Pepe Escobar

Blood on the tracks of the New Silk Roads

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Published on Asia Times on June 14, 2017

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China’s cardinal foreign policy imperative is to refrain from interfering abroad while advancing the proverbial good relations with key political actors – even when they may be at each other’s throats.

Still, it’s nothing but gut-wrenching for Beijing to watch the current, unpredictable, Saudi-Qatari standoff. There’s no endgame in sight, as plausible scenarios include even regime change and a seismic geopolitical shift in Southwest Asia – what a Western-centric view calls the Middle East.

And blood on the tracks in Southwest Asia cannot but translate into major trouble ahead for the New Silk Roads, now rebranded Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

U.S. President Donald Trump and Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (R) attend the Arab Islamic American Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia May 21, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

 

 

 

 

US President Donald Trump and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud attend the Arab Islamic American Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia May 21, 2017. Photo: Reuters

Trump’s senior staff though maintains that Qatar never came up in discussions with the Saudis. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, former Exxon-Mobil CEO and a certified old Middle East hand, has done his best to defuse the drama – conscious there would be no reason for Qatar to continue hosting Al Udeid Air Base and Centcom to a hostile superpower.

Meanwhile, Russia – the Beltway’s favorite evil entity – is getting closer and closer to Qatar, ever since the game-changing acquisition in early December by the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) of 19.5% of the crown energy giant Rosneft.

That translates into an economic/political alliance of the world’s top two gas exporters; and that explains why Doha – still holding a permanent office at NATO’s HQ – has abruptly thrown its “moderate rebels” in Syria under the (economic) bus.

Russia and China are bound by a complex, multi-vector strategic partnership. Beijing, privileging economic interests, takes a pragmatic view and is never inclined to play a political role. As the world’s biggest manufacturer and exporter, Beijing’s motto is crystal clear: Make Trade, Not War.

But what if Southwest Asia is mired in the foreseeable future in a permanent pre-war footing?

China and BRI’s best pal Iran

China is Qatar’s top trading partner. Beijing was actively negotiating a free trade agreement with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) before the current standoff. Moving forward, a possible scenario is Qatar even pulling out of the GCC.

Qatar is also China’s second-largest source of liquefied natural gas (LNG), while Saudi Arabia is China’s third-largest source of oil. Since 2010 China is ahead of the US as the biggest exporter to Southwest Asia while solidifying its position as the top importer of Southwest Asia energy.

When King Salman recently visited Beijing, the House of Saud ecstatically spun a “Sino-Saudi strategic partnership” based on the signing of deals worth $65 billion. The partnership, in fact, hinges on a five-year Saudi Arabia-China security cooperation agreement that includes counter-terrorism and joint military drills. Much will have to do with keeping the profitable Red Sea-Gulf of Aden corridor free of political turmoil.

Of course, eyebrows may be raised over the fact that Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabism is the ideological matrix of Salafi-jihadism threatening not only Southwest Asia and the West but also China itself.

The New Silk Roads/BRI imply a key role for the GCC – in a mutual investment, trademark Chinese “win-win” way. In an ideal world, the Saudi “Vision 2030” modernizing plan breathlessly being sold by Warrior Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) could, in theory, even reign in the appeal of Salafi-jihadism of the Daesh variety all across Southwest Asia.

What the Iranophobic MBS seems not to understand is that Beijing actually privileges its BRI-based economic relationship with Tehran.

Early last year, when President Xi Jinping visited Tehran, he and President Rouhani pledged to raise Chinese-Iranian bilateral trade to a whopping $600 billion in 10 years, most of it related to BRI expansion.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (R) meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Tehran, Iran January 23, 2016. REUTERS/President.ir/Handout via Reuters

 

 

 

 

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Tehran, Iran January 23, 2016. Photo: Reuters

China and Iran have been doing serious business. For over a year now, direct China-Iran cargo trains have been crossing Central Asia in only 12 days. That’s just the appetizer for high-speed rail connectivity spanning the arc from China to Turkey via Iran in the early 2020s.

And in a (distant?) future, a pacified Syria will also be configured as a BRI node; before the war, Syrian merchants were a top fixture in the trading-in-small-goods Silk Road running from the Levant to Yiwu in eastern China.

BRI does Turkey, Egypt and Israel

China’s Maritime Silk Road is not about a threatening “string of pearls” – but mostly about port infrastructure, built by Chinese companies, configuring key BRI stops from the Indian Ocean via the Red Sea and Suez all the way to Piraeus port in the Greek Mediterranean. Piraeus is owned and operated by China’s COSCO since August 2016; this upgraded, modern container hub for trade between East Asia and the West is already the fastest-growing port in Europe.

For his part, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has already made it clear that Turkey’s national interests involve “the Suez Canal, the adjacent seas, and from there extending to the Indian Ocean.” As much as Ankara has set up a base in Qatar – with soldiers now flowing in – it has also established a Turkish-Saudi Strategic Cooperation Council.

Ankara may have been slowly and surely engaged in a strategic pivoting to Russia – as in the go-ahead for Turkish Stream. Yet that also qualifies as a pivot to China – expected to develop, bumps included, in all key areas, from membership of the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) to membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

Both Turkey and Iran – a possible full member of the SCO as early as next year – are actively supporting Qatar in the current standoff, including via regular food shipments. That shows once again how Beijing simply cannot allow itself to be dragged politically into what is essentially the vicious, intractable Iran-Saudi regional power war. Once again; BRI trumps everything.

Egypt poses an extra problem. It aligns with Riyadh in the current standoff; after all Field Marshall President Al-Sisi depends on the House of Saud “largesse”.

In Egypt, the new Singapore-sized capital east of Cairo is essentially being financed by Chinese investment; $35 billion by the end of last year, and counting. Extra bonuses include Beijing facilitating currency swap deals – providing a much-needed boost to the Egyptian economy. Ahmed Darwish, chairman of the Suez Canal Economic Zone, has nothing but praise to the top investor in the Suez Canal Corridor, which happens to be Beijing.

And then there’s the budding Israeli-Chinese connection. Israel backs the Saudi-UAE anti-Qatar blitzkrieg essentially as yet another proxy war front against Iran.

China is bidding to build the Red-Med high-speed rail connecting the Red Sea to the Mediterranean. If the proverbial sea of containers can be accommodated near Eilat, the Chinese will be able to transship cargo via the Red-Med railway directly to Piraeus – an alternative route adding to the already Chinese-involved Suez Canal Corridor.

FILE PHOTO - A man looks as the world's biggest Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) tanker, Qatari-flagged DUHAIL as she crosses through the Suez Canal April 1, 2008. REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo

 

 

 

 

A Qatari-flagged LNG tanker crosses through the Suez Canal. Photo: Reuters

Connectivity is frantic on all fronts. Shanghai International Port Group is running Haifa port. China Harbor Engineering will build a new $876 million port in Ashdod. Israel is already China’s top supplier of advanced agricultural technology – as in water desalination, aquaculture and cattle farming, for instance. Beijing wants more biomedical, clean energy and telecom technology Israeli imports. And the clincher is Israel’s imminent membership of the AIIB.

It’s fair to argue that from now on everything that happens across Southwest Asia will be conditioned by, and interlocked with, BRI’s land-sea superhighway emporium from East Asia and Southeast Asia to southeastern Europe.

Focused on BRI’s comprehensive drive for multipolarization, “inclusive” globalization 2.0, and the rapid spread of information technology, the last thing Beijing needs is a throwback to the past; a foolish, manufactured standoff as the new front in an existential proxy war between the House of Saud and Iran, and with Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Israel pitted against Qatar, Turkey, Iran – and Russia.

Talk about sleepless nights in the Zhongnanhai these days.

 

Trump’s Sword Dance Sets Off the War of the Wahhabis

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Published on Sputnik on June 7, 2017

President Donald Trump holds a sword and sways with traditional dancers during a welcome ceremony at Murabba Palace in Riyadh

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US President Donald Trump could not possibly have predicted the game-changing after-effects of his triumphal sword dance in Riyadh.

Or could he?

 

The fact is the House of Saud went amok, in a flash, going after Qatar and bombing from the inside that glorious Arab NATO project – call it NATOGCC — sworn with pomp over a glowing orb.

 

An excited Trump tweeted three times his approval for Riyadh going after Doha. 

Trump and NATOGCC had equaled Daesh and Iran as “terrorists”. The House of Saud went one up — and denounced Qatar for top terror financing, which equals Don Corleone hurling Mafioso accusations against Tony Soprano. 

But then, in an unexpected plot twist, Daesh, handily, graphically, underlined the cosmic stupidity of the whole charade – staging, or at least claiming to stage a terror attack against the Parliament and the Imam Khomeini shrine in Tehran.

 

The current Emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad al Thani, now “guilty” for not blaming Iran as the root of all evils in the Arab peninsula, might even be following the steps of his own father, Hamad, who invented modern Qatar and deposed himself – under Saudi pressure – in favor of his son in 2013.

 

We can’t forget that Bandar bin Sultan, a.k.a. Bandar Bush, notorious former top assembler/weaponizer of jihadis, and frustrated “liberator of Syria”, had famously described Qatar in the past as “300 people and a TV station”.

So what is really going on in this noxious petrodollar swamp?  

The Israel-UAE connection

Let’s cut to the chase and establish that this nasty inter-GCC cannibalization has nothing to do with the Global War on Terror (GWOT). 

Among massive disinformation crossfire, a trail of evidence points to a concerted strategy elaborated by the Israeli lobby (via the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, founded, among others, by nefarious casino schemer Sheldon Adelson, and very close to Bibi Netanyahu); US neocon/Ziocon/neoliberalcon elements; and the UAE ambassador in Washington, Yousef al-Otaiba.

Leaked emails have shown how Otaiba – widely idolized in the Beltway because of his “largesse” – and the neocon Foundation for Defense of Democracies have discussed means of teaching Qatar a lesson for its support of Hamas, and overall non-confrontational policies towards Iran. Otaiba also happens to be close to Jared Kushner – which would explain Trump’s reaction to the anti-Qatar blitzkrieg.

 

Unlike Qatar, the House of Saud and the UAE are one step away from establishing diplomatic relations with Israel – the sine qua non condition imposed by Washington to insert Israel in an anti-Iran Arab NATO guided by Riyadh.

 

A previous row in 2014 offers additional background. Regional intel operatives confirm at the time there were military Emirati maneuvers not far from the Qatari border; London and Paris, for instance, knew all about it.

But the head of the House of Saud in charge at the time was the late King Abdullah, who was in fact an appeaser. The Head-Chopper-in-Chief now is Warrior Prince Mohamed bin Salman, a.k.a. MBS, an arrogant twat who’s already, miserably, losing a war on Yemen — conducted with billions of dollars in US and UK weapons — that has provoked a horrific humanitarian crisis in the poorest nation in the region. It is MBS who ordered the Saudi demonization of Qatar.

Let me out of the terror train

The “terra terra terra” shorthand, for the House of Saud, applies mostly to the accusation of Qatar supporting Shi’ite protest movements in eastern Saudi Arabia. That’s ridiculous; Doha is not involved.

And then there’s the accusation of Qatar supporting Islamists. That’s exactly what powerful Saudi donors – many linked to the monarchy – do.

 

U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress bomber arrives at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar (File)
© REUTERS/ U.S. Air Force/Tech. Sgt. Terrica Y. Jones

 

 

 

Doha does support, big time, the Muslim Brotherhood – which has not much to do with al-Qaeda and/or Daesh, and is hated with a vengeance by Riyadh and its puppet al-Sisi in Cairo, who survives on Saudi handouts. What powerful Qatari donors did (up to $3 billion) was support al-Qaeda in Syria, a.k.a. Jabhat al-Nusra, which vast US neocon/neoliberalcon sectors brand as “moderate rebels”.

 

The Saudis, meanwhile, supported their own jihadis in Syria – and elsewhere. WikiLeaks has unequivocally proved how “donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide”.

Apart from complex tribal rivalry issues, the key religious factor is that Qatar – unlike Saudi Arabia – is tolerant towards non-Salafis, or “revolutionary” Salafis like the Muslim Brotherhood, and does not try to globally export its version of Wahhabism. For all practical purposes, hardcore Saudi imams consider Qataris heretics. As if they’re almost as bad as “apostate” Shi’ites. 

 

The schism has translated, in practice, into a proxy war in Libya for example. Doha supports Islamic militias in Misrata as well as those faithful to the “Mufti of Qatar” Sadiq al-Ghariani. The Emirates and Egypt support Gen. Khalifa Haftar, the chief of the self-styled Libya National Army (LNA).

 

It’s a gas, gas, gas

Saudi intel disinformation agents are spreading that “Turkey and Qatar are the last two states run by the Muslim Brotherhood. Most probably Qatar will experience a change of regime and exit being the bankroller on behalf of Britain to support all kind of chaos in the region, and that include playing from behind the scenes with Teheran.”

Utter diversionist nonsense. The plain fact is the House of Saud is absolutely desperate. Oil price remains low, around $50 a barrel. The monster Saudi IPO on Aramco is only 12 months away. The House of Saud needs to move the markets towards a higher oil price by any means necessary – ultimatums and threats of war included.

A non-ideological US intel source goes further, stressing how “Turkey, Iran and Russia are moving closer together. The question remains who will control the Gulf States and the oil price — which was being manipulated so far to destroy Russia. The deal between Saudi Arabia and Russia is really just a minor improvement.”

 

So no wonder obfuscation remains the norm – with narratives taking attention away from the House of Saud and placing it on Iran, and now also Qatar.

 

And then there’s the key Pipelineistan angle, mixed with how Qatar as a natural gas powerhouse is immensely annoying OPEC producers Saudi Arabia and UAE. 

Qatar is the largest global exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG). That’s what has allowed it to shape a foreign policy completely independent from the House of Saud. Add to it that Qatar’s fabulous gas wealth yields from the massive offshore North Field, shared with Iran (who controls what it calls South Pars). 

There’s been speculation, obviously unconfirmed by Tehran and Doha, that Iran and Qatar may have reached an agreement on sharing the rights for a gas pipeline from North Dome/South Pars to the eastern Mediterranean in Syria, as long as Doha stops supporting al-Nusra.

Were that to happen, it would signal the spectacular closure of one of the key motives for the Syrian tragedy. The Obama administration had fully approved a Qatar to Turkey – via Saudi Arabia and Syria – gas pipeline as a means of trying to undermine Gazprom. It took a lot of dead bodies and horrific destruction for Doha to realize Moscow would never allow it. 

 

Thus Qatar’s strategic pivot towards Russia – materialized, for instance, via Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund investing $2.7 billion in Rosneft. This may be spelling out, in the medium term, a Qatar way more amenable to the Russia-Iran-Syria connection. Considering that Qatar hosts CENTCOM and is home to Al-‘Udayd, the largest US military base in the Middle East, that certainly does not go down very well at the Pentagon. 

 

As far as the US game is concerned, it’s terminally naïve to believe Washington would not have provided a green light to its Saudi satrap to go after Doha.

Add to it Qatar opening the first yuan clearing center in the Middle East; that’s something that did not go down well with financial Masters of the Universe. In parallel, the much-lauded Trump $100 billion weapons deal announced in Riyadh may have been devised in exchange for the House of Saud delaying as long as possible Chinese oil payments in yuan that would bypass the petrodollar.

To weave conspiracy theories is an idle undertaking. “T.Rex” Tillerson, from his ExxonMobil days, knows the Qatari leadership quite well. And so does “Mad Dog” Mattis, former head of CENTCOM. Watch them; how they act in the follow-up will unveil at least some layers of the current shadow play – and whether the whole charade packs way more punch than mere House of Saud desperation. 

Jihad 2.0: the Making of the Next Nightmare

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Published on Sputnik on May 31, 2017

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You are about to enter the ultimate minefield.

 

Let’s start with 28 EU leaders discussing the Western Balkans at a recent summit and blaming – what else – "Russian aggression" in the EU’s backyard.

 

Cue to a Montenegro prosecutor raging that "Russian state bodies" staged a coup attempt during the October 2016 elections to stop the country from joining NATO.

And cue to President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker warning that Donald Trump’s anti-EU rhetoric could lead to war in the Balkans. Juncker, condescending as ever, maintains that, "If we leave them to themselves — Bosnia and Herzegovina, Republika Srpska, Macedonia, Albania, all of these countries — we will have a war again."

 

The Balkans may be about to explode – all over again. Yet with a twist; unlike 1999, NATO won’t get away with bombing a defenseless Belgrade for 78 days. A new generation of Russian missiles would easily prevent it.

 

The 1999 tragedy in the Balkans was essentially stirred up by fake massacres in Kosovo set up by the BND – German intelligence — using local Albanians and BND agent provocateurs, who shot both sides to stir up a war and break up Yugoslavia.

All Eyes on Albania

 

Kosovo Serb caring Serbian flag during the protest against recognition of Kosovo as an independent state, in the northern Serb-dominated part of the ethnically divided town of Mitrovica, Kosovo, Monday, April 22, 2013
© AP Photo/ Darko Vojinovic

 

 

 

 

 

What’s evolving at the current geopolitical juncture is even murkier.

 

The usual suspects do what they usually do; blame Russia, and damn any evidence.

So let a knowledgeable insider, Dr. Olsi Jazexhi, director of the Free Media Institute in Tirana, Albania, be our guide.

In December 2016, the CIA’s John Brennan went to Albania and issued a fatwa for “war against Russia” – especially in Macedonia.

