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BRICS/SCO sow panic in Exceptionalistan

Off the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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Originally published in RT on July 13, 2015

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As austerity-ravaged Europe watches its undemocratic “institutions” grapple with the Greek tragedy, and the US backtracks on a fair nuclear deal with Iran, geopolitical tectonic plates are shifting in the Urals.

Can you feel an inchoate multipolar world? Well, just look right here at the BRICS 2015 Ufa declaration. The EU is hardly featured in the BRICS declaration and not by accident.

Forget about the dead on arrival G7. This – the joint BRICS/SCO summit – is the real deal in 2015. Russia’s diplomatic masterstroke was to merge two summits – BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) – with a third, informal meeting of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). 

After all, some nations with leaders present in Ufa are members of at least one of these organizations. But the absolute key point is that getting BRICS, SCO and EEU leaders in one place packs a graphic punch about the emergence of a coordinated, Eurasia-wide, and in some aspects worldwide drive towards a more equitable world order not dictated by exceptionalists.

And then there’s Iran. President Rouhani met President Putin in Ufa to discuss a formidable range of topics. Not least the coming acceptance of Iran as a member of the SCO, assuming there is a deal in Vienna and after UN sanctions are lifted. 
Right on cue, and also not by accident, US President Barack Obama issued marching orders to Secretary of State John Kerry to backtrack from some positions the entire Iran/P5+1 diplomatic corps was already taking for granted – as a top Iranian negotiator confirmed to me in Vienna.

So here’s the not-so-veiled message to Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif: Iran will be “punished” for getting too close to Moscow.

Have strategy, will travel


Only Russia is a member of all three organizations – BRICS, SCO and EEU. Russia and China are key members of two – BRICS and SCO. The Russia-driven EEU is slowly but surely merging with the China-driven New Silk Roads. The key structural framework is the ever-solidifying Russia-China strategic partnership.

As the Pentagon remains self-absorbed in its 2002-concocted Full Spectrum Dominance doctrine, Russia and China counterpunch with full spectrum cooperation on politics, economics, finance, diplomacy and defense.

The endgame – which will be the apex of the current New Great Game in Eurasia – is a new global geopolitical structure anchored on Eurasian integration. Thus the importance of Iran: no matter what happens in Vienna, Iran is the vital hub/node in Eurasia.

The road has been long for the SCO. I remember when Euro-bureaucrats only a few years ago dismissed it as a mere talk shop. What started as a security forum to integrate the Central Asian “stans” so they would not be ravaged by terrorism and extremism evolved into a serious economic/political organization.

So now the SCO is starting to add to, and draw upon, the BRICS’s ever expanding economic cooperation, which features two essential pillars: the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the BRICS’s New Development Bank (NDB). As for the EEU, it is also indirectly linked to China, as part of the Russia-China strategic partnership.

This will all translate in the next few years into a complex maze of economic and trade/commerce networks traversing Eurasia. Call it the road map of the myriad New Silk Road(s).

Faster! Dust up our war plans!

Here’s just a sample of what has been decided in Ufa: Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping actively discussed, face-to-face, interlinks in the New Silk Road(s); India will become a full member of the SCO next year; Russia’s Finance Minister Anton Siluanov was appointed chairman of the BRICS New Development Bank (NDB), which will finance infrastructure projects not only in the five BRICS countries, but in other developing nations as well. And all that based in their own currencies, bypassing the US dollar.

The NDB has the potential to accumulate as much as $400 billion in capital, according to bank head KV Kamath. The parent capital is $100 billion.

Currency swaps are the way to go. It already applies to Russia and China on trade in futures, and Putin has dubbed its expansion to other nations as “interesting.”

A strategy for BRICS economic partnership has been devised that “touches upon the responsibility of different ministers and requires high-level coordination,” according to Russia’s Economic Development Minister Aleksey Ulyukaev, which means in essence easier trade between BRICS nations.

Both the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the NDB are headquartered in China. However, they won’t compete with each other; they will add to and complement one another.

Russia’s Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) signed a memorandum of understanding with the other BRICS. Significantly, China’s Silk Road Fund and India’s IDFC (Infrastructure Development Finance Company) are key partners.

Russia will lift restrictions on Chinese banks working in Russia, accelerating Beijing’s drive to invest in all sectors of the Russian economy.

Russia proposed a roadmap for investment cooperation. Crucially, that includes the possibility of an energy association, according to Putin, as well as an international energy research center.

