity. The trick is that unelected elites forced the implicit identification of this imagined, practically sacred “Europe” with the European Union. And that’s how the EU has acquired a mythical identity.

Of course, in real life the EU – as in the real, politically organized “Europe” – has performed as a toxic instrument of division among European peoples.

Instead of peace, it has invested in all-out rabid war against Russia. The EU is arguably the most democratically irresponsible institution on the planet: spend a day in Brussels and you understand everything. And instead of prosperity, the EU has institutionalized austerity.

So sit back, relax and enjoy a race to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. The only question is who will get there first: the EU, NATO, or both.

Biden ‘sleepwalking into disaster’: Experts

January 21, 2023 

Source: Agencies

By Al Mayadeen English 

US President Joe Biden could go down in history for allowing his failed policies to trigger a world war, experts say.

US President Joe Biden, January 19, 2022 (Getty Images)

US President Joe Biden’s policies toward Russia, China, and Iran, among other countries, have the US on the verge of disaster as he begins the second half of his first term, experts told Sputnik.
Biden reached the midpoint of his presidency earlier today, a period in which the White House has claimed economic successes while critics have slammed him for record-high inflation, the border crisis, and a foreign policy that has escalated tensions with both Russia and China.
“I think he’s done better than some of us expected, but he’s still sleepwalking into disaster,” political commentator and US constitutional historian Dan Lazare told Sputnik
Like all US presidents, Biden was the victim of forces beyond his control, Lazare cautioned. He said that Biden entered the White House promising to be a big-spending FDR [Franklin Delano Roosevelt] and thus succeeded in pushing through his $1.9-trillion American Rescue Plan less than two months after taking office. However, it backfired due to mounting inflationary pressures, which it undoubtedly helped aggravate.
Lazare acknowledged that the “rapid and humiliating Taliban conquest of Afghanistan” in July 2021, during Biden’s first year in office, was a disaster that nearly everyone in Washington contributed to over the previous 40 years.
“Instead of fiddling while Rome burned, he flipped burgers while Kabul collapsed. The result was the worst foreign-policy setback since Vietnam from an imperial point of view,” he said. 
The Inflation Reduction Act, which was passed in November 2022, put new strains on the Atlantic Alliance, according to Lazare. “[The act] has left Europeans unnerved due to its outrageously protectionist industrial policies,” he added.

Dangers of Ukraine

The Biden administration announced on Thursday another $2.5 billion in military aid to Ukraine, bringing the total to around $27.5 billion since Biden took office. According to Lazare, the United States is on the verge of a world war.
He stressed that Biden looks pretty good “shepherding one military aid package after another through Congress,” warning that the longer the conflict goes on the more apparent it becomes that NATO’s “aggressively expansionist policies are leading to another 1914.”
Lazare predicted that Biden’s failure to pursue any serious means of resolving the conflict would exacerbate it, adding that “just as the Entente more or less maneuvered Austro-Hungary into going to war against crazy little Serbia, the Atlantic Alliance maneuvered Russia into going to war against Ukraine by engaging in actions that were increasingly provocative and confrontational,” he said. 
Biden risks going down in history alongside disastrous UK leader Herbert Henry Asquith, who led his country into a disastrous world war with Germany in 1914, according to Lazare.

Read next: Poll: Biden receives ‘failing grade’ in leadership and management

“I think history will, thus, end up looking at Biden the same way it looks at Asquith, the UK prime minister who thought he could get away with playing with fire in the Balkans. Once again, short-sighted imperial ambitions are plunging the world into catastrophe,” he said. 
Lazare believed that despite all this, the US media had covered Biden sympathetically so far in contrast to their unrelenting attacks on his predecessor. He added that Joe Biden may be a “B- president so far, but I’m sure his report card will be bristling with F’s before too long.”