As Dr. Jazexhi explains, “after Brennan left Edi Rama, Prime Minister of Albania, a close friend of George Soros, gathered all Albanian political parties in Macedonia and ordered them to support  Zoran Zaev against Nikola Gruevski. Gruevski is seen as filo-Russian and anti-NATO, while Zaev is a lapdog of Soros. As a result, Gruevski was boycotted by Albanians and Zaev had their support to form a government. The promise of Zaev to Albanians is that Macedonia will adapt Albanian as an official language and create a third (half) Albanian state in the Balkans. Macedonians are resisting, but Tirana and Edi Rama are orchestrating Albanian political parties against Gruevski. The end game is to make Macedonia a NATO member.”

Meanwhile, in Kosovo – essentially a nasty narco-Mafioso scam posing as a state and housing Camp Bondsteel, the largest overseas US military base on the planet — Hashim Thaci, the president and former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) goon, is “building an army for Kosovo. The final aim is to integrate Kosovo into NATO even though Serbia rejects this for its former autonomous province.”

 

Jazexhi also details how, “in Albania, we have two major terrorist organizations being protected by the Americans and the Europeans.”

 

The first is what Ankara describes as the Fetullah Gulen Terror organization (FETO), allegedly instrumentalized by German intelligence; “Turkey is protesting why Albania hosts the FETO group but the Americans host them against Erdogan.”

The second is Mojahedin-e Khalq (MKO), which fights against Tehran; “Albania is being turned into the center of MKO. John Bolton was recently in Tirana, with other international supporters of MKO, and they are attacking Iran and calling for regime change.”

 

Kosovo Serb caring Serbian flag during the protest against recognition of Kosovo as an independent state, in the northern Serb-dominated part of the ethnically divided town of Mitrovica, Kosovo, Monday, April 22, 2013
© AP Photo/ Darko Vojinovic

 

 

 

 

 

The MKO’s wacky Marjam Rajavi has also visited Tirana, developing  plans to “topple the Ayatollahs” in Iran.

 

The key issue, as Jazexhi emphasizes, is that “after turning the Balkans into a recruiting center for ISIS/Daesh during the Syria war, now the Americans are turning Albania into a jihad 2.0 state.”

So what is developing is “the same historical mistake as made by the Albanians of Kosovo, who have 100% linked their future with Camp Bondsteel and would will be instantly re-invaded by Serbia in case NATO or the US leave (which they will, sooner or later, inevitably).

Meanwhile, the European Union and the Americans, who want to de-radicalize the Wahhabi Muslims of Europe, keep mum about the Iranian jihadis.”

The “Invisible” Enemy

So the key piece of the puzzle is the configuration of Albania as the center of Jihad 2.0 — against the Slavs in Macedonia, against Tehran, and also against Ankara. No wonder the chief adviser of the Albanian government, until a few months ago, was a certain Tony Blair.

But then there is the “invisible” enemy that really matters.

 

In late March, Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic went to Beijing in his last official visit before the April 2 elections. Chinese President Xi Jinping stressed that economic cooperation with Serbia – and the Balkans at large – is a priority for China.

 

No question. In 2014, Beijing created a fund that will invest 10 billion euros in Central and Eastern Europe. Last year, China Everbright bought Tirana’s airport in Albania. China Exim Bank is financing highway construction in both Macedonia and Montenegro.

In Serbia, China Road and Bridge Corporation built the 170 million euro Pupin bridge over the Danube in Belgrade – a.k.a. the “Sino-Serbian Friendship Bridge”, inaugurated in 2014 and 85% financed by a China Exim Bank loan.

 

And the cherry in the (infrastructure development) cake is the 350 km, $2.89 billion high-speed rail line between Athens and Budapest, via Macedonia and Belgrade.

 

The EU has set off alarm bells on the flagship $1.8 billion Budapest-Belgrade stretch, investigating whether the Hungarian section violated strict EU laws according to which public tenders are a must for large transportation projects.

Inbuilt is the proverbial Western haughtiness, ruling that the Chinese could not possibly be capable of building high-speed rail infrastructure as well if not better – and for a lower cost – than in Europe.

 

Budapest-Belgrade happens to be the crucial stretch of the Land Sea Express Route that Beijing pledged to build, way back in 2014, with Hungary, Serbia and Macedonia. That’s the crux of the Southeastern Europe node of the New Silk Roads, now Belt and Road Initiative (BRI); a trade corridor between the container port of Pireus, in the Mediterranean – co-owned by China Ocean Shipping Company since 2010 – all the way to Central Europe.

 

NATO’s official spin is that it must be planted in the Balkans to fight the “threat of terrorism.” According to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, “I recently visited Bosnia Herzegovina and Kosovo, and I’m encouraged to see how focused they are on countering the threat of foreign fighters."

Well, the “foreign fighters” happen to be right at home, not only in Kosovo but soon in Albania, the capital of Jihad 2.0. NATO after all excels in creating emerging “threats” that are essential to justify its existence.

Jihad 2.0 may be directed against Slavs in Macedonia, against Iran and against Turkey. Not to mention against the Russian underbelly. The invisible angle is that they can always be deployed to jeopardize China’s drive to integrate southeast Europe as a key node of the New Silk Roads.  

Let them Eat Chocolate Cake

From the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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  Published on Sputnik on April 13, 2017

Piece of Cake: New Normal of Trump's Foreign Policy

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Here's the Commander-in-chief of the Beautiful Piece of Chocolate Cake School of Foreign Policy, expanding on his next move regarding North Korea.

"We are sending an armada. Very powerful. We have submarines. Very powerful. Far more powerful than the aircraft carrier. That I can tell you."

 

 

 

As if bombing nuclear-armed North Korea would be as much of a piece of cake as Tomahawking a semi-deserted air base in Syria. But then, that's the beauty of a box of chocolates foreign policy; you never know what you're gonna get.

 

NATO was "obsolete." Then it was "no longer obsolete." China was a currency manipulator. Then it was no longer a currency manipulator. There would be no more adventures in the Middle East. Then it's back to pulling a Hillary and bombing Syria. Russia was supposed to be a partner – basically in oil and gas deals, while a Kissingerian Divide and Rule remix would try to unravel the Russia-China strategic partnership. Then Russia is bad because supporting "animal" (sic) Assad.

 

Some (other) things never change. Iran will continue to be demonized. The NATO-GCC combo will continue to be bolstered. The House of Saud terrorizing Yemen will continue to be a close GWOT (Global War on Terror) ally.

It's as if the whole dysfunctional Trump administration machine has become a prisoner of its non-stop duty to justify the Tomahawks-with-chocolate Commander-in-Chief's about turns and blatant lies, whereas its previous strength derived from exposing the lies and the hypocrisy inbuilt in the US establishment/deep state nexus.

Xi is on the phone

Russian intelligence may have well inferred – correctly – that the main goal of Secretary of State "T. Rex" Tillerson's visit to Moscow was to quiet 

down the high-stakes game as much as possible as Trump moves to a face off with Pyongyang. Washington simply cannot handle multiple, simultaneous crises in Syria, Ukraine, North Korea, the South China Sea, Afghanistan. The possible deadline is May 9; the South Korean presidential election that could stop any attack by the US on North Korea in its tracks.

 

Japanese and South Korean media were hysterically reporting on the deployment of as many as 150,000 People's Liberation Army (PLA) personnel, part of the PLA's 16th, 23rd, 39th and 40th Group Armies, to the Chinese-North Korean border. These forces are not aggressive; they'd rather coordinate efforts to alleviate a refugee crisis in the – appalling – event of a Second Korea War breaking out.

The Chinese Ministry of Defense issued a sort of non-denial denial about the deployment. But the crucial element was the subsequent Xi Jinping call to Trump. Priority number one was to dissipate the swelling US corporate media narrative that Beijing would approve a US strike against North Korea (on the contrary; Beijing was seriously worried). Chinese media stressed Xi emphasizing to a volatile Trump the only possible way out is to work towards a peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Priority number two was to defuse the fake news notion that Xi, facing his Tomahawk-with-chocolate-cake desert at Mar-a-Lago, had agreed to further US strikes in Syria. In his phone call, Xi once again stressed the only way out in Syria is a diplomatic solution.

 

With the Beautiful Piece of Chocolate Cake School of Foreign Policy as the new normal, now no one has a clue what is Washington's policy on Syria, and who's driving it (that was the key information Foreign Minister Lavrov was trying to extract from Tillerson).

 

The previous policy was obvious; balkanization light, with a Kurdish enclave in the eastern desert, to be run by US proxies such as the small PYD Syrian Kurdish population; Israel absorbing yet another stretch of the Golan Heights; a patch of the north for Turkey; and enough real estate for Sunnis and assorted jihadists.

Even before the Tomahawk show, US military intelligence officials scattered around the Middle East had serious doubts about what became the official White House narrative on the chemical attack in Idlib. Former US intel stalwarts, including Ray McGovern, Phil Giraldi and Bill Binney, even wrote a memo to Trump calling for an honest, independent investigation – as much as Lavrov would later make it clear in his press conference with Tillerson. The official narrative was also debunked by an MIT professor as "totally false."

 

Irrespective of whether Trump saw the light via a White Helmets YouTube video or was Tomahawked by the neocon/neoliberalcon axis, the facts on the ground don't change.

 

Moscow simply is not going to yield its sphere of influence in Syria to Donald Trump or the deep state. Russia has all but won the Syrian War by preventing the formation of an Emirate of Takfiristan, and defusing the possibility of Russian/Chechen/Uzbek Salafi-jihadis operating in alliance with Jabhat al-Nusra and/or Daesh going back to wreak havoc in the Caucasus. Not to mention that over 75% of Syria's population is now living in the functional parts of the country controlled by Damascus.

When in doubt, sow chaos

The War Party/military-industrial-security-media complex wants war, any war; it's good for business, and ratings. The neocons want a war to contain Iran. Professor Stephen Cohen is realistically alarmed. No one knows for sure whether Trump is now a mere hostage of Mad Dog Mattis, HR McMaster and co. who believes he's actually in charge, or whether he perfected some sort of genius non-twitterable geopolitical jiu-jitsu.

A dissident US intel analyst based in the Middle East paints a much gloomier picture: "The US will not tolerate a Russia-China alliance tilting the balance of power. North Korea and Syria are merely pawns in this struggle that has almost no meaning for themselves. The Russians believe that the US is determined to go to war against them, while they remain unsure about the performance of their S-500 defensive missiles. The Russians say more false flags are to come in Syria, while the Chinese are also reviewing any commitments of the US on the basis of what they saw in Syria."

 

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, shakes hands prior to their talks in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, April 12, 2017
© AP Photo/ Alexander Zemlianichenko

 

 

 

President Putin has all but stated, on the record, that Moscow cannot trust Washington. Russia has been patiently building up its missile defense capability – to the point that its air space might as well turn out to be impenetrable before the end of the decade.

 

Lavrov has spoken many times in the past about "managed chaos" – a "method of strengthening US influence" exhibiting "projects" that "should be launched away from the United States in regions that are crucial for global economic and financial development." The Beautiful Piece of Chocolate Cake School of Foreign Policy may have forced everyone to be lost in a masquerade. But Moscow — and Beijing – do seem to see it for what is; yet another facet of unmanageable chaos.

 

 

The Aleppo/Mosul Riddle

gc2smFrom the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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  Published on Strategic Culture on October 21, 2016

The Aleppo/Mosul Riddle

Discuss this article at the Geopolitics Table inside the Diner

There’s no question Baghdad needs to take back Mosul from ISIS/ISIL/Daesh. It could not do it before. In theory, the time is now.

The real question is the conflicting motivations of the large “who’s who” doing it; the Iraqi Army’s 9th Division; the Kurdish Peshmerga, under the baton of wily, corrupt opportunist Barzani; Sunni tribal lords; tens of thousands of Shi’ite militias from southern Iraq; operational “support” from US Special Forces; “targeted” bombing by the US Air Force; and lurking in the background, Turkish Special Forces and air power.

Now that’s a certified recipe for trouble.

Much like Aleppo, Mosul is – literally – the stuff of legend. The successor of ancient Nineveh, settled 8000 years ago; former capital of the Assyrian Empire under Sennacherib in the 7th century B.C.; conquered by Babylon in the 6th century B.C.; a thousand years later, annexed to the Muslim empire and ruled by the Umayyads and the Abbasids; the key hub, from the 11th to the 12th century, of the Atabegs medieval state; a key Ottoman hub in a 16th century post-Silk Road spanning the Indian Ocean all the way to the Persian Gulf, the Tigris valley, Aleppo and Tripoli in the Mediterranean.

After WWI, everyone craved Mosul – from Turkey to France. But it was the Brits who managed to dupe France into letting Mosul be annexed to the British Empire’s brand new colony: Iraq. Then came the long Arab nationalist Ba’ath party domination. And afterwards, Shock and Awe and hell; the US invasion and occupation; the tumultuous Shi’ite-majority government of Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad; and the ISIS/ISIL/Daesh takeover in the summer of 2014.

Mosul’s historic parallels could not but have a special flavor. That 11th/12th century medieval state happened to have roughly the same borders of Daesh’s phony “Caliphate” – incorporating both Aleppo and Mosul. In 2004, Mosul was de facto ruled by disgraced, failed “presidential material” Gen. David Petraeus. Ten years later, after Petraeus’s phony “surge”, Mosul was ruled by a phony Caliphate born in a US prison near the Kuwaiti border.

Since then, hundreds of thousands of residents fled Mosul. The population may be as much as halved compared to the original 2 million. That’s a mighty lot to be properly “liberated”.

Aleppo “falls”

The hegemonic narrative about the ongoing Battle of (East) Aleppo is that an “axis of evil” (as coined by Hillary Clinton) of Russia, Iran and “the Syrian regime” is relentlessly bombing innocent civilians and “moderate rebels” while causing a horrendous humanitarian crisis.

In fact, the absolute majority of these several thousand-strong “moderate rebels” is in fact incorporated and/or affiliated with Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (Conquest of Syria Front), which happens to be none other than Jabhat al-Nusra, a.k.a. al-Qaeda in Syria, alongside a smatter of other jihadi groups such as Ahrar al-Sham (Al-Nusra’s goals – and who supports them – are fully documented here).

Meanwhile, few civilians remain trapped in eastern Aleppo – arguably no more than 30,000 or 40,000 out of an initial population of 300,000.

And that brings us to the crux of the matter explaining the Pentagon sabotage of the Russia-US ceasefire; those fits of rage by Samantha Batshit Crazy Power; the non-stop spin that Russia is committing “war crimes”.

If Damascus controls, apart from the capital, Aleppo, Homs, Hama and Latakia, it controls the Syria that matters; 70% of the population and all the important industrial/business centers. It’s practically game over. The rest is a rural, nearly empty back of beyond.

For the headless chicken school of foreign policy currently practiced by the lame duck Obama administration, the ceasefire was a means to buy time and rearm what the Beltway describes as “moderate rebels”. Yet even that was too much for the Pentagon, which faces a determined Syria/Iran/Russia alliance fighting all declinations of demented Salafi-jihadis, whatever their terminology, and committed to keep a unitary Syria.

So reconquering the whole of Aleppo has to be the top priority for Damascus, Tehran and Moscow. The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) will never have enough military to reconquer the rural, ultra hardcore Sunni back of beyond. Damascus may also never reconquer the Kurdish northeast, the embryonic Rojava; after all the YPG is directly backed by the Pentagon. Whether an independent Rojava will ever see the light of day is an interminable future issue to be solved.

The SAA, once again, is tremendously overextended. Thus, the method to reconquer East Aleppo is indeed hardcore. There is a humanitarian crisis. There is collateral damage. And this is only the beginning. Because sooner or later the SAA, supported by Hezbollah and Iraqi Shi’ite militias, will have to reconquer East Aleppo with boots on the ground as well – supported by Russian fighter jets.

The heart of the matter is that the former “Free Syrian Army”, absorbed by al-Qaeda in Syria and other Salafi-jihadis, is about to lose East Aleppo. Regime change and/or “Assad must go” – the military way – in Damascus is now impossible. Thus the utter desperation exhibited by the Pentagon’s Ash “Empire of Whining” Carter, neocon cells implanted all across lame duck Team Obama, and their hordes of media shills.

Enter Plan B; the Battle of Mosul.

Fallujah remixed?

The Pentagon plan is deceptively simple; erase any signs of Damascus and the SAA east of Palmyra. And this is where the Battle of Mosul converges with the recent Pentagon attack on Deir Ezzor. Even if we have an offensive in the next few months against Raqqa – by the YPG Kurds or even by Turkish forces – we still have a “Salafist principality” from eastern Syria to western Iraq all mapped up, exactly as the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) was planning (dreaming?) in 2012.

London-based Syrian historian Nizar Nayouf, as well as unnamed diplomatic sources, have confirmed that Washington and Riyadh closed a deal to let thousands of phony Caliphate jihadis escape Mosul from the west, as long as they head straight to Syria. A look at the battle map tells us that Mosul is encircled from all directions, except west.

But what about Sultan Erdogan in all this? He’s been spinning that Turkish Special Forces will enter Mosul just as they entered Jarablus in the Turkish-Syrian border; without firing a shot, when the city will be cleaned of jihadis.

Meanwhile, Ankara is preparing its spectacular entrance in the battlefield, with Erdogan in full regalia shooting at random. For him, “Baghdad” is no more than “an administrator of an army composed of Shi’ites”; and the YPG Kurds “will be removed from the Syrian town of Manbij” after the Mosul operation. Not to mention that Ankara and Washington are actively discussing the offensive against Raqqa, as Erdogan has not abandoned his dream of a “safe zone” of 5,000 km in northern Syria.

In a nutshell; for Erdogan, Mosul is a sideshow. His priorities remain a fractured, fragmented Syria, “safe zone” included; and to smash the YPG Kurds (while working side by side with the Peshmerga in Iraq).