The subject of energy brings us to Greece. Russia’s Turkish Stream pipeline – yet another diplomatic/energy counterpunch after the EU scored a proverbial own goal by scotching the South Stream – will be linked to Greece.

No wonder that elicited panic in Exceptionalistan. What if Syriza’s “flirting with Moscow” becomes a strategic shift, thus causing NATO’s eastern flank to fall to pieces?

It doesn’t matter that Russia wants a strong EU – and the EU won’t be strong without Greece, as Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov emphasized in Ufa.

So what does NATO propose to seduce anyone across Eurasia away from all the frantic BRICS, SCO and EEU politico/economic activity? Nothing less than an obsession with a “strategy rethink.” In other words, detailed “secret” scenarios for a war on European soil.

That’s all one needs to know about who wants what in the new, emerging geopolitical order.


Pepe 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).

What it really takes for a US-Iran deal

Off the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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Originally published in Ron July 1, 2015

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U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman (L-3rd L) meet with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (2nd R) at a hotel in Vienna, Austria June 28, 2015 (Reuters / Carlos Barria)

 

 

The next important step is what happens at the UN Security Council (UNSC). All the concerned parties at the UNSC will endorse a declaration, and a resolution – which is still being negotiated – will render null and void all previous sanctions resolutions.

As it stands, all the parties – except the US government – want to go to the UNSC as soon as possible. Washington remains, at best, reticent.

Iranian negotiators have made it very clear at the table that Tehran will start implementing its nuclear restriction commitments – removal of a number of centrifuges, removal of the core of Arak’s reactor, disposal of uranium stock, etc. – immediately. The IAEA will be constantly checking Iran has complied with an extensive list.

But it has to be a parallel process; the US and the EU must for their part and “take physical action”, tackling the complex mechanism of lifting all economic sanctions. Once again; a UNSC signature instantly erases all previous sanctions.

And here is something crucial; all of this has been agreed in Lausanne. The work must be simultaneous, as stressed, in tandem, by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and EU representative Federica Mogherini.

Those fateful parameters

Meanwhile, we have the media centrifuges spinning like mad, as I described here. On the negotiating table, there are still skirmishes related to the US desire in trying to “prove a negative” – as in the “possible military dimensions” (PMD) of Iran’s nuclear program. Logically, you don't need to be a neo-Wittgenstein to see that’s impossible.

The deadline extension from June 30 to July 7 is mostly about finding – rather, finding again – a “reasonable common narrative” inbuilt in the Lausanne framework, and even before.

This means Washington should make the political decision to tone down repeated attempts to introduce new demands. Iranian officials admit, “we may have had disagreements on how we do simultaneous work,” but that’s part of Lausanne. New demands are not.

In Lausanne, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Foreign Minister Zarif agreed on a “set of parameters” – after an excruciating nine hours of debate. They also agreed, crucially, that both sides would refrain from humiliating one another publicly.

The recent record shows that’s been the case – as far as negotiators and diplomats are concerned. On the other hand, US corporate media predictably has been wreaking the proverbial havoc.

Which brings us to the clincher; Iranian negotiators have yet to detect a readiness of the US government to really change the “culture of sanctions” in the UNSC. And here a diplomatic consensus emerges, involving, very significantly, Russia and Germany; this agreement will be made – or broken – on one crucial point; whether the Obama administration wants to lift the sanctions or keep them.

Watch the BRICS front

The least one can say about what’s really happening in the Palais Coburg since this past weekend is that the Obama administration’s position is oscillating wildly. There seems to be – finally – some movement on the American side in the sense they feel a strategic interest in changing the situation.

That will depend, of course, on the Obama administration’s evaluation of all factions operating in the Beltway establishment. Diplomats in Vienna agree Kerry is personally involved in trying to change the equation. So this means the ball is really in the US court.

But all’s still murky; even oscillating wildly; the Americans continue to entertain what an Iranian official described to me as “buyer’s remorse” regarding what they agreed on Lausanne in the first place.

Serious, key sticking points remain. The duration of the sanctions; confidentiality issues – as in the US, especially, respecting terms of access to Iranian military installations; and what’s defined as “managed access” under certain conditions.

Also very crucial is the BRICS front at the P5+1. Neither China nor Russia wants to see any exacerbation of tensions, in Southwest Asia and beyond, because a deal is not clinched. The bottom line; with their eye in the Big Picture – as in Eurasia integration – both are committed to facilitate a deal.