Feckless mediocrity 

Retired Ambassador Chas Freeman, who served as the Democratic Clinton administration’s assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, noted that the Foreign Policy had assembled 20 analysts who had nothing but praise for Biden’s diplomatic performance.
Freeman told Sputnik that no oriental potentate employing praise singers could ask for more, but the Biden administration didn’t produce a ‘foreign policy for the middle class’, only one for what he described as feckless mediocrity.”
He added that Biden has also recklessly sparked conflict and crises with major superpowers
“Biden and his team have catalyzed and subsequently escalated a dangerous proxy war between the United States, Western Europe, and Russia in Ukraine [and] escalated tensions with China amidst rising concern about the possibility of a war over the status of Taiwan,” Freeman said. 
He also abandoned diplomatic efforts to limit Iran’s nuclear weapons development, which has brought Russia, China, and Iran together, according to Freeman.
Furthermore, Biden has increased protectionism and rejected the World Trade Organization’s “rules-based order,” causing friction with US allies in both Europe and Asia, he claims.
According to Freeman, Biden’s erratic policies had also resulted in a visible reduction in US influence in the Middle East, including a rift with Saudi Arabia and a failure to counter the replacement of apartheid in “Israel” with renewed ethnic cleansing.

Related Stories

    US to allies: No more ‘free’ military support; terms, conditions apply

    January 19, 2023 

    Source: The National Interest

    By Al Mayadeen English 

    The National Interest report says that the war in Ukraine has turned the tables on the US foreign policy approach to its allies.

    Illustration of a US tank emerging from behind the American flag (Rob Dobi)

    Washington has a new message to its allies: Relying on American military leadership will have to come with terms and conditions, no more “free rides”, a report by The National Interest revealed on Thursday.

    The media outlet said that the earlier discussions have addressed the “free riding” problem in general, especially when it comes to US foreign policy.

    In short, free riding refers to American allies earning US military protection and privileges acquired through Washington’s global influence and hegemony, without providing anything – or barely anything –  in return.

    US international allies, during the cold war era and what came after, were at the center of criticism by Washington for “relying on the United States to spend its national treasure in terms of higher military expenditures to provide them with global security,” the report continued.

    “If anything, the message coming from Washington these days is that if the allies want to be able to continue to rely on U.S. military leadership, they are the ones who would have to accept the economic conditions set by the Americans,” the report said.

    The conditions, according to the media outlet, are “ending their energy deals with Russia, sanctioning it, and joining the United States in a long and costly economic-technological war with the Chinese.”

    US “subsidies” to its allies’ defense budgets have enabled them [allies] to spend less on their military industry and focus more of their revenue on their social and economic needs, “while fiscal tightening forces Americans to cut expenditures on education and health,” according to the news sites.

    According to the report, this begs the question:

    “Why should America continue bankrolling the defense budgets of countries like Japan, surplus economies whose companies compete with American businesses in the global arena?”

    The dominating position of the US in the Middle East, which has been sustained through large military and financial expenses, allowed Washington’s allies that are dependent on foreign energy imports to have freedom of access to the energy resources in the Gulf region, the report noted.

    In addition to all the abovementioned points, there is also the current world reality where the US is committed to deploying its nuclear arsenal to defend its NATO and Asian allies in the case that they [allies] come under threats from adversaries with nuclear arms.

    “Hence, the Americans are supposedly ready to see New York and San Francisco being nuked in order to save Berlin and Tokyo from annihilation,” said the outlet.

    Thus, pressing NATO states to raise their defense budgets and their military and economic contributions to the coalition has become a bipartisan ritual of sorts in Washington “until President Donald Trump’s behavior made it look faux pas,” the report said.

     Anti-globalization sentiments in the United States

    Americans are expressing unwillingness to “continue supporting the liberal economic order while the allies were breaking free-trade principles,” the media outlet stated.

    “But then that was the way the industrial miracles of Germany and Japan had happened, very much at the expense of American economic interests,” it continued.

    The cost implications on the United States from the wars it fought in the “Greater Middle East” started to challenge the de facto rhetoric in Washington regarding the US role on the global stage.

    According to the report, the US is “supposedly ready” to help out its allies who resort to it and protect their access to energy resources in the Gulf region, “while the allies pay very little in exchange, and even try to force the United States into costlier military interventions in the Middle East, as France did in the case of Libya.”

    War in Ukraine; turning point

    After the start of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine and amid growing “Chinese threats to Taiwan,” the report said that – “according to the conventional wisdom” – US allies may have finally realized that “free riding” is not an option anymore when it comes to dealing with the United States.

    “They need to start playing a more activist role in the protection of Western interests against the threat of powerful global disruptors” and now have to “contribute to the production of that international public good”.