As far as the US Plan B is concerned, Hezbollah’s Sheikh Nasrallah has clearly seen through the whole scheme; “The Americans intend to repeat the Fallujah plot when they opened a way for ISIL to escape towards eastern Syria before the Iraqi warplanes targeted the terrorists’ convoy.” He added that “the Iraqi army and popular forces” must defeat ISIS/ISIL/Daesh in Mosul; otherwise, they will have to chase them out across eastern Syria.

It's also no wonder that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has also clearly seen The Big Picture: “As far as I know, the city is not fully encircled. I hope it’s because they simply couldn’t do it, not because they wouldn’t do it. But this corridor poses a risk that Islamic State fighters could flee from Mosul and go to Syria.”

It’s clear Moscow won’t sit idly by if that’s the case;“I hope the US-led coalition, which is actively engaged in the operation to take Mosul, will take it into account.”

Of course Mosul – even more than Aleppo – poses a serious humanitarian question.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) estimates as many as 1 million people may be affected. Lavrov goes straight to the point when he insists “neither Iraq nor its neighbors currently have the capacity to accommodate such a large number of refugees, and this should have been a factor in the planning of the Mosul operation.”

It may not have been. After all, for the “US-led” (from behind?) coalition, the number one priority is to ensure the phony Caliphate survives, somewhere in eastern Syria. Over 15 years after 9/11, the song remains the same, with the war on terra the perennial gift that keeps on giving.

Why the New Silk Roads Terrify Washington

gc2smFrom the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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greatwarfreda1

Originally published in RT on July 5, 2016

 


Almost six years ago, President Putin proposed to Germany 'the creation of a harmonious economic community stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok.'

This idea represented an immense trade emporium uniting Russia and the EU, or, in Putin’s words, “a unified continental market with a capacity worth trillions of dollars.”

In a nutshell: Eurasia integration.

Washington panicked. The record shows how Putin’s vision – although extremely seductive to German industrialists – was eventually derailed by Washington’s controlled demolition of Ukraine.

Three years ago, in Kazakhstan and then Indonesia, President Xi Jinping expanded on Putin’s vision, proposing One Belt, One Road (OBOR), a.k.a. the New Silk Roads, enhancing the geoeconomic integration of Asia-Pacific via a vast network of highways, high-speed rail, pipelines, ports and fiber-optic cables.

In a nutshell: an even more ambitious version of Eurasia integration, benefiting two-thirds of the world population, economy and trade. The difference is that it now comes with immense financial muscle backing it up, via a Silk Road Fund, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), the BRICS’s New Development Bank (NDB), and an all-out commercial offensive all across Eurasia, and the official entry of the yuan in the IMF’s Special Drawing Rights; that is, the christening of the yuan as a key currency worth holding by every single emerging market central bank.

At the recent G20 in Huangzhou, President Xi clearly demonstrated how OBOR is absolutely central to the Chinese vision of how globalization should proceed. Beijing is betting that the overwhelming majority of nations across Eurasia would rather invest in, and profit from, a “win-win” economic development project than be bogged down in a lose-lose strategic game between the US and China.

And that, for the Empire of Chaos, is absolute anathema. How to possibly accept that China is winning the 21st century / New Great Game in Eurasia by building the New Silk Roads?

And don't forget the Silk Road in Syria

Few in the West have noticed, as reported by RT, that the G20 was preceded by an Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok. Essentially, that was yet another de facto celebration of Eurasia integration, featuring Russia, China, Japan and South Korea.

And that integration plank will soon merge with the Russia-led Eurasia Economic Union – which in itself is a sort of Russian New Silk Road.

All these roads lead to total connectivity. Take for instance cargo trains that are now regularly linking Guangzhou, the key hub in southeast China, to the logistics center in  Vorsino industrial park near Kaluga. The trip now takes just two weeks – saving no less than a full month if compared with shipping, and around 80 percent of the cost if compared with air cargo.

That’s yet another New Silk Road-style connection between China and Europe via Russia. Still another, vastly more ambitious, will be the high-speed rail expansion of the Transiberian; the Siberian Silk Road.

Then take the closer integration of China and Kazakhstan – which is also a member of the EEU. The duty-free Trans-Eurasia railway is already in effect, from Chongqing in Sichuan across Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus and Poland all the way to Duisburg in Germany. Beijing and Astana are developing a joint free trade zone at Horgos. And in parallel, a $135 million China-Mongolia Cross-Border Economic Cooperation Zone started to be built last month.

Kazakhstan is even flirting with the ambitious idea of a Eurasian Canal from the Caspian to the Black Sea and then further on to the Mediterranean. Sooner or later Chinese construction companies will come up with a feasibility study.

A virtually invisible Washington agenda in Syria – inbuilt in the Pentagon obsession to not allow any ceasefire to work, or to prevent the fall of its “moderate rebels” in Aleppo – is to break up yet another New Silk Road hub. China has been commercially connected to Syria since the original Silk Road, which snaked through Palmyra and Damascus. Before the Syrian “Arab Spring”, Syrian businessmen were a vital presence in Yiwu, south of Shanghai, the largest wholesale center for small-sized consumer goods in the world, where they would go to buy all sorts of products in bulk to resell in the Levant.

The “American lake”

Neocon/neoliberalcon Washington is totally paralyzed in terms of formulating a response – or at least a counter-proposal – to Eurasia integration. A few solid IQs at least may understand that China’s “threat” to the US is all about economic might. Take Washington’s deep hostility towards the China-driven AIIB (Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank). Yet no amount of hardcore US lobbying prevented allies such as Germany, Britain, Australia and South Korea from joining in.

Then we had the mad dash to approve TPP – the China-excluding, NATO-on-trade arm of the pivot to Asia that was meant to be the cherry of the mostly flat Obama global economic policy cake. Yet the TPP as it stands is practically dead.

What the current geopolitical juncture spells out is the US Navy willing to go no holds barred to stop China from strategically dominating the Pacific, while TPP is deployed as a weapon to stop China dominating Asia-Pacific economically.

With the pivot to Asia configured as a tool to “deter Chinese aggression”, exceptionalists have graphically demonstrated how they are incapable of admitting the whole game is about post-ideological supply chain geopolitics. The US does not need to contain China; what it needs, badly, is key industrial, financial, commercial connection to crucial nodes across Asia to (re)build its economy.

Those were the days, in March 1949, when MacArthur could gloat, “the Pacific is now an Anglo-Saxon lake”. Even after the end of the Cold War the Pacific was a de facto American lake; the US violated Chinese naval and aerial space at will.

Now instead we have the US Army War College and the whole Think Tankland losing sleep over sophisticated Chinese missiles capable of denying US Navy access to the South China Sea. An American lake? No more.

The heart of the matter is that China has made an outstanding bet on infrastructure building – which translates into first-class connectivity to everyone – as the real global 21st century commons, way more important than “security”. After all a large part of global infrastructure still needs to be built. While China turbo-charges its role as the top global infrastructure exporter – from high-speed rail to low-cost telecom – the “indispensable” nation is stuck with a “pivoting”, perplexed, bloated military obsessed with containment.

Divide and rule those “hostile” rivals

Well, things haven’t changed much since Dr. Zbig “Grand Chessboard” Brzezinski dreaming in the late 1990s of a Chinese fragmentation from within, all the way to Obama’s 2015 National Security Strategy, which is no more than futile rhetorical nostalgia about containing Russia, China and Iran.

Thus the basket of attached myths such as “freedom of navigation” – Washington’s euphemism for perennially controlling the sea lanes that constitute China’s supply chain – as well as an apotheosis of“China aggression” incessantly merging with “Russia aggression”; after all, the Eurasia integration-driven Beijing-Moscow strategic partnership must be severed at all costs.

Why? Because US global hegemony must always be perceived as an irremovable force of nature, like death and taxes (Apple in Ireland excluded).

Twenty-four years after the Pentagon’s Defense Planning Guide, the same mindset prevails; “Our first objective is to prevent the reemergence of a new rival…to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power. These regions include Western Europe, East Asia, the territory of the former Soviet Union and southwest Asia”.

Oops. Now even Dr. Zbig “Grand Chessboard” Brzezinski is terrified. How to contain these bloody silky roads with Pentagon“existential threats” China and Russia right at the heart of the action? Divide and Rule – what else?

For a confused Brzezinski, the US should“fashion a policy in which at least one of the two potentially threatening states becomes a partner in the quest for regional and then wider global stability, and thus in containing the least predictable but potentially the most likely rival to overreach. Currently, the more likely to overreach is Russia, but in the longer run it could be China.”

Have a pleasant nightmare.

 


PepePepe Escobar  is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia Times Online. Born in Brazil, he's been a foreign correspondent since 1985, and has lived in London, Paris, Milan, Los Angeles, Washington, Bangkok and Hong Kong. Even before 9/11 he specialized in covering the arc from the Middle East to Central and East Asia, with an emphasis on Big Power geopolitics and energy wars. He is the author of "Globalistan" (2007), "Red Zone Blues" (2007), "Obama does Globalistan" (2009) "Empire of Chaos" (2014),and "2030" (2015), all published by Nimble Books. 

The Whole Game is About Containing Russia-China

gc2smFrom the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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Russia China

Originally published in Sputnik on August 29, 2016

 


The next BRICS summit, in Goa, is less than two months away. Compared to only two years ago, the geopolitical tectonic plates have moved with astonishing speed. Most BRICS nations are mired in deep crisis; Brazil’s endles political/economic/institutional debacle may yield the Kafkaesque impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff.

BRICS is in a coma. What's surviving is RC: the Russia/China strategic partnership. Yet even the partnership seems to be in trouble — with Russia still attacked by myriad metastases of Hybrid War. The — Exceptionalist — Hegemon remains powerful, and the opposition is dazed and confused. 

Or is it?  Slowly but surely — see for instance the possibility of an ATM (Ankara-Tehran-Moscow) coalition in the making — global power continues to insist on shifting East. That goes beyond Russia's pivoting to Asia; Germany's industrialists are just waiting for the right political conjunction, before the end of the decade, to also pivot to Asia, conforming a BMB (Berlin-Moscow-Beijing) coalition.

Germany already rules over Europe. The only way for a global trade power to solidify its reach is to go East. NATO member Germany, with a GDP that outstrips the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, is not even allowed to share information with the "Five Eyes" secret cabal.  

President Putin, years ago, was keen on a Lisbon-to-Vladivostok emporium. He may eventually be rewarded — delayed gratification?— by BMB, a trade/economic union that, combined with the Chinese-driven One Belt, One Road (OBOR), will eventually dwarf and effectively replace the dwindling post-WWII Anglo-Saxon crafted/controlled international order.

This inexorable movement East underscores all the interconnections — and evolving connectivity — related to the New Silk Roads, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the BRICS's New Development Bank (NDB), the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), the Eurasia Economic Union (EEU). The crux of RC, the Russia-China strategic partnership, is to make the multipolar, post-Atlantic world happen. Or, updating Ezra Pound, to Make It New.

Containing RC

Russia's pivot to Asia is of course only part of the story. The core of Russia's industries, infrastructure, population is in the west of the country, closer to Europe. BMB would allow a double pivot — simultaneously to Europe and Asia; or Russia exploiting to the max its Eurasian character. Not accidently this is absolute anathema for Washington. Thus the predictable, ongoing no holds barred exceptionalist strategy of preventing by all means necessary closer Russia-Germany cooperation.  

In parallel, pivoting to Asia is also essential because that's where the overwhelming majority of Russia's future customers — energy and otherwise — are located. It will be a long, winding process to educate Russian public opinion about the incalculable value for the nation of Siberia and the Russian Far East. Yet that has already started. And it will be in full fruition by the middle of the next decade, when all the interpolated New Silk Roads will be online.   "Containment" of RC will continue to be the name of the exceptionalist game — whatever happens on November 8. As far as the industrial-military-security-surveillance-corporate media complex is concerned, there will be no reset.

Proxies will be used — from failed state Ukraine to Japan in the East China Sea, as well as any volunteering Southeast Asian faction in the South China Sea.

Still the Hegemon will be in trouble to contain both sides of RC simultaneously. NATO does not help; its trade arm, TPP, may even collapse in the high seas before arriving on shore. No TPP — a certainty in case Donald Trump is elected in November — means the end of US economic hegemony over Asia. Hillary Clinton knows it; and it's no accident President Obama is desperate to have TPP approved during a short window of opportunity, the lame-duck session of Congress from November 9 to January 3.

Against China, the Hegemon alliance in fact hinges on Australia, India and Japan. Forget about instrumentalizing BRICS member India — which will never fall into the trap of a war against China (not to mention Russia, with which India traditionally enjoys very good relations.)   

Japan's imperial instincts were reawakened by Shinzo Abe. Yet hopeless economic stagnation persists. Moreover, Tokyo has been prohibited by the US Treasury Dept. to continue unleashing quantitative easing. Moscow sees as a long-term objective to progressively draw Japan away from the US orbit and into Eurasia integration. 

Dr. Zbig Does Desolation Row

The Pentagon is terrified that RC is now a military partnership as well.

Compared to Russia's superior high-tech weaponry, NATO is a kindergarten mess; not to mention that soon Russian territory will be inviolable to any Star Wars-derived scheme. China will soon have all the submarines and "carrier-killer" missiles necessary to make life for the US Navy hell in case the Pentagon harbors funny ideas. And then there are the regional details — from Russia's permanent air base in Syria to military cooperation with Iran and, eventually, disgruntled NATO member Turkey. 

No wonder such exceptionalist luminary ideologues as Dr. Zbig "Grand Chessboard" Brzezinski — foreign policy mentor to President Obama — are supremely dejected.

When Brzezinski looks at progressive Eurasia integration, he simply cannot fail to detect how those "three grand imperatives of imperial geostrategy" he outlined in The Grand Chessboard are simply dissolving; "to prevent collusion and maintain security dependence among the vassals, to keep tributaries pliant and protected, and to keep the barbarians from coming together."

Those GCC vassals — starting with the House of Saud — are now terrified about their own security; same with the hysteric Baltics. Tributaries are not pliant anymore — and that includes an array of Europeans. The "barbarians" coming together are in fact old civilizations — China, Persia, Russia — fed up with upstart-controlled unipolarity.  

Unsurprisingly, to "contain" RC, defined as "potentially threatening" (the Pentagon considers the threats are existential) Brzezinski suggests — what else — Divide and Rule; as in "containing the least predictable but potentially the most likely to overreach." Still he doesn't know which is which; "Currently, the more likely to overreach is Russia, but in the longer run it could be China."     

Hillary "Queen of War" Clinton of course does not subscribe to Brzezinski's "could be" school. After all she's the official, Robert Kagan-endorsed, neocon presidential candidate. She's more in tune with this sort of wacky "analysis". 

 

So one should definitely expect Hillary's "project" to be all-out hegemony expansion all across Eurasia. Syria and Iran will be targets. Even another war on the Korean Peninsula could be on the cards. But against North Korea, a nuclear power? Exceptionalistan only attacks those who can't defend themselves. Besides, RC could easily prevent war by offering some strategic carrots to the Kim family. 

In many aspects, not much has changed from 24 years ago when, only three months after the dissolution of the USSR, the Pentagon's Defense Planning Guidance proclaimed.

"Our first objective is to prevent the reemergence of a new rival…This requires that we endeavor to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power. These regions include Western Europe, East Asia, the territory of the former Soviet Union and southwest Asia."


Talk about a prescient road map of what's happening right now; the "rival", "hostile" power is actually two powers involved in a strategic partnership: RC.   Compounding this Pentagon nightmare, the endgame keeps drawing near; the next manifestations and reverberations of the never-ending 2008 financial crisis may eventually torpedo the fundamentals of the global "order" — as in the petrodollar racket/tributary scam. There will be blood. Hillary Clinton smells it already — from Syria to Iran to the South China Sea. The question is whether she — and virtually the whole Beltway establishment behind her — will be mad enough to provoke RC and buy a one-way ticket to post-MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction) territory.  


PepePepe Escobar  is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia Times Online. Born in Brazil, he's been a foreign correspondent since 1985, and has lived in London, Paris, Milan, Los Angeles, Washington, Bangkok and Hong Kong. Even before 9/11 he specialized in covering the arc from the Middle East to Central and East Asia, with an emphasis on Big Power geopolitics and energy wars. He is the author of "Globalistan" (2007), "Red Zone Blues" (2007), "Obama does Globalistan" (2009) "Empire of Chaos" (2014),and "2030" (2015), all published by Nimble Books. 

The Russia-Iran Strategic Game-Changer

gc2smFrom the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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Azernaijan Iran Russia

Originally published in Strategic Culture on August 20, 2016

 


Russian Tu-22M3 Backfire bombers – as well as Sukhoi-34 fighter bombers – leave from the Iranian Hamadan airfield to bomb jihadis and assorted "moderate rebels" in Syria, and immediately we’ve got ourselves a major, unforeseen geopolitical game-changer.

The record shows that Russia has not been present militarily in Iran since 1946; and this is the first time since the 1979 Islamic Revolution that Iran allowed another nation to use Iranian territory for a military operation.

Bets could be made the Pentagon would, predictably, freak out like a bunch of pampered, irate teens. They did not disappoint, complaining that Russia’s advance warning did not allow enough time to "prepare" – as in blaring all across the planet another episode of "Russian aggression", on top of it in cahoots with "the mullahs". Further desperation ensued, with Washington claiming Iran might have violated UN Security Council resolutions.

Moscow’s spin, in contrast, was a beauty; this was all about logistics and cost cutting. Admiral Vladimir Komoyedov, chair of the State Duma’s Defense Committee and a former commander of the Black Sea Fleet, gave a lovely explanation of the modus operandi:

"It is expensive and takes a long time to fly from bases in the European part of Russia. The issue of the cost of military combat activities is, at present, a priority. We must not go over the current Defense Ministry budget. Flying Tu-22s from Iran means using less fuel and carrying larger payloads… Russia won’t be able to find a friendlier and more suitable, from the point of view of security, country in that part of the world, and strikes must be carried out if we want to end this war… Airfields in Syria are not suitable because of the constant [need for] flying over areas of combat activities".

Don’t mess with the SCO

All fine and dandy then. The Pentagon will keep crying foul. Enraged Zionists in Israel and fanatic Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia will throw tantrums and turbo-charge the proverbial "Iranian existential threat" to apocalyptic levels. Whatever. These "facts in the skies" cannot be altered. Especially because if they open the way for a decisive victory in the battle for East Aleppo, the foreign-imposed Syrian civil war will be all but over.

Ali Shamkhani, head of Iran’s National Security Council, made no mistake this is all about Iran-Russia strategic cooperation in a – real – fight against ISIS/ISIL/Daesh terror, and not, as spun by Western corporate media, the return of Iran as a "military asset" of a great power.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, for his part, stressed"I allowed the bombers to fly over because we received clear information about them. They make precise strikes, avoid casualties among civilians. So, we will consider all the requests concerning security of civilians in Syria".

This was code for Baghdad coolly allowing Russian access through Iraqi airspace for the TU-22M3 bombers. Next inevitable step would be the Russian Caspian fleet launching cruise missiles over Iranian and Iraqi airspace towards those Beltway-protected "rebels" in Syria.

And there’s more, much more.

A 2015 Moscow-Damascus agreement has now been ratified by Russia. That, in effect, turns the Russian air base at Khmeimim into a permanent military base in the eastern Mediterranean.

Beijing and Damascus, for their part, have just agreed on closer military ties on top of Chinese humanitarian aid. Syrian Arab Army personnel will eventually be trained by Chinese military instructors.

Beijing is now directly involved in Syria for a key national security reason; hundreds of Uyghurs have joined Daesh or follow al-Qaeda goon Abu Muhammad al-Julani, the much-appreciated-in-the Beltway leader of the Army of Syrian Conquest – and may eventually return to Xinjiang to wage jihad.

And then, there’s the absolutely delicious cherry in the cheesecake, as professor of Middle East Studies at Shanghai International Studies University, Zhao Weiming, told the Global Times; Beijing’s new power play in Syria is payback for Pentagon interference in the South China Sea.

So what will Hillary do?

All of the above points to the new look of what used to be a white elephant in the room; the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) now means serious business.

As the "4+1" (Russia, Iran, Iraq, Syria, plus Hezbollah) started to share intel and operation procedures last year, including a coordination center in Baghdad, analysts such as Alistair Cooke and myself saw it as an embryo of the SCO in action. This was definitely, already, an alternative to NATO’s "humanitarian" imperialism and regime change obsession. For the first time NATO was not free anymore to roam around the world like an out-of-control Robocop. Even though only Russia and China were SCO members, and Iran an observer, the cooperation involved – at the request of a government fighting jihadis and still a target for regime change – already qualified as a major, new geopolitical fact on the ground.

Now, this variant of the New Silk Roads – New Silk Airways? – involving Russia, Iran, Iraq and Syria and precisely targeting Salafi-jihadism, qualifies once again as accelerated Eurasia integration. Both SCO heavyweights China and Russia will not only admit Iran as a full member as early as next year; they know Iran is a key strategic asset in a battle against NATO, and they will never let Syria become the new Libya. In parallel, Russia’s strategic moves in Crimea and Syria are set to be dissected in excruciating detail in Chinese military academies.

Eurasia integration is being progressively intertwined with the SCO.

Whatever Tel Aviv and Riyadh – with their massive Washington lobbies – may fear about Russian-Iranian security cooperation, it’s NATO that’s livid. And much more than NATO, Hillary "Queen of War" Clinton.

The record shows Hillary with a severe crush on Assad to be dispatched the Gaddafi way. In the event of a Hillary presidency, bets can be made she will force the Pentagon to impose a no-fly zone in northern Syria and weaponize assorted "rebel" remnants to Kingdom Come.

And then there’s Iran. During the 2008 US presidential campaign, I was on the floor as Hillary addressed the AIPAC conference in Washington, a truly frightening spectacle. Using the – false – premise of an Iranian attack on Israel, she said, "I want the Iranians to know that if I’m president, we will attack Iran. In the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them."

Oh really? Over Russia-Iran strategic cooperation? Over a progressively integrated SCO? Bring it on, Queen of War.


PepePepe Escobar  is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia Times Online. Born in Brazil, he's been a foreign correspondent since 1985, and has lived in London, Paris, Milan, Los Angeles, Washington, Bangkok and Hong Kong. Even before 9/11 he specialized in covering the arc from the Middle East to Central and East Asia, with an emphasis on Big Power geopolitics and energy wars. He is the author of "Globalistan" (2007), "Red Zone Blues" (2007), "Obama does Globalistan" (2009) "Empire of Chaos" (2014),and "2030" (2015), all published by Nimble Books. 

Tony Blair to George W. Bush: ‘I will be with you, whatever’

gc2smFrom the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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bush_blair_war crimes

 

Originally published in Russia Insider on July 7, 2016

"The report paints what can only be characterized as The Three Stooges school of intelligence."


It’s all here; 12 volumes, 2.6 million words (almost four-and-a-half times as long as War and Peace), seven years in the making, including analyses of 150,000 British government documents.

Chaired by Sir John Chilcot, former Whitehall insider, and officially known as “the Iraq Inquiry”, this Proustian investigation allegedly explores every nook and cranny in the UK’s run-up to the invasion and occupation of Iraq as well as its aftermath.

Let’s cut to the chase. This is not a whitewash by the British establishment; it’s actually much stronger than many analysts expected. Advance leaks had hinted blame would be apportioned to quite a few figures in the UK’s politico/military/intel apparatus – and that’s indeed the case.

The key questions are known to all. Did Tony Blair lie about the need to go to war? Was the war legal? Did the war – as Blair vociferously promised – make Britain “safer”? What did Blair promise George Bush? Did he lie about those non-existent weapons of mass destruction (WMDs)? Was MI6 intelligence compromised? Did the British military fail to stand up to Blair?

It will take days to get through the whole report. But based on Chilcot’s own initial statement, some conclusions are absolutely stark. There was “no need” to go to war in March 2003. All decisions were made “on the basis of flawed intelligence and assessments”.

The British cabinet did not discuss the many possible military options – or their implications. The British government – what Alice in Wonderland dreamworld did they live in? – believed the post-invasion administration would be led by the UN, and not controlled by the Cheney regime neocons.

And then this startling statement; Tony Blair “overestimated his ability”to influence US decisions on Iraq. And yet the now famous Blair memo to Bush on July 2002, transcribed by the report, had made it clear: “I will be with you, whatever”. Blair was a mere follower, not a driver.

The report paints what can only be characterized as The Three Stooges school of intelligence. Especially responsible for the debacle are Sir John Scarlett, chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, which relied basically on MI6; and then MI6 chief Sir Richard Dearlove. Not only their intel was faulty; we, as independent journalists, already knew by the Summer of 2002 (I spent one month all over Iraq in the Spring of 2002) that there were no WMDs anywhere to be found. UN inspectors not remote-controlled by the US also knew it.

Make no mistake it was #TonyBlair and George Bush that made the world we live in today. #Chilcot

— Harry Leslie Smith (@Harryslaststand) July 6, 2016

bushnblairSo Blair not only totally bought fake MI6 intel, but exhibited it to the British Parliament with absolute “certainty”. The report blames the entire British intel apparatus for not trying to contain Blair.

And it gets worse. According to the report, the UK government “blamed France for the ‘impasse’ in the UN and claimed that the UK government was acting on behalf of the international community to ‘uphold the authority of the Security Council’. In the absence of a majority in support of military action, we consider that the UK was, in fact, undermining the Security Council’s authority.”

Don’t expect a plot like this to show up in the next installment of the James Bond franchise.

Pledge to kill a million people

None of this is new. All of us who throughout 2002 and early 2003 were following the run-up towards the inevitable war on Iraq knew that Blair was the strategic, special relationship poodle necessary to confer a veneer of legitimacy to the Cheney regime neocons. As for Blair, the Chilcot report now makes it clear he couldn’t care less about his cabinet, the British Parliament or even international law. His only pledge of allegiance (“I will be with you, whatever”) was to George W. Bush.

The result, as we also know, is beyond appalling. The Lancet, in 2006, published its own extensive sample research – based on doctors conducting house-to-house surveys in Iraq – estimating that a staggering 655,000 Iraqis died because of the war.

Even more devastating was the work of the US-based Physicians for Social Responsibility, who in 2105 came to a figure of 1 million (5 percent of the total population), not including deaths among 3 million refugees.

Chilcot was careful to go pre-emptive, stating “we are not a court”, reflecting the fact that he had no lawyers working and drafting the report. But as much as the report does not declare the war illegal, flat out, it does open a few avenues for huge legal problems the Tony Blair way.

By now is more than clear that the internal, attempted Labour coup against Jeremy Corbyn is directly linked to the Chilcot report. Corbyn – an anti-war activist with impeccable CV – said last year that Blair could face trial in The Hague if the Chilcot report found he was guilty of launching an illegal war. As Labour leader, Corbyn would be able to expose Blair with parliamentary immunity, without risking action by Blair’s army of lawyers.

.@LauriLoveX Good question given the #Chilcot report will take someone about 9 days to read. pic.twitter.com/CUutlregp7

— Anonymous (@AnonyOps) July 6, 2016

 

The internal Labour coup – orchestrated by the Blairites – was supposed to climax immediately after Brexit here is how Blair threw Corbyn under the bus. Removed from the leadership, Corbyn would only be able to go after Blair as a backbencher. That’s not strong enough.

Yet by now the window of opportunity to stop Corbyn has passed. And crucially, in his dignified comments in Parliament about the report, Corbyn did suggest that the House of Commons should take action against Blair for misleading it in the run-up towards the war. This means Blair could be impeached.

Whatever Blair says in the aftermath of the report – the Sunni-Shi’ite split in Iraq, one of key drivers of non-stop carnage, was already there before the invasion (false, as I saw for myself in 2002); Iran and al-Qaeda created insecurity in Iraq after the invasion (false on Iran; and al-Qaeda was actually brought to Iraq by the Cheney regime) – these will all be, well, lies.

As it stands, Tony Blair will probably evade a one-way ticket to The Hague to undergo a trial for his war crimes. But countless people all across the world can always dream of ironic/poetic justice; Blair the Brit warmonger tried in an EU court just after Brexit, as the UK’s role of sideshow occupier in Iraq directly connects to scores of people fleeing from jihadis and configuring a refugee crisis in Europe.


PepePepe Escobar  is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia Times Online. Born in Brazil, he's been a foreign correspondent since 1985, and has lived in London, Paris, Milan, Los Angeles, Washington, Bangkok and Hong Kong. Even before 9/11 he specialized in covering the arc from the Middle East to Central and East Asia, with an emphasis on Big Power geopolitics and energy wars. He is the author of "Globalistan" (2007), "Red Zone Blues" (2007), "Obama does Globalistan" (2009) "Empire of Chaos" (2014),and "2030" (2015), all published by Nimble Books. 

On the Road to United Eurasia

gc2smFrom the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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putin xi2

Originally published in Russia Insider on July 5, 2016

 


Whenever President Vladimir Putin stresses Russia’s "all-embracing and strategic partnership" with China, one can hear the proverbial howls of anger emanating from the neocon/neoliberalcon axis in the Beltway.

As he met Chinese president Xi Jinping in Beijng this past Saturday, Putin even allowed himself an understatement; "To say we have a strategic cooperation is not enough anymore. This is why we have started talking about a comprehensive partnership and strategic collaboration. Comprehensive means that we work virtually on all major avenues; strategic means that we attach enormous inter-government importance to this work."

Why understatement? Because this really ventures way beyond a stream of business deals.

Deals, of course, matter; in Beijing, China and Russia advanced 58 projects worth $50 billion. These include a $6.2 billion loan from Beijing to build the 770 km-long high-speed railway between Moscow and Kazan and $12 billion in loans to build an LNG plant in the Russian Arctic.

Russian Railways, Russian investment company Sinara Group, China Railway, and Chinese CRRC will also invest in a plant in Russia to build 100 high-speed trains, designed for the Moscow-Kazan high-speed railway. The railway inevitably will be connected to the future, $100 billion, high-speed expansion of the Trans-Siberian between Moscow and Beijing.

It goes without saying, this is all part of an essential node of the New Silk Roads. And as if this was not enough, in a further, graphic instance of geoeconomic interpolation, Russia and China’s central banks are setting up a yuan clearing mechanism in Russia.

The inter-connectivity bonanza

Putin and Xi met for the 15th time just after Xi concluded a three-nation Eurasia tour – Serbia, Poland and Uzbekistan – where, alongside Foreign Minister Wang Yi, he explicitly laid down the bridge between the New Silk Roads, or One Belt, One Road (OBOR), as they are officially referred to in China, and the development of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

Not by accident China has now also struck a "comprehensive strategic partnership" with Serbia, Poland and Uzbekistan – on the way to weaving a broad "China-Europe strategic partnership" in parallel to the development of the SCO.

This already translates into projects such as the Hungary-Serbia railway; the Pupin Bridge on the Danube River in Belgrade; the expansion and upgrading of a power plant in Kostolac; what Beijing calls the China-Europe freight train service (from eastern China to Duisburg in Germany and also Madrid); the Kamchiq Tunnel in Uzbekistan; and last but not least the massive China-Central Asia natural gas pipeline system.

No wonder Xi keeps stressing the "inter-connectivity" theme over and over gain, as economic corridors are being built at breakneck speed, and the China Railway Express all the way to Europe – although not yet on high-speed rail – is already a go.

So there was plenty to talk about at the 16th SCO Council in Tashkent. Plus, the acceleration of full membership to both India and Pakistan; next year will be Iran’s turn.

What this translates to in practice is the amalgamation of the New Silk Roads/OBOR; the Eurasia Economic Union, EEU (as Putin stressed in the St. Petersburg forum); the SCO; financing mechanisms such as the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB); and the overarching Russia-China strategic partnership.

No wonder a certain Sultan Erdogan was watching all this in Ankara with trepidation, and decided to make a move. Erdogan’s attempt at a rapprochement with Russia involves not being hopelessly sidelined in this OBOR/EEU/SCO amalgamation. Turkey cannot afford to be alienated from Russia; the Turkish Stream gas pipeline will be essential to consolidate Ankara’s position as a key energy crossroads towards Europe. At the same time, Ankara must imperatively position itself as a key hub in OBOR.

With India and Pakistan, and later Iran, as full members, the SCO will be able, in the medium term, not only to interface with OBOR on all sides (via the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, CPEC, and also the Indian investment in the Iranian port of Chabahar); but also to be the key player in brokering a solution to the Afghan drama, something that the Americans and NATO would never be able to accomplish. Russia and China have always insisted that Afghanistan needs an Asian solution.

Lean, clean and green

Almost simultaneously to the Putin-Xi meeting in Beijing, and also not by accident, the AIIB turbo-charged its operations.

The AIIB started doing business only six months ago, with 57 founding member countries and $100 billion in committed capital.

It’s scheduled to invest $1.2 billion in 2016. Once again with trademark understatement, Chinese Finance Minister Lou Jiwei said, "the AIIB needs to establish its comparative advantage", profiting from «lessons of developing countries' years of development».

The board approved its first four deals, worth $509 million, with three projects co-financed with the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the United Kingdom Department for International Development and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. They refer to a slum renovation in Indonesia and highways in Pakistan and Tajikistan. A power grid upgrade in Bangladesh will be solely AIIB financed.

And this is just the beginning. The head of AIIB may be Chinese, Jin Linqun (he has promised a "lean, clean and green" AIIB), but one of the five vice presidents is British, Daniel Alexander. Beijing holds 30% of the initial capital but has only 26% of voting power. India holds 7.5% and Russia 5.9%, followed by Germany and South Korea. This is a real multipolar project.

Almost simultaneously to the AIIB in action, Russia and China’s foreign ministers signed a declaration supporting the role of international law, stressing sovereign equality of states; non-interference into internal affairs; and peaceful resolution of disputes. Considering the recent historical record, not exactly The Empire of Chaos’s cup of tea.

Commenting on Brexit, Boris Titov, the Kremlin’s small business ombudsman, ventured, "it’s not long until a united Eurasia – about 10 years". Considering the slowly but surely interpenetration of OBOR, EEU, SCO, AIIB, the NDB and the solid Russia-China partnership inside the G20, that’s more than feasible.

In Beijing, Putin and Xi did discuss their common position in the upcoming G20, only three months away in China; that’s where the real action is, not the G7. Compare it also with NATO’s upcoming warmongering summit in Warsaw; that’s what the West has to "offer" the global South.

In a nutshell; the option to a united Eurasia is chaos. And there’s no question the Empire of Chaos will stop trying to sow chaos. Expect Beijing ordering 1,000 heavy transport aircraft from Russia and Russian ships possibly spotted sooner or later in the South China Sea to add to those perennial howls of anger in the neocon/neoliberalcon galaxy.


PepePepe Escobar  is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia Times Online. Born in Brazil, he's been a foreign correspondent since 1985, and has lived in London, Paris, Milan, Los Angeles, Washington, Bangkok and Hong Kong. Even before 9/11 he specialized in covering the arc from the Middle East to Central and East Asia, with an emphasis on Big Power geopolitics and energy wars. He is the author of "Globalistan" (2007), "Red Zone Blues" (2007), "Obama does Globalistan" (2009) "Empire of Chaos" (2014),and "2030" (2015), all published by Nimble Books. 

Dead Brexit Walking

gc2smFrom the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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big ben one way

Originally published in Sputnik on June 30, 2016

 


All political hell is breaking loose in the UK. The Prime Minister is no more – a post-modern version of Monty Python’s Dead Parrot Sketch.

A nasty, stiff upper lip Tory battle for power is mirrored by a Labor insurgency; that, in itself, would warrant a brand new Python sketch. The general level of “debate” is ghastly. In parallel, British establishment icons want Brexit to be simply ignored (“unlawful”, “illegal”) or remixed, so the unwashed (white working class) masses will be forced to vote the right way.

An army of lawyers told the House of Lords that yes, Britain should change its mind, albeit with “substantial political consequences”. As the British establishment reasons the EU, after all, does have vast experience on the matter. Denmark voted against Mastricht in 1992, Ireland voted against both the Nice treaty in 2001 and the Lisbon treaty in 2008. The EU trampled them all.

For its part, the EU seems to be exhibiting a united front. Out is out. And preferably, fast. Brussels is practically forcing London to get a move on so an embattled EU can get to work to – in theory – get its own act together. 

Eurocrats, off the record, stress that even “fast” won’t be fast enough – because London has been self-marginalizing itself for two decades now. At the same time they expect that the more the disastrous consequences of Brexit are self-evident, the more reasonable Brits will be.

The official narrative now emanates from the new power troika – German chancellor Angela Merkel, French president Francois Hollande and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. Countless Europeans would flinch at buying a second-hand Fiat from these people. But still, they’re the new troika, and their message is clear. Article 50 invoked as soon as possible; no negotiation without notification; discussing our future relationship, fine, but only after you formally ask for a divorce.

Welcome to the remixed EU

Into this toxic environment steps in – surprise! – US Secretary of State John Kerry. Brexit can even be “walked back”, he volunteers – in a Dead Brexit Walking way. Apparently Kerry was very impressed that David Cameron told him, this past Monday in Downing Street, that he would never invoke Article 50 and was powerless to “start negotiating a thing that he doesn’t believe in”. 

Kerry is sure there are a “number of ways” his Dead Brexit Walking scenario would work. Naturally he can’t admit in public what terrifies the lame duck Obama administration. It has nothing to do with the UK going to the “back of the queue” – White House terminology – to renegotiate a trade deal with the US.

This is all about no more American Trojan Horse in Brussels. No more TTIP. Germany and France making all big European decisions without a Five Eyes looking in. No wonder Exceptionalist shills immediately started spinning that the only solution for Brexit is more NATO and its corollary: further demonization of Russia.

A scrabble board spells out Brexit in Dublin, Ireland May 4 2016.Occult by all these machinations is the stark fact that the sole purpose of NATO now – apart from losing wars in Central Asia and destroying nations in Northern Africa — is to perpetuate the military occupation of Europe. And for that, NATO badly relies on anti-Russia hysteria.

At least there is movement in other fronts. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble is already exploring a way out, as in a negotiation offering an “associate” membership for the UK. In fact this is the current status quo; the UK is not part of the euro or part of Schengen. The core issue, for Britain, is access to the single market. And that, as far as Brussels is concerned, will never be a case of “you can get your tea and scones and eat them too.” You’ll only do it if you accept EU immigration.

Venturing into uncharted territory, with perfect timing, irrupts the leaked road map for a remixed EU, conceived by a Franco-German duo of Foreign Ministers, Jean-Marc Ayrault and Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

The Franco-German vision, predictably, privileges security, immigration and the euro, with an emphasis on economic growth. They want even “more Europe” (something the Brits would never agree with); Defense and Foreign Policy closely intertwined; and a unified European army (imagine the serial heart attacks in the Beltway). 

They want total European coordination – from intelligence to incarceration – to fight terrorism, as well as integrated surveillance of Fortress Europe’s borders.

They even venture into a project for “stabilization, development and reconstruction” of Syria (before that someone must tell the CIA and the Pentagon to stop sluggin’ it out on what “moderate rebels” to weaponize). 

In the “follow the money” department, the Franco-German duo want the same fiscal policies for everybody, “convergence of national budgets” (good luck with that) and a European Assembly to control monetary policy. Now try selling all that to a true “Europe of the peoples”.

And what about China?

Then there’s the giant panda in the (collapsing) European room: China. Beijing is still carefully analyzing the current political circus in London and Brussels before adjusting its strategy.

There’s no question London, so far, was the privileged Chinese gateway to the EU – as well as a top offshore trading hub for the yuan. Beijing was also counting on London to facilitate achieving market economy status, which would immediately translate into even more Chinese exports to Europe, all this closely connected with the New Silk Roads. Last but not least, the UK – much to the displeasure of the “special relationship” — is a founder member of the China-driven Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

London, for its part, was beaming with the prospect of solidifying itself as China’s gateway to Europe while securing torrents of investment – a Chinese-style “win-win”. 

So far though, nothing changes. Take, for instance, telecom equipment giant Huawei still betting on Britain.

China-UK was hailed last year as a “golden relationship”. But as UK banks and financial services contemplate moving to the EU post-Brexit (HSBC, for instance, already announced that 1,000 jobs are moving to Paris), the real story is that China can start contemplating further “win-win” scenarios also with Paris, Frankfurt and Milan. As a backup, there’ll always be that Dead Brexit Walking. And if it turns out “unlawful”, “illegal” Brexit goes out to meet its maker, everything will be “golden” again. 


PepePepe Escobar  is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia Times Online. Born in Brazil, he's been a foreign correspondent since 1985, and has lived in London, Paris, Milan, Los Angeles, Washington, Bangkok and Hong Kong. Even before 9/11 he specialized in covering the arc from the Middle East to Central and East Asia, with an emphasis on Big Power geopolitics and energy wars. He is the author of "Globalistan" (2007), "Red Zone Blues" (2007), "Obama does Globalistan" (2009) "Empire of Chaos" (2014),and "2030" (2015), all published by Nimble Books. 

Hot off Brexit, Vladimir Putin goes to China

gc2smFrom the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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Putin Xi

Originally published in RT on June 24, 2016

 


As the whole planet attempts to digest the implications of Brexit, the real heart of 21st century action once again shifts to Beijing, where President Vladimir Putin on Saturday pays a visit to Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Business will include clinching a $6.2 billion high-speed rail deal; increased supply of Russian wheat to China – by building a Trans-Baikal grain terminal; and steps towards deeper military cooperation. They are already cooperating on an engine that will power the new Russia-China airliner.

Everything connected to the Russia-China partnership spells out Eurasia integration. It starts with the New Silk Roads, a.k.a. One Belt, One Road (OBOR), which will progressively interplay with the Eurasia Economic Union (EEU), as Putin emphasized at the St. Petersburg forum. It involves the expansion of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO); the immediate future of BRICS, including the New Development Bank (NDB); projects to be financed by the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB); and Russia-China coordination inside the G20.

OBOR and the EEU naturally merge as Eurasia will be slowly but surely fashioned into a massive emporium – an interlocking trade and infrastructure network stretching from Russia’s Far East and the Chinese east coast to Western Europe, including the Middle East and Africa on the way.

Geopolitically, the expansion of OBOR-EEU is Eurasia’s response to the lame duck Obama administration-peddled Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which excludes both Russia and China. Xi Jinping has visited Central Asia and Eastern Europe recently – from Serbia to Uzbekistan – selling OBOR. Moscow, considering its influence over Balkan states, will add extra support.

One just needs to look at some numbers to gauge the power of the multi-pronged Chinese offensive. Beijing is rolling out up to $100 billion to the NDB; between $50 billion and $100 billion to the AIIB; $40 billion to the Silk Road Fund; $40 billion to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). These multilateral financial investments will roll out in stages – and can be easily paid out of the yearly surplus in cash of Beijing's myriad current operations.

Additionally, Beijing has as much as a $4 trillion pile of cash to be used at the discretion of Xi and the collective leadership. This is the reality – not the usual US ‘Think Tankland’ blabbering about China’s imminent implosion. Compare it with the Fed printing so many new US dollars, about $60 billion a month, as the US would have a really hard time committing to any possible financial investment (apart from war) in the $100 billion range.

Supply chain geopolitics, anyone?

Beijing and Moscow inevitably would have come to the conclusion that their strategic partnership creates leverage and thus increases its value as it translates into multi-vector supply chain geopolitics.

‘Pipelineistan’ – with those humongous 2014 Siberian deals – is an essential node of the whole package, as Russia will ensure the supply of natural gas to China bypassing the dreaded Strait of Malacca, which Beijing well knows the US Navy could easily block at will. The interpenetration also translates, for instance, into Gazprom offering CNPC a stake in the monster Vankor gas field.

Moscow for its part does not need to rely exclusively on the West for foreign investment – on top of it controlled/sanctioned by Washington. Chinese investment will be key, as under OBOR-EEU synergy, Russia should be well on its way of developing its full potential as a global supplier of energy and agriculture and a privileged transit corridor across the whole of Eurasia.

Russia may even profit from climate change. Few may know that Russia – with permafrost fast retreating – is warming up faster than any other nation. That opens the vista of new fertile soils that could allow poultry and fish to be exported to – where else – China. Not to mention torrential amounts of freshwater. Chinese companies are buying large stakes in Russian fertilizer companies such as Uralkali as well as becoming partners of Singapore-based companies to go all out into food processing in Russia.

Contrary to what US ‘Think Tankland’ never ceases to parrot, the Russia-China strategic partnership goes way beyond a mere supply-demand alliance of convenience. Were the Kremlin to take the fateful decision, Chinese companies could certainly rebuild creaking parts of Russian infrastructure in only a few years.


PepePepe Escobar  is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia Times Online. Born in Brazil, he's been a foreign correspondent since 1985, and has lived in London, Paris, Milan, Los Angeles, Washington, Bangkok and Hong Kong. Even before 9/11 he specialized in covering the arc from the Middle East to Central and East Asia, with an emphasis on Big Power geopolitics and energy wars. He is the author of "Globalistan" (2007), "Red Zone Blues" (2007), "Obama does Globalistan" (2009) "Empire of Chaos" (2014),and "2030" (2015), all published by Nimble Books. 

Beijing goes mobile in the South China Sea

gc2smFrom the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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warships

Martin Petty/Reuters

Originally published in RT on June 16, 2016

 


Not a day goes by without some sort of turmoil in the South China Sea. Let’s cut to the chase: war is not about to break out.

In a nutshell, the non-stop drama, as ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) diplomats told me, is all about“escalation-management protocols.” Translation: how to prevent any unilateral outburst that could be interpreted as warlike.

Compounding the problem is that ASEAN can’t seem to manage its own internal protocols. This past Tuesday offered a graphic illustration, after a special ASEAN-China Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Yuxi. First ASEAN issued a communiqué. Then it retracted it. As much as that reflects internal dissent among the 10 nation group, it also happens to puncture the Pentagon myth of China’s “isolation”.

Meanwhile, a D-Day is approaching; the ruling, by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, on a territorial dispute brought by the Philippines in 2013. The ruling should come by late July or early August. Even if – as expected – it goes against Beijing that still should not be reason to install an insurmountable ASEAN-China divide. 
Connie Rahakundini, president of the Indonesian Institute for Maritime Studies (IIMS), framed the question for Xinhua. There is an ‘ASEAN plus’ mechanism already in place – which is a sort of debate forum including China. And ASEAN is also establishing a code of conduct to prevent unilateral moves.

Read more

The aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis. © U.S. Navy / Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kenneth Abbate

Chinese spy ship ‘shadowing Stennis aircraft carrier’ as Japan, US & India hold joint drills

The problem with the case in The Hague is that the Philippines did not try to solve it bilaterally; off the record, ASEAN diplomats admit that would be the only solution.

So no wonder Beijing decided not to be a part of the arbitration procedure, and preemptively rejects whatever ruling (which is non-binding anyway), insisting the court has no jurisdiction. The Philippines case is about territorial sovereignty and maritime delimitation; these are subject to general international law, not the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

All about positioning

At the recent Shangri-La dialogue, Beijing once again detailed its complex strategy in the South China Sea. PLA Major General Yunzhu Yao stressed that freedom of navigation for commercial ships in the South China Sea has not been challenged and would never be challenged. And she hit the heart of the matter; the US has not ratified UNCLOS, so it’s in no position to impose its interpretation of the treaty on any nation, in Asia or beyond.

Compare it to Rahkundini, speaking for ASEAN as a whole: "The United States actually has nothing to do in the South China Sea; moreover it does not ratify the UNCLOS. So it is not appropriate for the United States to meddle or, even worse, demonstrate military might there. The United States has to be wiser and fairer to see the ongoing dispute in the South China Sea."

Everyone knows this is not going to happen. On the contrary; the Obama administration and the Pentagon are engaged in all out meddling, deploying “freedom of navigation” operations. For his part new Filipino president Rodrigo Duterte very well knows that the arbitration, at best, might give him a better bargaining stance. But still he will have to negotiate with China. And Beijing knows exactly what Manila needs to soften the pill; massive Chinese investment.

Both China and the Philippines, as well as Vietnam, are signatories of UNCLOS. But steeped as it is in history, Beijing also stands by its 9-dash line map, with sovereign claims that reach as far as the Vietnamese coast and along Borneo. And yet even the Chinese map as well as the drive towards an aerial defense identification zone does not mean Beijing wants to imperil freedom of navigation in the South China Sea – as Washington insists. This is all about positioning.

Meet “mobile national sovereignty”

International law does not specifically forbid reclamation at sea. What China is applying is a quite audacious, self-described “blue soil” strategy. Vietnam, Malaysia and even the Philippines had been carrying out reclamation in the South China Sea for a while. China arrived later, but in full force – building airstrips, lighthouses, garrisons in neglected or abandoned islets in the Spratlys and the Paracels. Once again, this is all about energy; to harness an astonishing unexplored wealth of 10 billion barrels of oil and 30 trillion cubic meters of natural gas.

In its search for energy, Beijing is focusing a significant part of its strategy on areas already identified, for instance, by PetroVietnam. And it’s using a game-changer: the HYSY 981 mobile deepwater drilling rig, which the chairman of CNOOC, Wang Yilin, describes as a “strategic weapon” that is part of China’s “mobile national sovereignty”.

President Xi Jinping has emphasized over and over again that China will not militarize any reclaimed land. Yet the Pentagon’s insistence on those innocuous “freedom of navigation” operations coupled with USAF overflights can only be interpreted as provocations leading to further militarization.

The Pentagon has never been accused of being geopolitically savvy. Their planners after all fail – or prefer to fail – to see that China’s island building, in the long run, is all about finding enough oil and gas to perform an “escape from Malacca”, a central plank of Beijing’s energy strategy. Beijing would rather have enough energy closer to home, in the South China Sea, than having its fleet of tankers at the mercy of the US Navy crossing the Strait of Malacca non-stop.

No one knows how the removal of the US weapons sale embargo on Vietnam will result in practice. In Southeast Asian cooperation terms, it might be useful to observe the actions of Singapore – that trade/services hub doubling as a US aircraft carrier parked by the Strait of Malacca. Singapore happens to perform a superb balancing act between Washington and Beijing. Russia, by the way, is also officially neutral on all matters South China Sea.

Japan protests Beijing’s warships approaching disputed islands in E. China Sea http://on.rt.com/7eyn 

China is the top trading partner of the overwhelming majority of Southeast Asia and Northeast Asia nations. It is a prominent member of the East Asia Summit. It is driving its own, Asian-based response to the Obama administration’s Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) pet project; the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

Beijing knows that the “principled security network” proposed by lame duck Pentagon head Ash Carter in Singapore has no chance whatsoever of becoming a Southeast Asian NATO. 
What this all means is that the notion of an “isolated” China does not even qualify as a bad joke told at a stuffy Council on Foreign Relations meeting.

And that brings us back to what happens after the arbitration in The Hague. Something very Asian; Beijing and Manila will sit down again and try to reach a deal, without ever bothering to refer to the ruling. Face will be saved on both sides. China will continue to go mobile – in search of all that oil and gas.

And count on the Pentagon to continue its meddling.


PepePepe Escobar  is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia Times Online. Born in Brazil, he's been a foreign correspondent since 1985, and has lived in London, Paris, Milan, Los Angeles, Washington, Bangkok and Hong Kong. Even before 9/11 he specialized in covering the arc from the Middle East to Central and East Asia, with an emphasis on Big Power geopolitics and energy wars. He is the author of "Globalistan" (2007), "Red Zone Blues" (2007), "Obama does Globalistan" (2009) "Empire of Chaos" (2014),and "2030" (2015), all published by Nimble Books. 

Kill List: Smashing the ‘B’ in BRICS

From the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666
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BRICS

Originally published in Sputnik on June 7, 2016

 


The stakes could not be higher. Not only the future of the BRICS, but the future of a new multipolar world is in the balance. And it all hinges on what happens in Brazil in the next few months.

Let’s start with the Kafkaesque internal turmoil. The coup against President Dilma Rousseff remains an unrivalled media theatre/political tragicomedy gift that keeps on giving. It also doubles as a case of information war converted into a strategic tool of political control. 

From left in front row: Russian President Vladimir Putin, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, Chinese President Xi Jinping walk for a plenary session during the summit in Ufa, Russia, Thursday, July 9, 2015

© AP PHOTO/ IVAN SEKRETAREV

Brazil’s Dilma Faces Coup: ‘Say Goodbye to BRICS, Say Hello to Washington’

A succession of appalling audio leaks has revealed that key sectors of the Brazilian military as well as selected Supreme Court justices have legitimized the coup against aPresident that has always protected the two-year-old Car Wash corruption investigation. Even Western mainstream media was forced to admit that Dilma did not steal anything but is being impeached by a bunch of thieves. Their agenda; to stifle the Car Wash investigation, which may eventually throw many of them in jail.

The leaks also unveiled a nasty internecine carnage between Brazilian comprador elites — peripheral and mainstream. Essentially the peripherals were used as lowly paperboys in Congress for the dirty work. But now they may be about to become road kill – along the illegitimate, unpopular, interim Michel Temer “government”, led by a bunch of corrupt-to-the-core PMDB politicians, the party that is heir to the sole opposition outfit tolerated during the 1960s-1980s military dictatorship.  

Meet the vassal chancellor

An insidious character in the current golpeachment scam is the interim Minister of Foreign Relations, senator Jose Serra of the PSDB party, the social democrats turned neoliberal enforcers. In the 2002 presidential election – which he lost to Lula — Serra had already tried to get rid of peripheral Brazilian oligarchies. 

Yet now he’s incarnating another role — perfectly positioned not only to retrograde Brazilian foreign policy to some point around the 1964 military coup, but mostly as the Beltway’s point man inside the coup racket.

Exceptionalistan’s key ally in Brazil is the oligarchy in Sao Paulo, the wealthiest state and home to the financial capital of Latin America. This is Brazil’s A-list. It’s from their ranks that an eventual “national savior” may eventually spring up.   

Once the peripherals are history, then no holds would be barred to criminalize – and imprison – an array of leftist leaders, Lula included, as well as manufacture a fake election legitimized by a noxious Supreme Court justice, Gilmar Mendes, a PSDB stooge.

It all hinges on what happens in the next two months. The prosecutor general finally asked the Supreme Court to throw three top peripherals in jail; they are all accused of plotting to derail the Car Wash investigation — an extremely complex juridical-political-police network of myriad concentric/parallel circles.   

 

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff delivers a speech on May 8, 2015, during a ceremony at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia to mark the 70th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany during World War II

© AFP 2016/ EVARISTO SA

Leaked Tapes Expose Coup Plot Against Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff

Meanwhile, the final judgment of Dilma’s impeachment at the Senate is bound to happen on August 16 – 11 days after the start of the Olympic Games. The coup plotters suffered a heavy blow as they were trying hard to accelerate the proceedings. As it stands, the outcome is uncertain; after the leaks, four to five senators are already wavering, as the leaks also implicate Temer personally. The “leader” of a zero-credibility, corruption-crammed scam, he’s among the targets of several corruption investigations and has just been banned from running to political office for the next 8 years.  

The Brazilian mainstream media monopoly (five families) – popularly referred to as PIG, the Brazilian acronym for Pro-Coup Media Party – has changed its anti-left tune and is now also going after selected members of the Temer racket.

According to the constitution, if both the Presidency and Vice-Presidency are vacated in the last two years of a given term, it’s up to Congress to elect the new President.

This implies two possible scenarios. If Dilma is not impeached, it’s increasingly likely she will call for new presidential elections before the end of the year.

If she is impeached, the PIG will tolerate the stooge-crammed Temer interim racket until January 2017 at the most. The next step would be what Serra and about-to-be-jailed Senate leader Renan Calheiros are campaigning for; the end of direct presidential elections and the onset of Brazilian-style parliamentarianism.

 

Michel Temer joined by allies Renan Calherios, Romero Juca, and Henrique Meirelles

© AP PHOTO/ ERALDO PERES

'The Great Destruction': Brazil's New Elite Drowning in Graft Allegations

The man best positioned to be the national savior in this case is former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso – also former “Prince of Sociology” and a major star (during the 1960s and early 1970s) of the dependency theory, then metamorphosed into an avid neoliberal. Cardoso is a very close pal of both Bill Clinton and Tony Blair. The Beltway/Wall Street axis loves him. Cardoso would be “elected” mostly by the pack of Congress hyenas who got the Dilma impeachment rolling on April 17.  

The hard node of golpeachment goes way beyond peripheral Brazilian elites. It is comprised of a political party (the PSDB); the Globo media empire; the Federal Police (very cozy with the FBI); the Public Ministry; most of the Supreme Court; and sectors of the military. Only the Beltway/Wall Street axis has the means and the necessary pull to regiment all these players – by hard cash, blackmail or promises of glory.  

And that ties in with key unanswered questions regarding the recent audio leaks. Who taped the conversations. Who leaked them. Why now. Who profits from a nation in total political/economic/juridical chaos, with virtually all institutions totally discredited.  

Neoliberalism or chaos

Those were the days when Washington could mastermind, with impunity, an old-fashioned military coup in its backyard – as in Brazil 1964. Or as in Chile during the original 9/11 – in 1973, as seen through crack Chilean film maker Patricio Guzman’s moving documentary about Salvador Allende.

History, predictably, now repeats itself as farce as the 2016 coup has turned Brazil – the 7th largest economy in the world and a key Global South player – into a Honduras or Paraguay (where recent US-supported coups were successful).  

I have shown how the coup in Brazil is an extremely sophisticated Hybrid War operation going way beyond unconventional warfare (UW); four generation warfare (4GW); color revolutions; and R2P (“responsibility to protect”), all the way to the summit of smart power; a political-financial-judicial-mainstream media soft coup unveiled in slow motion. This is the beauty of a coup when promoted by democratic institutions.   

 

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro (C) speaks during a meeting against imperialism in Caracas, in this March 25, 2015 handout picture provided by Miraflores Palace

© REUTERS/ MIRAFLORES PALACE

First Brazil, Next Venezuela: Will the World See a Coup in Caracas?

Neoliberalism may have failed, as even the IMF research wing has concluded. But its rotten corpse still encumbers the whole planet. Neoliberalism is not only an economic model; it surreptitiously takes over the juridical realm as well. In another perverse facet of shock doctrine, neoliberalism cannot prevail without a juridical framework.

When constitutional attributions are redirected to Congress that keeps the Executive under control while generating a culture of political corruption. Politics is subordinated to economics. Companies engage in campaign financing and buy politicians to be able to influence the political powers that be.

That’s how Washington works. And that’s also the key to understand the role of former leader of the Brazilian lower house Eduardo Cunha; he ran a campaign financing racket out of Congress itself, controlling dozens of politicians while profiting from proverbially fat state contracts.

The Three Stooges in what I called the Provisional Banana Scoundrel Republic are Cunha, Calheiros and Temer. Temer is a mere puppet while Cunha remains a sort of shadow Prime Minister, running the show. But not for long. He’s already been suspended as the speaker in Congress; he bagged millions of US dollars in kickbacks for those fat contracts and stashed the loot in secret Swiss accounts; now it’s a matter of time before the Supreme Court has the balls – it’s not a given — to throw him in the slammer.

NATO vs. BRICS, all across the spectrum

And that brings us once again to The Big Picture, as we proceed in parallel with an analysis by Rafael Bautista, the head of a decolonization study group in La Paz, Bolivia. He’s one of the best and brightest in South America who’s very much alert to the fact that whatever happens in Brazil in the next few months will drive the future not only of South America but the whole Global South.

Exceptionalistan’s project for Brazil is no less than the imposition of a remixed Monroe doctrine. The main target of a planned neoliberal restoration is to cut off South America from the BRICS – as in, essentially, the Russia-China strategic partnership.

It’s a short window of opportunity after all those years under the Bush-Obama continuum where Washington was obsessed with MENA (Middle East/Northern Africa), a.k.a. the Greater Middle East. Now South America is back in a starring role in the geopolitical (soft) war theatre. Getting rid of Dilma, Lula, the Workers’ Party, by all means available, is only the start. 

It all comes back to the same, defining 21st century war; NATO against the BRICS; the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO); and ultimately the Russia-China strategic partnership. Smashing the “B” in BRICS carries with it the bonus of smashing Mercosur (the South American common market); Unasur (the political Union of South American Nations); ALBA (the Bolivarian Alliance); and South American integration as a whole, compounded with integration with key emerging Global South players such as Iran.

The ongoing destabilization of “Syraq” fits the Empire of Chaos; when there’s no regional integration, the only other possibility is balkanization. And yet Russia graphically demonstrated to Beltway planners they cannot win a war in Syria while Iran demonstrated after the nuclear deal that it won’t become a Washington vassal. So the Empire of Chaos might as well secure its own backyard.

A new geopolitical framework had to be part of the package. That’s where the concept of “North America” fits in, backed by the Council on Foreign Relations and devised mostly by former Iraq surge superstar David Petraeus and former World Bank honcho Bob Zoellick, now with Goldman Sachs. Call it a mini who’s who of Exceptionalistan.

You won't see it enounced in public, but the Petraeus/Zoellick concept of “North America” presupposes regime changing and gobbling up Venezuela. The Caribbean is seen as a Mare Nostrum, an American lake. “North America” is in fact a strategic offensive.

It implies controlling the massive oil and water wealth of the Orinoco and the Amazonas, something that would forever guarantee Exceptionalistan’s preeminence south of the border.

The Caribbean is already a done deal; after all Washington controls CAFTA. South America is a tougher nut to crack, roughly polarized by what’s left of ALBA and the US-driven Pacific Alliance. With Brazil falling to a neoliberal restoration, it’s over as a promoter of regional integration. Mercosur would eventually be absorbed into the Pacific Alliance – especially with a man like Serra as Brazil’s top diplomat. So, politically, South America must be annulled at all costs. 

What’s left for South America would be its aggregation — as marginal players, part of the US-driven Pacific Alliance — to those NATO on trade deals, the TPP and TTIP. The “pivot to Asia” – of which TPP is the trade arm — is the Obama doctrine’s push for containment of China, not only in Asia but also across Asia-Pacific. Thus it’s natural that China (Brazil’s number one trade partner) should also be contained in the hegemon’s backyard, South America.

From the Atlantic to the Pacific, and beyond

It’s never enough to stress the geo-economic importance of South America. The only way South America can be fully integrated to the multipolar world is by opening up to the Pacific, boosting its strategic connection with Asia, especially China. That’s where the Chinese push to invest in a massive high-speed rail project uniting the Brazilian Atlantic coast with Peru in the Pacific fits in. That’s South American interconnectivity in a nutshell. If Brazil is politically annulled, none of this will ever happen.

Looking ‘Beyond South America’: Brazil Hopes to Become True Global Power

So every coup is now literally allowed in South America; indirect attacks to the Brazilian currency, the real; bribing local comprador elites with the backing of the global financial system; a concerted attempt at the implosion, simultaneously, of the top three economies: Brazil, Argentina andVenezuela. SOUTHCOM went so far as to produce a report on “Venezuela Freedom” earlier this year, signed by commander Kurt Tidd, which proposes a “strategy of tension”, complete with “encirclement” and “suffocation” techniques and allowing to mix street action with a “calculated” use of armed violence. Echoes of Chile 1973 do apply.   

South America is now arguably the prime geopolitical space where Exceptionalistan is laying the bases to restore its unrivalled hegemony — as part of a multi-dimensional, geo-finance war against the BRICS bent on perpetuating the unipolar world. 

All previous moves have lead to this geostrategy of imploding the BRICS and reducing South America to an appendix of North America.

Wikileaks revealed how the NSA spied on Petrobras. In 2008 Brazil came up with its own National Defense Strategy, focused on two key areas; the South Atlantic and the Amazon. This did not sit well with SOUTHCOM. Unasur should have developed it to a continental level, but they didn’t. 

Lula decided to award to Petrobras the prime exploitation of the pre-salt deposits – the largest oil discovery of the 21st century. Dilma’s administration gave a firm push to the BRICS’s New Development Bank (based on the Brazilian BNDES) and also decided to accept Iranian payments bypassing the US dollar. Anyone involved in South-South trade bypassing the US dollar enters a kill list.

Hillary Clinton is the presidential candidate of Wall Street, the Pentagon, the industrial-military complex and the neocons. She is the Goddess of War – and in a Bush-Obama-Clinton continuum she will go to war against any player in the Global South that dares to defy Exceptionalistan.

So the die is cast. We will know for sure by the time there’s a new US President — and arguably a new, unelected Brazilian President — in early 2017. The geostrategic game though remains the same; Brazil must fall so BRICS-led integration must fall, and Exceptionalistan may concentrate all its firepower in an all-out confrontation against Russia-China. 


PepePepe Escobar  is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia Times Online. Born in Brazil, he's been a foreign correspondent since 1985, and has lived in London, Paris, Milan, Los Angeles, Washington, Bangkok and Hong Kong. Even before 9/11 he specialized in covering the arc from the Middle East to Central and East Asia, with an emphasis on Big Power geopolitics and energy wars. He is the author of "Globalistan" (2007), "Red Zone Blues" (2007), "Obama does Globalistan" (2009) "Empire of Chaos" (2014),and "2030" (2015), all published by Nimble Books. 

The Pentagon’s Great Wall of Impotence

gc2smFrom the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666
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gunboat

Originally published in RT on June 7, 2016

 


No one ever lost money betting on the Pentagon refraining from exceptionalist rhetoric.

Once again the current Pentagon supremo, certified neocon Ash Carter, did not disappoint at the Shangri-La Dialogue – the annual, must-go regional security forum in Singapore attended by top defense ministers, scholars and business executives from across Asia.

Context is key. The Shangri-La Dialogue is organized by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), which is essentially a pro-Anglo-American think tank. And it takes place in the privileged aircraft carrier of imperial geostrategic interests in South East Asia: Singapore.  

As expressed by neocon Carter, Pentagon rhetoric – faithful to its own estimation of China as the second biggest “existential threat” to the US (Russia is first) – revolves around the same themes; US military might and superiority is bound to last forever; we are the “main underwriter of Asian security” for, well, forever; and China better behave in the South China Sea – or else.

This is all embedded in the much ballyhooed but so far anemic“pivoting to Asia” advanced by the lame duck Obama administration – but bound to go on overdrive in the event Hillary Clinton becomes the next tenant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  

Real threats are predictably embedded in the rhetoric. According toCarter, if Beijing reclaims land in the Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea, “it will result in actions being taken by the both United States and … by others in the region.”

What’s left for China, in Pentagonese, is just to be a member of a hazy “principled security network” for Asia – which will also help protect the East against “Russia’s worrying actions”. Carter mentioned "principled" no less than 37 times in his speech. “Principled” cheerleaders so far include Japan, India, the Philippines, Vietnam and Australia.

So here’s an instant translation: we do a NATO in Asia; we control it; you will answer to us; and then we encircle you – and Russia – for good. If China says no, that’s simple. Carter proclaimed Beijing will erect a "Great Wall of self-isolation" in the South China Sea.

If this is the best Pentagon planners have to counteract the Russia-China strategic partnership, they’d better go back to the classroom. In elementary school.  

Navigate in freedom, dear vassals

Predictably, the South China Sea was quite big at Shangri-La. The South China Sea, the throughway of trillions of US dollars in annual trade, doubles as home to a wealth of unexplored oil and gas. Stagnated and increasingly irrelevant Japan, via its Defense Minister Gen. Nakatani, even advanced the Japanese would help Southeast Asian nations build their “security capabilities” to deal with what he called “unilateral” and “coercive” Chinese actions in the South China Sea. Cynics could not help to draw similarities with Imperial Japan’s Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.

The Beijing delegation kept its cool – to a point. Rear Admiral Guan Youfei stressed, “The US action to take sides is not agreed by many countries.” Youfei – the head of the Chinese office of international military cooperation – did not refrain though from condemning a “Cold War mentality” by the usual suspects.

As for Japan, China’s Foreign Ministry detailed that “countries outside the region should stick to their promises and not make thoughtless remarks about issues of territorial sovereignty.” Japan has absolutely nothing to do with the South China Sea.

Beijing’s reclamation work on reefs in the South China Sea naturally put it in direct conflict with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei. So US meddling – under the convenient cover of “freedom of navigation” – had to be inevitable.“Freedom of navigation” operations are a silly intimidation game in which a US Navy ship or plane passes by a Chinese-claimed island in the South China Sea.

It was up to Admiral Sun Jianguo, Deputy Chief of the Joint Staff Department of China's Central Military Commission, to cut to the chase, stressing "the provocation of certain countries" and adding that "selfish interests" have led to the South China Sea issue becoming "overheated". He slammed the Pentagon for double standards and “irresponsible behavior”. And he slammed the Philippines for taking the conflict to a dubious UN arbitration court after breaching a bilateral agreement with China; "We do not make trouble but we have no fear of trouble."

U.S. Secretary of Defence Ash Carter meets with South Korea's Minister of Defence Han Minkoo (R) and Japan's Minister of Defence Gen Nakatani for a trilateral at the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore June 4, 2016. © Reuters

U.S. Secretary of Defence Ash Carter meets with South Korea's Minister of Defence Han Minkoo (R) and Japan's Minister of Defence Gen Nakatani for a trilateral at the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore June 4, 2016. © Reuters

The Chinese position prefers dialogue and cooperation – and Jianguo re-stressed it, calling for ASEAN to make a move. In fact China has already reached what is called a four-point consensus with Brunei, Cambodia and Laos on the South China Sea two months ago. The Philippines are a much harder nut to crack – as the Pentagon is taking no prisoners to lead Manila “from behind”.

Even Vietnam, via Deputy Defense Minister Nguyen Chi Vinh, made it clear – in the same plenary session as Admiral Jianguo – that Vietnam prefers solutions via the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea as well as negotiation between China and ASEAN.

Bend over to our rules – or else

After Shangri-La’s rhetorical excesses, the action moved to Beijing, the site of the 8th China-US Strategic and Development Dialogue. That’s the annual talkfest launched in 2009 by Obama and then Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zheng Zeguang painted a rosy picture, stressing the exchange of “candid, in-depth views on important and sensitive issues of shared concern.” Chinese Ambassador to the US Cui Tiankai once again needed to point out that the relationship is just "too important" to be "hijacked" by the South China Sea. And yet this is exactly the Pentagon’s agenda.

Beijing though won’t be derailed. As State Councilor Yang Jiechi put it, ASEAN-China dialogue is progressing via what Beijing calls the “dual-track” approach, according to which disputes are negotiated between the parties directly involved. That implies no Washington interference.

Beyond what is discussed either at Shangri-La or at the China-US dialogue, the Big Picture is clear. ‘Exceptionalistan’ planners have molded a narrative where China is being forced to make a choice; either you bend over to “our” rules – as in the current unipolar geostrategic game – or else.

Well, Beijing has already made its own choice; and that entails a multipolar world of sovereign nations with no primus inter pares. The Beijing leadership under Xi Jinping clearly sees how the so-called international “order”, actually disorder, is a rigged system set up at the end of WWII.

Wily Chinese diplomacy – and trade – knows how to use the system to advance Chinese national interests. That’s how modern China became the “savior” of global turbo-capitalism. But that does not mean a resurgent China will forever comply with these extraneous “rules” – not to mention the morality lessons. Beijing knows ‘Exceptionalistan’ would not agree even to divide the spoils in a geopolitical spheres-of-influence arrangement. Plan A in Washington is containment – with possibly dangerous ramifications. There is no Plan B.

The bottom line – thinly disguised by the somewhat polite responses to Pentagon threats – is that Beijing simply won’t accept anymore a geopolitical disorder that it did not create. The Chinese could not give a damn to the New World Order (NWO) dreamed up by selected ‘Masters of the Universe’. Beijing is engaged in building a new, multipolar order. No wonder – alongside with strategic partner Russia – they are and will continue to be the Pentagon’s top twin threat.


PepePepe Escobar is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia Times Online. Born in Brazil, he's been a foreign correspondent since 1985, and has lived in London, Paris, Milan, Los Angeles, Washington, Bangkok and Hong Kong. Even before 9/11 he specialized in covering the arc from the Middle East to Central and East Asia, with an emphasis on Big Power geopolitics and energy wars. He is the author of "Globalistan" (2007), "Red Zone Blues" (2007), "Obama does Globalistan" (2009) and "Empire of Chaos" (2014), all published by Nimble Books. His latest book is "2030", also by Nimble Books.

A Hellfire from Heaven won’t Smash the Taliban

gc2smFrom the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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shutterstock_324965885-3

Originally published in Counterpunch on June 2, 2016

 


So Taliban supremo Mullah Mansour’s white Toyota Corolla was rattling across the Baluchestan desert just after it had crossed the Iranian border when a Hellfire missile fired from a US drone incinerated it into a charred / twisted wreck.

That’s the official narrative. The Pentagon said Mansour was on Obama’s kill list because he had become “an obstacle to peace and reconciliation.”

There’s way more to it, of course. Mansour was a savvy businessman who was extensively traveling to Dubai – the Taliban’s historic clearing house where all sorts of dodgy deals are made. He was also in close connection with Jundullah – a.k.a. the hardcore Sunni anti-Tehran militia very much active in Sistan-Baluchestan province in Iran.

This time Mansour was in Sistan-Baluchestan on a medical visit – allegedly to eschew hospitals in Pakistan heavily monitored by the ISI [Inter-Services Intelligence]. Yet arguably Pakistan intel knew about it – so US intel also may have known about it and thus were able to track him.

But then there’s the real ace in the hole: the New Opium War.

The usual suspects in the Beltway insist that the Taliban profit handsomely from overseeing the opium trade out of Afghanistan –and now operate as a multi-billion-dollar drug cartel. That’s nonsense.

Bets can be made that Mansour’s kill will not reduce Afghanistan’s opium production – which has been steadily on the rise for years now. Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada, Mansour’s former number two, has been designated as the new leader.

The fact is, poppy production in Afghanistan remains at the highest levels in provinces that are – in thesis – controlled by Kabul. More opium was produced last year – also in thesis the last year of NATO’s Enduring Freedom operation – than in any other year since the UN started tracking it way back in 2002. In 2016 Afghanistan will produce more opium – thus heroin – than the entire global consumption.

An inkling of what’s really going on in the New Opium War is provided by a recent book (in Italian) by Enrico Piovesana. He tells of shady military operations conducted by NATO in which massive quantities of opium have been sequestered by helicopter – never to be seen again.

So we’re back to the same old CIA opium rat line, which translates into control of the Afghan opium market in collusion with local police, military high brass in Kabul and the Karzai family, of former President a.k.a. «mayor of Kabul» Hamid Karzai. Doing business with narco traffickers has also handily provided liquidity – as in dirty money – to Western big banks. None of this has anything to do with the Taliban, which actually brought down opium production to near zero in 2001, before 9/11 and the American bombing/occupation of Afghanistan.

Those shadowy Af-Pak players

The first US drone strike ever in Baluchestan (another Obama «first») remains something of a mystery. A credible working hypothesis is that this was a covert US-Pakistani co-op. The hit allegedly came via the Pentagon, not the CIA. Mansour’s Corolla was something like 40 km inside Baluchestan after it had crossed the border – in an area where US drones would have been quite vulnerable to upgraded (in 2011) Pakistani air defenses.

A plausible – but unconfirmed – scenario would see RQ-170 Sentinels tracking Mansour’s Toyota, with the coordinates then fed to Reaper drones flying out of Kandahar airfield. Assuming the drones began tracking the Toyota at the Iran-Pakistan border, they would have been in action over Baluchestan air space for hours on end, undisturbed.

But then there are the incongruities. Pakistani sources mention that the Toyota – as in any real drone hit – was not totally smashed, but was still on its wheels. And a mysterious passport (Mullah Mansour’s) also showed up on the scene, unscathed.

As for the original HUMINT that led to Mansour’s trail, the notion that Washington had scored it stretches credulity. It would be more like a very well placed/rewarded asset somewhere – be it a military in Kabul or a disgruntled ISI operative.

What was Mansour really up to? He was quite savvy in playing for time. He clearly saw through the US «strategy» – which boiled down to encouraging Afghan president Ashraf Ghani to convince Islamabad to get the Taliban to the negotiating table.

Mansour though knew the Taliban could always advance militarily without negotiations; that’s why he duly announced the 2016 spring offensive – an annual Taliban ritual. At the same time he was very careful not to antagonize Islamabad so Taliban safe havens in Pakistan would not be compromised.

As far as what Islamabad is up to, that’s way hazier. Islamabad’s man in the Taliban succession was actually Sirajuddin Haqqani. After the death of his notorious father, Haqqani leads the homonymous network – which is very cozy with the ISI, arguably closer than the traditional Kandahar/Quetta Shura, a.k.a. the historic Afghan Taliban.

The new Taliban supremo will now have a handy window of opportunity to consolidate power. By early 2017 there will be a new US president, a new Pakistani army chief but the same Afghan so-called National Unity Government still disunited. The Taliban know what they want; be part of the government in Kabul, and get their cut in case the fractious Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline will ever be built. The more things change in Afghanistan, the more they hark back to two decades ago, during the second Clinton administration.

Meanwhile, former CIA asset, former pal of Osama bin Laden and still one of the US’s Public Enemies, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, defined by Washington as a «global terrorist» and the leader of the Hezbi Islami organization, is about to close a deal with Kabul.

Hezbi Islami is the second largest «insurgency» in Afghanistan. Most of the top brass have defected to the Taliban. Hekmatyar lives in exile somewhere in Pakistan; the ISI, of course, knows all about it. So if Ghani in Kabul can’t bag the Taliban, at least he bags a currently much smaller fish, Hekmatyar. Does it help? Not really. It will fall eventually to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) – as in Russia-China joint leadership – to solve the Taliban riddle. Certainly not to Operation Enduring Freedom Forever – no matter the size of their kill list.


PepePepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

War of the Lefts

gc2smFrom the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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Published on RT on May 27, 2016

A striking French labour union EDF employee stands near a burning barricade that blocks the entrance of the depot of the SFDM company near the oil refinery to protest the labour reforms law proposal in Donges, France, May 27, 2016 © Stephane Mahe

A striking French labour union EDF employee stands near a burning barricade that blocks the entrance of the depot of the SFDM company near the oil refinery to protest the labour reforms law proposal in Donges, France, May 27, 2016 © Stephane Mahe / Reuters

Discuss this article at the Geopolitics Table inside the Diner

France paralyzed by the ‘War of the Lefts’

Paris burns as Hollande fiddles. Take it as shorthand for nationwide protests in France against a proposed labor “reform” while the President poses at the G-7 in Japan as if he’s one of the Masters of the Universe.

France is semi-paralyzed – from dockworkers in the port of Le Havre (a key trade hub) to workers in refineries, oil depots, nuclear power stations (accounting for 75 percent of the national electricity supply), airports, and the metropolitan Paris rail system. This has translated into panic at myriad petrol stations – with much of the French transportation system brought to a standstill.

All this because the cataclysmically unpopular, nominally “socialist” Hollande administration has introduced a draft law that drastically modifies the French labor code and essentially adopts Anglo-Saxon neoliberal “hire and fire” in a deeply regulated, regimented nation where workers’ rights and protections are taken extremely seriously. Hollande and his astonishingly mediocre Prime Minister Manuel Valls defend it as the best way to fight chronic unemployment.

Scrap the bill to unblock the nation

May 2016 in France is certainly no May 1968 remix. It features a vortex of complicating factors, such as the “terra terra terra” psychosis (Paris is in a semi-disguised state of siege); the ongoing Nuit Debout movement at the Place de la Republique – the French version of Occupy Wall Street; and police with their nerves on edge complaining, and even demonstrating, that they are not getting all the love they need from the general population.

May 2016 is essentially configured as a battle between the socialist government and French unions. It’s bound to get nastier. Police figures suggest 153,000 strikers/demonstrators this past Thursday – a huge mobilization day that touched public services and air transport; unions claim there were almost 300,000. The executive is beginning to use force to unblock key refineries. Panic at empty petrol stations is becoming the norm.

The Hollande-Valls duo has gone hardcore; the labor reform bill must be approved, otherwise that’s the end of the government. Valls’ red line is that if the bill goes, he also goes. Yet he’s already been forced to (slightly) backtrack; he’s now allowing “modifications” and “improvements” to the bill.

So this is essentially a battle of the French Lefts – a radical, working-class branch against a nominally social-democratic one in power, actually neoliberal. It’s also a dialogue of the deaf. The Prime Minister is not exactly a participant of social dialogue. For him these two Lefts are irreconcilable. You don't need to be a reader of Barthes or Deleuze to infer that France is running the risk of reaching degree zero of social democracy.

After the eighth day of demonstrations, the secretary-general of the powerful CGT union, Philippe Martinez, is now demanding to be received by the President and the President only – actually throwing Valls into the dustbin. From Japan, Hollande emitted a laconic “I’m being briefed.”

A case can be made that the Hollande-Valls duo is so disconnected from the street pulse that they had no idea this bill would be met with so much hostility. They should have gone for a wider reach – and should have previously invested in a lot of dialogue, not to mention semantic niceties, with the unions.

So what does the French public think about this mess? Essentially, three-quarters of the population is against the bill. And you can’t “modernize” France without the French. Yet this being France, subtle nuances matter. According to one of the latest polls, 69 percent are in favor of the bill being scrapped, to avoid the nation being paralyzed. Another poll shows that 62 percent consider the strikes “justified” despite parts the country being paralyzed. So a sound cross-pollination of these polls tells us that social movements are legitimate even as most people don’t want to see the nation paralyzed.

In a lighter vein, Paris café talk now rules that the Socialist Party better not even try to stage an upcoming presidential campaign; what’s going on is proof that the working class hates their guts. It’s a fact that the current état d’urgence – as in the French version of the US Patriot Act – plus the neoliberal drive made the Socialist Party (PS) lose the votes of artists and intellectuals as well as ‘bobos’ (bourgeois bohemians) which used to be the mainstay of their electoral base. And all this while CEOs so much courted by the PS will continue to vote for the right.

Time to be an ‘indignado’ with a cause

So what next? The sound money is on some sort of compromise; the text of the bill will be amended by the Senate next month, before coming back to the Assembly. This means it will be “retouched” – as even the government is now admitting; and that will mean a victory for social movements. Whatever happens the War of the Lefts won’t be over. And the final result may even come up in the form of a collective suicide – to the benefit of the Right.

Meanwhile, growth in France remains feeble at best. Euro 2016 starts in only two weeks, on June 10. France may expect to receive as many as 1.5 million foreign tourists and profit to the tune of €1.3 billion. The fan zone under construction in front of the Eiffel Tower will attract at least 100,000 people daily.

If there is no solution in the coming days, the Hollande-Valls duo will have to back down. The French security system won’t be able to cope, simultaneously, with a high terrorist alert and policing myriad demonstrations (a huge one is already scheduled for June 14). A lot is riding on the success of the Euro football, not the currency. Football, in this case, is far from politically neutral; if the whole show is a major success, it’s Hollande who will reap the benefits.

Socialists in France, meanwhile, could do worse than take a look at neighboring Spain.
In Spain under Franco, communists and socialists were at the vanguard of democratic resistance, incorporating in their struggle those who created Workers’ Commissions and some of the best intellectuals of the times.

But then came the recent neoliberal drift of the European socialist parties – which led them to lose their historical hegemony. They have not adapted to being able to defend their social base – and the welfare state – and at the same time satisfy the harsh requirements of the financial casino system as well as a European Commission economic policy of fiscal austerity as demanded by Germany and financialization as influenced by Britain.

During Franco and the Cold War, it was common to use “communist” and “socialist” as a disqualification of any political argument. What reigned was the politics of fear. France, for its part, was way more sophisticated politically (and not under a fascist regime.)

What’s left for the ‘Lefts’ in Europe is to pay close attention to the emerging path opened by social movements, bent on rebuilding the welfare state and creating worthy forms of employment; all that has been denied by market fundamentalism and the austerity TINA (There Is No Alternative) mindset.

Among the Spanish ‘indignados’ one finds anarchists, communists, socialists – a microcosm of modern history in Spain rooted in the indignation against dictatorship and social injustice, all trying to reinvent themselves while neoliberalism flounders. If only the French Lefts would pay attention.

———————————-

Pepe Escobar
Pepe Escobar is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia Times Online. Born in Brazil, he's been a foreign correspondent since 1985, and has lived in London, Paris, Milan, Los Angeles, Washington, Bangkok and Hong Kong. Even before 9/11 he specialized in covering the arc from the Middle East to Central and East Asia, with an emphasis on Big Power geopolitics and energy wars. He is the author of "Globalistan" (2007), "Red Zone Blues" (2007), "Obama does Globalistan" (2009) and "Empire of Chaos" (2014), all published by Nimble Books. His latest book is "2030", also by Nimble Books, out in December 2015.

 

 

Is China a House of Cards?

Xi Jinpenggc2smFrom the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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Xi Jinpeng

Originally published in Sputnik on May 17, 2016

 


Let’s start by examining what the Dragon himself – President Xi Jinping – has to say about China being largely derided in influential Beltway circles as a House of Cards.

Xi has forcefully dismissed the notion that a House of Cards power struggle has been raging at the rarified heights of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Yet at the same time he’s adamant; “conspirators”, “careerists”, “cabals” and “cliques” are attempting to undermine the CCP from within.

Thus, with ironic/poetic justice, a 42-part series on corruption in China – titled In the Name of the People and financed by the Middle Kingdom’s top law enforcement agency – is bound to go live before the end of 2016, featuring a CCP stalwart as the bad guy (that’s a first). Call him the Chinese Frank Underwood.

This means that what Xi is saying – and acting — live will be mirrored on hundreds of millions of Chinese screens, pitting conflicting factions within the 88 million-member CCP. Xi’s war on corruption has produced a rash of severely disgruntled CCP officials – to put it mildly.

Xi not only is the Commander-in-Chief in the fight against corruption; he’s now Commander-in-Chief of China’s joint battle command center as well. He monitors a [Central Military Commission] Chairman Responsibility System as well as the central guard corps, which monitors the security of all other CCP heavyweights.

Add to these Xi’s status as CCP’s general secretary, chairman of the Central Military Commission, president of the national security commission and head of the top group for reform of the Chinese system, and a Harvard academic who refers to him as “the chairman of everything” does not seem to be that far off the mark. 

Yet even this awesome concentration of power does not mean that Xi is an unassailable deity. On the key drama – the state of the economy – it has emerged that in a recent interview by the People’s Daily with an anonymous “authoritative person”, printed on the front page and exposing deep economic divergence among the CCP leadership, the “authoritative person” in question was none other than Xi. 

He had to take to the key media read by anyone who’s anyone in China to press his point on how to fix China’s debt-ridden economy; low growth is OK, and the new normal; as for blind credit expansion/monetary easing, that’s not OK. Xi, once again, is adamant; it’s now or never to start a painful restructuring of the Chinese system.   

Beware the “nests of foreign spies”

Xi Jinping does wield astonishing power. There can’t be any other way. Imagine the man on top of a civilization-state of 5,000 years who needs, among myriad other crucial issues, to; tweak/manage an economic system that was successful for over 30 years but now needs to be upgraded; shift the system from export-led demand to domestic consumption; manage the aspirations – and broken dreams – of a vast working class including millions of newly unemployed; reorganize monster state-owned enterprises (SOEs); find ways to get rid of Himalayas of bad bank loans and “nonperforming” investments; downsize and at the same time vitally upgrade the Chinese military.

And if that was not enough, Beijing has to be fully alert 24/7 about all those non-stop Pentagon provocations – actual and rhetorical – centered in the South China Sea. 

Two Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptors are launched during a successful intercept test.

© FLICKR/ U.S. MISSILE DEFENSE AGENCY

You’ve got to be alert. Full time. All the time. And be alert at “foreign hostile forces” or, more plainly, “nests of foreign spies” who want you to be mired in chaos. Thus the new law on NGOs operating in China. There are too many — over 7,000. And the (hidden) agenda for quite a few – from NED to the Soros gang — is to try to promote pure, unadulterated color revolution, as difficult as that may be in ultra-regimented China.

Yet it worked in Brazil – a BRICS weak link. The CCP leadership has carefully – and silently – understood the Brazilian lesson, and is fully aware that Exceptionalistan would stop at nothing to slow down China’s already spectacular global reach. So if you’re a NGO operating in China, from now on you need to find an official Chinese sponsor and register with local police. 

Back to the Chinese economy, the mantra across multiple, powerful Beltway factions is that a crash is imminent. Once again; the House of Cards theme. 

China’s total debt is now a whopping 280% of GDP. That includes the 115% that apply to SOEs’ debts; in Japan, for instance, that SOE figure is only 31%. Yet what really matters is that only a maximum of 25% of Chinese SOEs’ debts will need to be restructured. 

Xi’s strategy is that the Goddess of the Market will turbo-charge those SOEs, not kill them. So forget about the CPP handing out control of the Chinese economy to companies that the CCP itself does not control. No wonder what’s left for US Big Capital’s spokespersons is to carp about a House of Cards.

All eyes on 2021

It’s never enough to remind everyone that absolutely everything that’s happening in China now is subordinated to Xi’s official target of achieving “a moderately prosperous society” (xiaokang shehui) by the 100th anniversary of the CCP’s founding, in 2021.

That’s a mere five years from now. More long term, 2049, is the target of achieving a “socialist modernized society” (shehuizhuyi xiandaihua shehui) with a $30,000 GDP per capita; that should tie in with the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). 

Chinese People's Liberation Army cadets shout as they take part in a bayonet drills at the PLA's Armoured Forces Engineering Academy Base, on the outskirts of Beijing, China, July 22, 2014

Beijing’s army of planners estimate that this overwhelming target is achievable if the Middle Kingdom is able to produce over 30% of global GDP by 2049; for comparison, that’s about 1 and ½ times more than the proportion currently produced by the US (and considering that the US does not manufacture much apart from weapons and infotech.) 

As breathtaking as this vision may be, it’s always reduced by the same old catastrophist Western “experts” to variations of Xi being the new Mao Zedong. That’s so pedestrian. The men – and the historical contexts – are radically diverse. Mao decided on a few core issues by himself – and left the rest to his underlings. The Little Helmsman Deng Xiaoping was a man of consensus. Xi decides by himself on virtually everything – but he does pay attention to some selected advisers. Examples include the Ministry of Trade, which first came up with the concept that developed into the New Silk Roads, and Liu He, the advisor who conceptualized Xi’s current economic strategy. 

The fact that Xi is now designated as the “core” (hexin) of the Beijing leadership is not such a big (Maoist) deal. The word in Beijing is that an assembly line of editors is now compiling a book of Xi thought (sixiang) that would make him as crucial as Mao as a contributor to Sino-Marxist theory. So what? Xi is a man in a rush, on a roll and with a mission – and 2021 is just around the corner. House of Cards? No; this looks more like a case of Xi landing a Full House on the table.  


PepePepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).and "Empire of Chaos" (Nimble Books, 2014). His latest book is "2030", also by Nimble Books, out in December 2015. He currently lives between Paris and Bangkok. Follow him on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pepe.escobar.77377

Dilma out: Brazilian plutocracy sets 54mn votes on fire

Dilma2gc2smFrom the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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Dilma2

Originally published in Russia Today on May 12, 2016


Never in modern political history has it been so easy to “abolish the people” and simply erase 54 million votes cast in a free and fair presidential election.

Forget about hanging chads, as in Florida 2000. This is a day that will live in infamy all across the Global South – when what was one of its most dynamic democracies veered into a plutocratic regime, under a flimsy parliamentary/judicial veneer, with legal and constitutional guarantees now at the mercy of lowly comprador elites.

After the proverbial marathon, the Brazilian Senate voted 55-22 to put President Dilma Rousseff on trial for “crimes of responsibility” – related to alleged window dressing of the government’s budget.

This is the culmination of a drawn-out process that started even before Rousseff won re-election in late 2014 with over 54 million votes. I have described the bunch of perpetrators of what Brazilian creativity has termed ‘golpeachment’ (a mix of coup – “golpe” in Portuguese – and impeachment) as Hybrid War hyenas.

Sophisticated golpeachment – supported by what amounts to an Electoral Inquisition College – has propelled Hybrid War to whole new levels.

 

Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff. © Ueslei MarcelinoHybrid war hyenas tearing Brazil apart – Pepe Escobar

Hybrid War as applied to Brazil exhibited classic elements of a color revolution. Of course there was no need for no-fly zones or humanitarian imperialism to “protect human rights” – not to mention provoking a civil war. But considering the high resistance level of the victim state, where civil society is very dynamic, Hybrid War designers in this case bet on a mix of capitulation – and betrayal – of local elites, mixed with “peaceful protests” and a relentless mainstream media campaign. Call it ‘Civil War Light.’

That carried with it a fabulous cost-benefit ratio. Now the (immensely corrupt) Brazilian political system and the current executive/legislative/judiciary/mainstream media alignment can be used by the usual suspects for their geopolitical agenda.

Welcome to regime change light – politics, in a nutshell – as war by other means on the BRICS. A new software, a new operating system. Carrying a pathetic corollary; if the US is the Empire of Chaos, Brazil has now gloriously reached the status of Sub-Empire of Scoundrels.

Scoundrels galore

Rousseff may be accused of serious economic mismanagement, and of being incapable of political articulation among the shark pool that is (immensely corrupt) Brazilian politics. But she is not corrupt. She made a serious mistake in fighting inflation, allowing interest rates to rise to an unsustainable level; so demand in Brazil dramatically dropped, and recession became the norm. She is the (convenient) scapegoat for Brazil’s recession.

She certainly may be blamed for not having a Plan B to fight the global recession. Brazil essentially works on two pillars; commodity exports and local companies relying on the teats of the state. Infrastructure in general is dismal – adding to what is described as the “Brazilian cost” of doing business. With the commodity slump, state funds dwindled and everything was paralyzed – credit, investment, consumption.    

The pretext for Rousseff’s impeachment – allegedly transferring loans from public banks to the Treasury in order to disguise the size of Brazil’s fiscal deficit – is flimsy at best. Every administration in the West does it – and that includes Clinton’s, Bush’s and Obama’s.

The Operation Car Wash investigation, dragging on for two years now, was supposed to uncover corruption in the Brazilian political system – as in the collusion of oil giant Petrobras executives, Brazilian construction companies, and political campaign financing. Car Wash has nothing to do with the golpeachment drive. Yet these have been two parallel highways converging to one destination: the criminalization of the Workers’ Party, and the definitive – if possible – political assassination of Rousseff and her mentor, former President Lula. 

When golpeachment reached the lower house of Congress – an appalling spectacle – Rousseff was eviscerated by Hybrid War hyenas of the BBC variety; “BBC,” in English, stands for “bullet,”“bible” and “cattle,” where “bullet” refers to the weapons and private security industry, “bible” to pastors and evangelical fanatics, and “cattle” to the powerful agribusiness lobby.

The “BBC” hyenas are members of almost all Brazilian political parties, paperboys for major corporations, and – last but not least – corruption stalwarts. They all benefited from millionaire political campaigning. The whole Car Wash investigation ultimately revolves around campaign financing, which in Brazil, unlike the US with its legalized lobbies, is a Tarantino-worthy Wild West.    

The Brazilian Senate is not exactly an “upper” – as in more polished – house. Eighty percent of members are white men – in a country where miscegenation rules. A staggering 58 percent is under criminal investigation – linked to Car Wash. Sixty percent hail from political dynasties. And 13 percent – as alternates – were not elected at all. Among those favoring impeachment, 30 out of 49 are in trouble with the law. Charges include mostly money laundering, financial crimes and outright corruption. Renan Calheiros, the president of the Senate – who oversaw today’s impeachment vote – is the target of no fewer than nine separate money laundering/corruption Car Wash lines of investigation, plus another two criminal probes. 

Meet the three Banana Republic amigos 

Rousseff is now suspended for a maximum 180 days while a Senate committee decides whether to impeach her for good. Enter President-in-Waiting Michel Temer – a dodgy, shady operator – who has been branded a “usurper” by Rousseff. And usurper this provincial Brutus certainly is – according to his own words. On March 30 last year, he was tweeting that,“Impeachment is unthinkable, it would create an institutional crisis. There is no judicial or political basis for it.” 

His administration is born with the original sin of being illegal and massively unpopular; his approval rating floats between an epic 1 percent and 2 percent. He was already fined last week for violating campaign finance limits. And, predictably, he’s drowning in a corruption swamp – named in two Car Wash plea bargains and accused of being part of an illegal scheme of ethanol buying; he may become ineligible for the next eight years. Almost 60 percent of Brazilians also want him impeached – on the same charges leveled against Rousseff. 

Members of Brazil's Senate react after a vote to impeach President Dilma Rousseff for breaking budget laws in Brasilia, Brazil, May 12, 2016. © Ueslei Marcelino

Members of Brazil's Senate react after a vote to impeach President Dilma Rousseff for breaking budget laws in Brasilia, Brazil, May 12, 2016. © Ueslei Marcelino / Reuters

Brutus 1 (Temer) would not bask in the glow of his 15 minutes of fame without the shenanigans of Brutus 2 (Brazil’s number one crook, former speaker of the lower house Eduardo Cunha, facing charges of bribery and perjury, holder of illegal Swiss accounts, and now finally sidelined by the Supreme Court). It was Brutus 2 who fast-tracked impeachment as pure vengeance; the Workers’ Party did not cover his back as he was facing a tsunami of corruption charges. Brutus 2 used all his vast powers – he runs a campaign financing scam inside Congress – to obstruct the Car Wash investigation. His replacement, the interim speaker, is also under investigation for bribery. 

So meet Temer, Cunha, Calheiros; these three amigos are the true stars of the Banana Republic of Scoundrels/Crooks. 

As if the Supreme Court would be rascal-free. Judge Gilmar Mendes, for instance, is a lowly plutocrat vassal. When an attorney for the government entered a motion to suspend impeachment, he quipped, “Ah, they can go to heaven, to the Pope, or to hell.” Another pompous judge received a request to sideline Cunha as early as December 2015. He only examined the request over four months later, when the whole golpeachment scam was in its decisive phase. And still he argued, “there’s no proof Cunha contaminated the impeachment process.” 

Finally, complementing the whole scam, we find Brazilian mainstream media, with the toxic Globo media empire – which lavishly profited from the 1964 military coup – at the forefront. 

All hail the neoliberal restoration  

Wall Street – as well as the City of London – could not hide its excitement with golpeachment, believing Brutus 1 Temer will be an economic upgrade. Arguably, he might dare to tweak Brazil’s Kafkaesque tax code and do something about the enormous hole in the pension system. But what that mythical entity – the “markets” – and myriad “investors” are salivating about is the prospect of fabulous rates of return in a reopened-for-speculation Brazil. The Brutus 1 game will be a neoliberal feast, actually a restoration, with no popular representation whatsoever.   

Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff. © Adriano Machado

Brazil senators vote to impeach President Rousseff for breaking budget laws

The golpeachment gang gets really incensed when they are identified as coup plotters. Still, they could not give a damn about the OAS, Mercosur, Unasur – all of them condemned the coup – not to mention the Holy Grail: the BRICS. Under Brutus 1, the Foreign Ministry, to be led by a sore loser senator, is bound to sink Brazil’s key role in BRICS cooperation, to the benefit of Exceptionalistan. 

All one needs to know is that neither Nobel Peace Prize-winner Barack “kill list” Obama nor Queen of Chaos Hillary “We came, we saw, he died” Clinton condemned the ongoing regime change light/golpeachment. That’s predictable, considering Exceptionalistan’s NSA spied on Petrobras and Dilma Rousseff personally – the genesis of what would develop as the Car Wash investigation. 

White House spokesman Josh Earnest limited himself to the proverbial platitudes: “challenging moment”“trust in Brazilian democratic institutions”; or even “mature democracy.” Yet he added, significantly, that Brazil is “under scrutiny.” 

Of course, the current stage of a very sophisticated Hybrid War strategy has been accomplished. But there are countless cliffhangers ahead. The Car Wash investigation – currently in slow motion – will pick up speed as a rash of dodgy plea bargains is already in store to create the conditions to criminalize for good not only Dilma Rousseff but the key piece in the chessboard: Lula. 

Game over? Not so fast. The anti-golpeachment front does have a strategy: to imprint especially in “deep Brazil,” the vast masses of the working poor, the notion of illegality; to rebuild Rousseff’s image as the victim of a profound injustice; to re-energize the progressive political front; to make sure the Brutus 1 government will fail; and to create the conditions for the man who will come in from the cold to win the 2018 presidential elections. 

Brazilian House of Cards? Bets could be made this may even end up as Anaconda, with Lula immobilizing the Hybrid War hyenas in a cobra clutch.


PepePepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

The New Normal: Cold War 2.0

New Normalgc2smFrom the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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New Normal

Originally published in Sputnik on May 6, 2016

 


We are all living in Hybrid War time. From R2P (“responsibility to protect”) to color revolutions, from currency attacks to stock market manipulations.

From judicial-financial-political-media enabled “soft” coups – as in Brazil – to support for “moderate” jihadis, multiple stages of Hybrid War now cross-pollinate and generate a vortex of new mutant viruses.

 

From left, Norwegian support vessel Valkyrien, Belgian mine-hunter Belis, Norwegian minesweeper Otra, Dutch mine-hunter Makkum and Estonian mine-hunter Admiral Cowen form a convoy during a NATO deployment in the Baltic Sea along the German Coast, Tuesday, April 22, 2014

© AP PHOTO/ GERO BRELOER

Hybrid War, a Beltway concept, has even been turned upside down by the conceptualizers. NATO, affecting puzzlement at the very existence of the concept, interprets the Russian “invasion” of Ukraine as Hybrid War. That serves prime Hybrid War purveyors such as the RAND corporation to take it further, peddling war game scenarios of Russia being able to invade and conquer the Baltic states — Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — in less than 60 hours.

And that, in turn, foments even more Western military hysteria, encapsulated by the new NATO commander, a.k.a. Dr. Strangelove; Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, who made sure he would come up with a stage entrance worthy of his predecessor, Philip Breedlove/ Breedhate. 

Slightly amused at the whole conceptual circus, Russians respond with actions. Extra deployments in our Western borderlands? No problem; here’s your asymmetrical answer. And say hello, soon, to our new toy: the S-500s.

What Hillary wants

The notion that Moscow would have any interest at all to capture Baltic states is ludicrous in itself. But with the evidence of direct occupation of Afghanistan (the Taliban will never quit) and R2P in Libya (a failed state devastated by militias) spelling miserable failure, NATO badly needs a “success”. Enter warmongering rhetoric and conceptual manipulation – and this when it’s actually Washington that is deploying Hybrid War all across the chessboard.

US Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti U.S. Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti

© AP PHOTO/ CAROLYN KASTER, FILE

Reality occurs beyond NATO’s looking glass. Russia is way ahead of the Pentagon/NATO in A2AD — anti-access/area denial; Russian missiles and submarines may easily prevent NATO fighter jets from flying in Central Europe and NATO ships from “patrolling” the Baltic Sea. For the “indispensable nation”, that hurts – so bad.

Relentless rhetorical hysteria masks the real high-stakes game in play. And that’s where US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton fits in. Throughout her campaign, Clinton has extolled “a major strategic objective of our transatlantic alliance”. The major “strategic objective” is none other than the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) – a NATO-on-trade complementing political and military NATO.

The fact that TTIP, after the latest Dutch leaks, now runs the risk of being mired in Walking Dead territory may be a temporary setback. The imperial “project” is clear; to configure NATO, which already mutated into a global Robocop (Afghanistan, Libya, Syria), into an integrated political-economic-commercial-military alliance. Always under Washington’s command, of course. And including key peripheral vassals/contributors, such as the Gulf petromonarchies and Israel.

The imperial “enemy”, of course, would have to be the only authentic project available for the 21st century: Eurasia integration – which ranges from the Chinese-led New Silk Roads to the Russia-led Eurasia Economic Union; BRICS integration, which includes their New Development Bank (NDB), in tandem with the Chinese Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB); a resurgent, still independent Iran – Eurasia-connected; and all other independent poles among Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) nations. 

 

Activists stage mock talks as they demonstrate against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the EU and the USA outside the European Parliament at Luxembourg Place in Brussels on February 24, 2016.

This is the ultimate, ongoing 21st confrontation that will keep generating multiple, localized hybrid warfare forms – as it takes place not only across Eurasia but across the whole Global South. It’s all interlocked – from Maidan to the secret TTIP negotiations; from provoking China in the South China Sea to an oil price war and an attack on the ruble; from the NSA spying on Petrobras feeding a slow motion, legalistic regime change process in Brazil to an EU ravaged by twin plagues; a refugee crisis ultimately provoked by NATO’s wars (and instrumentalized by Turkey) coupled with Salafi-jhadi terrorism also spawned by the same wars. 

Even with France and Germany still dithering – as in paying too heavy a price for sanctions on Russia — Washington’s “project” counts on a ravaged EU being a perpetual hostage of NATO. And ultimately, a hostage of NATO on trade – because of those US geostrategic imperatives against Eurasia integration. 

This implies another necessity; the conceptual war – it’s the evil Russians who are waging Hybrid War, not us! —  must be won at all costs, by instilling constant fear into the average EU citizen. In parallel, it’s also essential to put on a show; thus one of the most massive US-designed military operations on European soil since the end of the Cold War – complete with Navy and Air Force displaying nuclear capability. 

This is the new normal; Cold War 2.0, 24/7.  

 


PepePepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

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