Until next Tuesday, all remains in play. Obama has been spinning he doesn’t want a “bad deal”. That’s not the issue. The issue is Obama himself making the fateful political decision of abandoning the weapon of choice of US foreign policy; sanctions. Has he got what it takes to pull it off?


Pepe 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).

American Dreaming – From G1 To Bilderberg

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Published on Russia Today on June 11, 2015

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What’s the connection between the G7 summit in Germany, President Putin’s visit to Italy, the Bilderberg club meeting in Austria, and the TTIP – the US-EU free trade deal – negotiations in Washington?

We start at the G7 in the Bavarian Alps – rather G1 with an added bunch of “junior partners” – as US President Barack Obama gloated about his neo-con induced feat; regiment the EU to soon extend sanctions on Russia even as the austerity-ravaged EU is arguably hurting even more than Russia.

Predictably, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande caved in – even after being forced by realpolitik to talk to Russia and jointly carve the Minsk-2 agreement.

The hypocrisy-meter in the Bavarian Alps had already exploded with a bang right at the pre-dinner speech by EU Council President Donald Tusk, former Prime Minister of Poland and certified Russophobe/warmonger: “All of us would have preferred to have Russia round the G7 table. But our group is not only a group (that shares) political or economic interests, but first of all this is a community of values. And that is why Russia is not among us.”

So this was all about civilized “values” against “Russian aggression.”

The “civilized” G1 + junior partners could not possibly argue whether they would collectively risk a nuclear war on European soil over a Kiev-installed ‘Banderastan’, sorry, “Russian aggression.”

Instead, the real fun was happening behind the scenes. Washington factions were blaming Germany for making the West lose Russia to China, while adult minds in the EU – away from the Bavarian Alps – blamed Washington.

Even juicier is a contrarian view circulating among powerful Masters of the Universe in the US corporate world, not politics. They fear that in the next two to three years France will eventually re-ally with Russia (plenty of historical precedents). And they – once again – identify Germany as the key problem, as in Berlin forcing Washington to get involved in a Prussian ‘Mitteleuropa’ Americans fought two wars to prevent.

 

As for the Russians – from President Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov downwards – a consensus has emerged; it’s pointless to discuss anything substantial considering the pitiful intellectual pedigree – or downright neo-con stupidity – of the self-described “Don’t Do Stupid Stuff” Obama administration policy makers and advisers. As for the “junior partners” – mostly EU minions – they are irrelevant, mere Washington vassals.

It would be wishful thinking to expect the civilized “values” gang to propose alternatives for the overwhelming majority of citizens of G7 nations getting anything other than Mac-jobs, or barely surviving as hostages of finance-junkie turbo-capitalism which only benefits the one percent.Rather easier to designate the proverbial scapegoat – Russia – and proceed with NATO-infused fear/warmongering rhetoric.

Iron Lady Merkel also found time to pontificate on climate change – instilling all and sundry to invest in a “low-carbon global economy.” Few noticed that the alleged deadline for full “decarbonization” was set for the end of the 21st century, when this planet will be in deep, deep trouble.

 

G7 summit at the Elmau castle in Kruen near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany (Reuters / Christian Hartmann)

 

 

 

 

 

G7 summit at the Elmau castle in Kruen near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany (Reuters / Christian Hartmann)

 

Achtung! Bilderberg!

Obama’s neocon-induced newspeak continues to rule that Russia dreams of recreating the Soviet empire. Now compare it to what President Putin is telling Europe.

Last week, Putin found time to give an interview to the Milan-based Corriere della Sera at 2 am; the interview was published as the Bavarian Alps show went on, and ahead of Putin’s June 10 visit to Italy. Russia’s geopolitical interests and US- Russia relations are depicted in excruciating detail.

So Putin was a persona non grata at the G1 plus junior partners? Well, in Italy he visited the Milan Expo; met Prime Minister Renzi and Pope Francis; reminded everyone about the “privileged economic and political ties” between Italy and Russia; and stressed the 400 Italian companies active in Russia and the million Russian tourists who visit Italy every year.

Crucially, he also evoked that consensus; Russia had represented an alternative view as a member of the G8, but now “other powers” felt they no longer needed it. The bottom line: it’s impossible to have an adult conversation with Obama and friends.

And right on cue, from Berlin –where he was displaying his sterling foreign policy credentials, Jeb Bush, brother of destroyer of Iraq Dubya Bush, fully scripted by his neocon advisers, declared Putin a bully and rallied Europe to fight, what else, “Russian aggression.”

 

 

The rhetorical haze over what was really discussed in the Bavarian Alps only began to dissipate at the first chords of the real sound of music; the Bilderberg Group meeting starting this Thursday at the Interalpen-Hotel Tyrol in Austria, only three days after the G1 plus junior partners.

Possible conspiracies aside, Bilderberg may be defined as an ultra-select bunch of elite lobbyists – politicians, US corporate honchos, EU officials, captains of industry, heads of intelligence agencies, European royals – organized annually in a sort of informal think tank/policy-forming format, to advance globalization and all crucial matters related to the overall Atlanticist agenda. Call it the prime Atlanticist Masters of the Universe talkfest.

To make things clear – not that they are big fans of transparency – the composition of the steering committee is here. And this is what they will be discussing in Austria.

Naturally they will be talking about “Russian aggression” (as in who cares about failed Ukraine; what we need is to prevent Russia from doing business with Europe).

Naturally they will be talking about Syria (as in the partition of the country, with the Caliphate already a fact of post-Sykes-Picot life).

Naturally they will be talking about Iran (as in let’s do business, buy their energy and bribe them into joining our club).

But the real deal is really the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) – the alleged “free trade” deal between the US and the EU. Virtually all major business/finance lobbyists for the TTIP will be under the same Austrian roof.

And not by accident Bilderberg starts one day before “fast track” presidential authority is to be debated at the US Congress.

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) meets Pope Francis during a private meeting at Vatican City, June 10, 2015 (Reuters / Gregorio Borgia)

 

 

 

 

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) meets Pope Francis during a private meeting at Vatican City, June 10, 2015 (Reuters / Gregorio Borgia)

 

WikiLeaks and a ton of BRICS

Enter WikiLeaks, with what in a fairer world would be a crucial spanner in the works.

The fast track authority would extend US presidential powers for no less than six years; that includes the next White House tenant, which might well be ‘The Hillarator’ or Jeb “Putin is a bully” Bush.

This presidential authority to negotiate dodgy deals includes not only the TTIP but also the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA).

WikiLeaks, just in time, published the Healthcare Annex to the secret draft “Transparency” chapter of the TPP, along with each country’s negotiating position. No wonder this draft is secret. And there’s nothing “transparent” about it; it’s an undisguised hold-up of national healthcare authorities by Big Pharma.

The bottom line is that these three mega-deals – TTP, TTIP and TiSA – are the ultimate template of what could be politely described as global corporate governance, a Bilderberg wet dream. The losers: nation-states, and the very concept of Western democracy. The winners: mega-corporations.

Julian Assange, in a statement, succinctly nailed itIt is a mistake to think of the TPP as a single treaty. In reality there are three conjoined mega-agreements, the TiSA, the TPP and the TTIP, all of which strategically assemble into a grand unified treaty, partitioning the world into the West versus the rest. This 'Great Treaty' is described by the Pentagon as the economic core to the US military's 'Asia Pivot.' The architects are aiming no lower than the arc of history. The Great Treaty is taking shape in complete secrecy, because along with its undebated geostrategic ambitions it locks into place an aggressive new form of transnational corporatism for which there is little public support."

 

So this is the real Atlanticist agenda – the final touches being applied in the arc spanning the G1 + added junior partners to Bilderberg (expect a lot of crucial phone calls from Austria to Washington this Friday). NATO on trade. Pivoting to Asia excluding Russia and China. The West vs. the rest.

Now for the counterpunch. As the show in the Bavarian Alps unrolled, the first BRICS Parliamentarian Forum was taking place in Moscow – ahead of the BRICS summit in Ufa next month.

Neocons – with Obama in tow – knock themselves out dreaming that Russia has become “isolated” from the rest of the world because of their sanctions. Since then Moscow has signed major economic/strategic contracts with at least twenty nations. Next month, Russia will host the BRICS summit – 45 percent of the world’s population, a GDP equivalent to the EU, and soon bigger than the current G7 – as well as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit, when India and Pakistan, currently observers, will be accepted as full members.

G1 plus junior partners? Bilderberg? Get a job; you’re not the only show in town, any town.

 

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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