    Allies will have to step up their roles, “since alone the United States will not continue to provide it cost-free,” the report said.

    ‘American Hegemony Lite’

    The media site pointed out Germany’s response to the Ukraine war and Japan’s reaction to growing tension with China as examples that allies are, indeed, making a shift in their role as US allies.

    “These developments seemed to have changed the balance of power in Europe and Asia, where America can supposedly now count on its allies to play their roles as its deputies while the United States remains primus inter pares (first among equals), call it American Hegemony Lite,” the site said.

    No more free pass for allies practicing protectionism

    Toward the beginning of the Cold War, “liberalizing American trade policies while dealing with nations that practiced protectionism made some sense,” the report noted, arguing that some allied economies, such as Germany and Japan, were still in a state of recovery from the destructive outcomes of WWII, thus had to protect their local industries from outside competitors.

    “But those who assumed that Trump’s economic nationalist policies would change under the more internationalist President Joe Biden are discovering now that that approach enjoys bipartisan support,” the report stressed.

    The news site continued that the decision made by Biden not to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), which would have required the US to cut tariffs on some Asian imports, and his administration insisting on providing subsidies to electric-vehicle despite outrage from European allies in particular, who accused the US of practicing unfair protection to US-made products, are signs that Washington has turned upside-down the Cold-War-era deal with the allies.

    In its concluding statement, the report said that despite the conventional discussion that it is in the US interests to stop allies from establishing independent military powers, which could make the world a “more dangerous place,” the United States was one of the countries that launched a “series of wars in recent decades that have made the world more dangerous.”

    “It was based on the expectations that the United States needed to win the geostrategic commitment of its allies through concessions in the geo-economic area,” the report said.

    US allies developing nuclear programs could not have been a bad idea

    “In retrospect, if Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and Ukraine had nuclear weapons, the world would have probably been less dangerous today,” the news site claimed.

    Europe’s gas emergency: A continent hostage to seller prices

    January 16 2023

    Europe’s reliance on Russian gas imports has been upended by sanctions against Moscow. With few options for practical alternatives, the continent will remain energy-dependent and financially-vulnerable regardless of who it imports from.

    Photo Credit: The Cradle

    By Mohamad Hasan Sweidan

    The 2022 outbreak of war between Russia and Ukraine revealed the importance of energy security in bolstering Moscow’s geopolitical power in Europe. The continent, which imported about 46 percent of its gas needs from Russia in 2021, found itself in a vulnerable position as it sought alternative sources.https://thecradle.co/Article/Analysis/20403

    This presented an opportunity for the US to replace Russia and become the primary supplier of natural gas to Europe at significantly higher prices, resulting in large profits at the expense of its European allies. According France-based data and analytics firm, Kpler, in 2022 the EU imported 140 billion cubic meters (BCM) of liquefied natural gas (LNG), an increase of 55 BCM from the previous year.

    Around 57.4 BCM of this amount (41 percent) now comes from the US, an increase of 31.8 BCM, 29 BCM from Africa (20.7 percent) – mainly from Egypt, Nigeria, Algeria and Angola – 22.3 BCM from Russia (16 percent), 19.8 BCM from Qatar (14 percent), 4.1 BCM from Latin America (2.92 percent) – mainly from Trinidad and Tobago – and 3.37 BCM from Norway (2.4 percent).

    European gas imports 2022

    In 2022, France was the leading importer of LNG in Europe, accounting for 26.23 percent of total imports. Other significant importers included Spain (22.3 percent), the Netherlands (12.65 percent), Italy (11 percent), and Belgium (10.42 percent).

    These countries, along with Poland (4.7 percent), Greece (2.9 percent), and Lithuania (2.31 percent), imported over 90 percent of LNG exported to Europe at prices higher than Russian pipeline gas. It is worth noting that upon arrival, LNG is converted back to its gaseous state at receiving stations in Europe before being distributed to countries without such infrastructure, such as Germany.

    Graph: 2020-2022 European gas imports, by month 

    Switching dependencies

    Europe was able to reduce its reliance on Russian pipeline gas from 46 percent to 10 percent last year. This decrease, however, came at a high cost to the economy, as the price of gas rose to $70 per million British thermal units (Btu), up from $27 before the Ukraine war. By the end of the year, the price had fallen to $36, compared to $7.03 in the US.

    This price disparity has been hard to stomach. French President Emmanuel Macron went public with his annoyance: “American gas is 3-4 times cheaper on the domestic market than the price at which they offer it to Europeans,” criticizing what he called “American double standards.”

    High gas prices have made Europe an appealing destination for gas exporters from around the world, with increased interest from countries such as Egypt, Qatar, Turkey, UAE, Iran, Libya, Algeria, and those bordering the Mediterranean basin, as they either export gas, or possess gas but lack infrastructure.

    To replace the cheaper Russian pipeline gas, European countries are being forced to seek out the more expensive LNG. The EU and Britain are working to increase LNG import capacity by 5.3 billion cubic feet (BCF) per day by the end of 2023, and by 34 percent, or 6.8 BCF per day, by 2024.

    Can West Asia, North Africa meet Europe’s gas needs?

    The West Asia and North Africa region has the potential to partially meet Europe’s gas needs due to its geographic proximity and the presence of countries with large gas reserves and export infrastructure, such as Palestine/Israel, Algeria, and Egypt. However, there are several obstacles that must be considered.

    Map of natural gas pipelines to Europe

    For example, Egypt’s high production costs and increasing domestic consumption limit its export capacity. Additionally, Europe would need to be willing to pay a higher price than the Asian market for Egyptian gas.

    Israel, on the other hand, has seen an increase in gas exports to Europe in the first half of 2022 after the pipeline to Egypt via Jordan was restored in March, but it is unlikely to significantly increase exports in 2023 due to factors such as limited export capacity and high domestic consumption. Experts predict that Israel may export around 10 BCM of gas to Europe this year, similar to the amount exported in 2022.

    Qatar is the only Persian Gulf emirate that has increased its gas exports to Europe for 2022. This is largely because Persian Gulf countries prefer to sell their gas to Asian markets, where they can garner higher profits due to lower shipping costs and longer-term contracts.

    Last year, Qatar took advantage of the significant increase in gas prices to sell part of its shipments on the European spot market. According to the Qatari Minister of Energy, between 10 percent and 15 percent of Qatar’s production can be diverted to this market.

    However, it may be difficult for Europe to attract Qatari gas away from the Asian market, especially as China is expected to recover its demand for gas in 2023. In a policy home-goal, western sanctions on Iran, which has the second-largest natural gas reserves in the world, impede the investment needed to increase Iranian production.

    No real alternatives

    Iran’s lack of infrastructure connecting it to Europe and high domestic consumption also affect its export capacity. According to a report by BP, Iran produced 257 BCM of gas in 2021, of which 241.1 BCM were consumed domestically.

    With regards to Algeria, the main obstacle in increasing its gas exports to Europe is political tension with Morocco and Spain that led to the suspension of the Moroccan-European gas pipeline project, which can export 10.3 billion cubic meters of Algerian gas.

    In the case of the UAE, despite having the seventh-largest proven natural gas reserves in the world, its production is not sufficient to meet the demands of the local market and it imports a third of its gas consumption from Qatar through an undersea pipeline. European countries are currently in talks with Abu Dhabi to accelerate work on gas projects and increase production.

    As for Saudi Arabia, it consumes all of its gas production domestically and does not export any, with a total production of 117.3 BCM in 2021. There are also expectations for a significant increase in the demand for oil and coal in 2023. The World Bank reports that this is due to an increase in European countries’ reliance on these fossil fuels instead of natural gas. This increase in demand will keep oil prices high, allowing Saudi Arabia and other OPEC+ members to make large profits.

    The dilemma of growing demand

    The Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts that global demand for natural gas will increase to 394 BCM this year, driven in part by Europe’s need to diversify its sources of gas away from Russia. And West Asia, with its significant reserves, remains a key region for Europe to tap into for this purpose.

    The challenge remains in finding cost-effective ways to transport the gas from the region to Europe, which will necessitate building a pipeline connecting the Mediterranean Basin to the Old Continent.

    Failure to do so will result in Europe continuing to pay a high premium for its energy security without achieving true independence. The alternative for Europe is to rely on LNG from the US. This gives Europe almost complete independence from Russian gas, but keeps it weak, obedient, and dependent on American energy supplies.

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

    %d bloggers like this: