Archive for the ‘China’ Category

China considers ending one-child policy

February 29, 2008

China considers ending one-child policy

This article was first published on guardian.co.uk on Thursday February 28 2008. It was last updated at 14:46 on February 28 2008.
A child sits in a pram in Beijing, China

A child sits in a pram in Beijing, China. Photograph: Diego Azubel/EPA

China could scrap its one-child policy, a senior family planning official said today, acknowledging concerns about its effects in creating an ageing society and gender gap.

The controversial rules, which restrict most urban families to a single child and rural households to two, were introduced in the 1970s in a bid to bring the country’s vast population – the world’s largest – from soaring out of control and outstripping limited resources.

But today the vice-minister of the National Population and Family Planning Commission said officials were carrying out detailed examination of the environmental, social and other implications of changing the law.

Asked if they were planning to axe the one-child policy, Zhao Baige told reporters in Beijing that there was a “very serious process” of study.

“I cannot answer at what time or how [we will decide], but this has really become a big issue among decision makers,” she said.

“We want to have a transition from control to a slowdown [relaxation], incrementally. The attitude is to do the studies, to consider it responsibly.”

Although the population has yet to peak – it is expected to rise from 1.3 billion now to 1.5 billion in 2033 – the birth rate has dropped below the replacement rate of 2.1.

Rising prosperity in recent years has also helped to change attitudes. Zhao said 60% of young women now say they want a maximum of two children.

While there is no prospect of controls being thrown out overnight, changes could be rolled out region-by-region, or introduced for particular kinds of households.

Concessions already exist allowing people in their second marriage to have another baby if their spouse has none, and permitting couples without any siblings to have two children.

But officials are nervous of announcing potential changes in the rules lest people pre-empt them. Discussions about relaxations of the law in 1983 are believed to have led to the birth of an extra 30 million babies that year.

Zhao also acknowledged the problems posed by the longstanding cultural preference for boys and warned that in future the use of ultrasound to predict the sex of a child – and terminate female fetuses – could become “a big issue” for China.

It already has 118 male births for every 100 female; way above the global “normal” ratio of between 103 and 107 boys for every 100 girls.

The government is rolling out a scheme to encourage families to value girls by introducing special social and economic benefits for them.

It is developing an increasingly sophisticated set of policies around population control, focusing not just on the total number of citizens but also issues such as age distribution. It is also attempting to address the underlying causes of excess births and the preference for males, and to promote its policies more effectively.

“In the 70s it was always the same language – ‘One child is best’. Now it is about giving information on contraception,” said Zhao.

The enforcement system is far less punitive than in the 80s and early 90s, but families that exceed the official limits face fines or “compensation fees”. These can be punitive for poorer families – which can face the confiscation of property if they fail to pay – but almost insignificant for the wealthy.

That has spawned resentment that a good income can even affect a household’s ability to have children.

The commission also said that, in a case that became an international cause célèbre, two officials had been detained for three to six months, and one official sacked, after women in Shandong province were forced to have abortions and sterilisations. According to some reports, up to 7,000 women were affected.

However, Chen Guangcheng, the blind activist who tried to launch legal actions on behalf of the victims, is still imprisoned.

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Asia’s Hidden Arms Race

February 15, 2008

Asia’s Hidden Arms Race

By John Feffer
Source: TomDispatch

John Feffer’s ZSpace Page

Read all about it! Diplomats remain upbeat about solving the nuclear stand-off with North Korea; optimists envision a peace treaty to replace the armistice that halted, but failed to formally end, the Korean War 55 years ago. Some leaders and scholars are even urging the transformation of the Six Party Talks over the Korean nuclear issue, involving the United States, Japan, China, Russia, and the two Koreas, into a permanent peace structure in Northeast Asia.

 

The countries in the region all seem determined to make nice right now. Yasuo Fukuda, the new Japanese prime minister, is considerably more pacific than his predecessor, the ultra-nationalist Shinzo Abe. The new South Korean president, Lee Myung-bak, despite his conservative credentials, is committed to continuing the previous president’s engagement policy with North Korea and plans to reach out to Japan via his first post-inaugural state visit. The party that won the recent Taiwanese parliamentary elections, the Kuomintang, wants to rebuild bridges to the Mainland and, when it comes to the Communist Party there, mend fences the ruling Democratic Progressive Party tried to pull down. Beijing, for its part, is being super-conciliatory toward practically everyone in this Olympic year.

 

Despite all this peace-talk, something else, quite momentous and hardly noticed, is underway in the region. The real money in Northeast Asia is going elsewhere. While in the news sunshine prevails, in the shadows an already massive regional arms race is threatening to shift into overdrive. Since the dawn of the twenty-first century, five of the six countries involved in the Six Party Talks have increased their military spending by 50% or more. The sixth, Japan, has maintained a steady, if sizeable military budget while nonetheless aspiring to keep pace. Every country in the region is now eagerly investing staggering amounts of money in new weapons systems and new offensive capabilities.

 

The arms race in Northeast Asia undercuts all talk of peace in the region. It also sustains a growing global military-industrial complex. Northeast Asia is where four of the world’s largest militaries — those of the United States, China, Russia, and Japan — confront each other. Together, the countries participating in the Six Party Talks account for approximately 65% of world military expenditures, with the United States responsible for roughly half the global total.

 

Here is the real news that should hit the front pages of papers today: Wars grip Iraq, Afghanistan, and large swathes of Africa, but the heart of the global military-industrial complex lies in Northeast Asia. Any attempt to drive a stake through this potentially destabilizing monster must start with the militaries that face one another there.

Military Budget

The Japanese Reversal

The Northeast Asian arms buildup — a three-tiered scramble to dominate the seas, beef up air forces, and control the next frontier of space — runs counter to conventional wisdom. After all, isn’t Japan still operating under a “peace constitution”? Hasn’t South Korea committed to the peaceful reunification of the Korean peninsula? Didn’t China recently wake up to the virtues of soft power? And how could North Korea and Russia, both of which suffered disastrous economic reversals in the 1990s, have had the wherewithal to compete in an arms race? As it turns out, these obstacles have proved little more than speed bumps on the road to regional hyper-militarism.

 

Perhaps the most paradoxical participant in this new arms race is Japan. Its famous peace constitution has traditionally been one of the few brakes on arms spending in the region. The country has long limited its military expenditures to an informal ceiling of 1% of its overall budget. As that budget grew, however, so did military spending. Japan’s army is now larger than Britain’s, and the country spends more on its military than all but four other nations. (China surpassed Japan in military spending for the first time in 2006.) Nonetheless, for decades, the provisions of its peace constitution at least put limits on the offensive capabilities of the Japanese military, which is still referred to as its Self-Defense Forces.

 

These days, however, even the definition of “offensive” is changing. In 1999, the country’s Self Defense Forces first used offensive force when its naval vessels fired on suspected North Korean spy ships. Less than a decade later, Japan provides support far from its “defensive” zone for U.S. wars, including providing fuel to coalition forces in Afghanistan and transport in Iraq.

 

Japan was once incapable of bombing other countries largely because its air force didn’t have an in-air refueling capability. Thanks to Boeing, however, the first KC-767 tanker aircraft will arrive in Japan later this year, providing government officials, who occasionally assert the country’s right to launch preemptive strikes, with the means to do so. This is not happy news for Japan’s neighbors, who retain vivid memories of the 1930s and 1940s, when its military went on an imperial rampage throughout the region.

 

Tokyo already has among the best air forces and naval fighting forces in the world, trailing only the United States. But leading Japanese officials have displayed an even larger appetite. Some Japanese politicians are lobbying to amend the peace constitution or even scrap it entirely, while sending military spending skyrocketing. To promote these ideas, they use the thin rationale that Japan should be participating regularly in “international peacekeeping missions.”

 

The Japanese Defense Agency — their Pentagon — which was upgraded to ministry level last year, wants more goodies like an aircraft carrier, nuclear-powered submarines, and long-range missiles. A light aircraft carrier, which the government has coyly labeled a “destroyer,” will be ready in 2009. The subs and missiles, however, will have to wait. So, too, will Tokyo’s attempt to take a quantum leap forward in air-fighting capabilities by importing advanced U.S. F-22 stealth planes. Concerned about releasing latest-generation technology to the outside world, Congress scotched this deal at the last moment in August 2007.

 

Washington has been a good deal more accommodating when it comes to missile defense. Japan has been a far more enthusiastic supporter of missile defense than any of America’s European allies. In fact, the United States and Japan are spending billions of dollars to set up an early-warning-and-response prototype of such an advanced missile system. Part of this missile shield is land-based. Last month, Japan installed its third Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) surface-to-air interceptor and plans on nine more by 2011. The more ambitious part of the program, however, is based at sea. In December, Japan conducted its first sea-based interceptor test.

 

With Japan and the United States in the lead, a space race is also on in Northeast Asia. Last year, China tested its own anti-ballistic missile system by shooting down one of its old weather satellites. While at present this is far from an actual missile-defense system, China effectively served notice that it is up to the technological challenge of hitting a bullet with a bullet in space. Meanwhile, thanks to U.S. pressure Russia too is upgrading its missile defense systems, while pouring money into the development of new missiles that can bypass any putative shield the U.S. and its allies can develop.

 

Give Me Peace, But Not Just Yet

 

The two most recent South Korean presidents, Nobel Peace Prize winner Kim Dae-Jung and the left-leaning Roh Moo-Hyun, have been well-known for their efforts to foster reconciliation with North Korea. Less well-known have been their programs to beef up South Korea’s military. The dark side of their engagement policy has been its unstated quid pro quo of satisfying the security concerns of South Korean hawks by giving their military everything it wants — and then some. Between 1999 and 2006, South Korean military spending jumped more than 70%. In 2007, at the launching ceremony for a new Aegis-equipped destroyer, which brought South Korea into an elite club of just five countries with such technology, President Roh Moo-Hyun declared, “At the present time, Northeast Asia is still in an arms race, and we cannot just sit back and watch.” By 2020, the South Korean navy wants to build three more Aegis destroyers at a cost of $1 billion each.

 

South Korean hawks are not only responding to concerns about North Korea, the traditional threat around which the South has organized its military. They are concerned about a declining military commitment from the United States, which has reduced the levels of American troops that traditionally garrison the country and pushed hard for greater military “burden-sharing.”

 

South Korea’s leaders and military officials are anxious that the Pentagon may continue to focus on the Middle East and Central Asia to the exclusion of its Pacific commitments. To prepare for the contingency of going it alone, South Korea has embarked on an ambitious $665 billion Defense Reform 2020 initiative, which will increase the military budget by roughly 10% a year until 2020. In those years, while troop levels will actually fall, most of the extra money will go to a host of expensive, high-tech systems such as new F-15K fighters from Boeing, SM-6 ship-to-air missiles that can form a low-altitude missile shield, and Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles.

 

If South Korea’s spending spree remains largely under the radar, China’s military expenditures have received considerable media scrutiny. Newspaper accounts have focused on China’s military spending, which officially rose to $45 billion for 2007. However, that public figure, according to U.S. intelligence estimates, tells only half the story. Beijing’s spending, claim these sources, is really in the $100 billion range. With this money, China is pushing forward with an ambitious naval program that will include the addition to its naval forces of five new nuclear-powered attack subs, a mid-sized aircraft carrier, and — clandestinely — the supposed construction of a huge 93,000-ton nuclear-powered carrier by 2020.

 

Lost in the hype around China’s apparent quest for a world-class military to match its world-class economy are the gaps in the country’s offensive capabilities. It has only a couple of hundred nuclear weapons and fewer than two dozen ICBMs pointed at the United States. Its navy doesn’t have a “blue-water” capability, lacking (as yet) any aircraft carriers, a large force of nuclear-powered submarines, and the overseas basing infrastructure to support them. It relies heavily on imports and can’t yet build the sort of aircraft that would allow it to project serious force over large distances.

 

China, however, has been the only modestly credible threat on the horizon that the Pentagon has been able to wield to justify military spending at levels not seen since World War II. The Pentagon can’t use its big naval destroyers against al-Qaeda; Virginia-class subs can’t do much to fight the Taliban or insurgents in Iraq. Yet these systems figure prominently in the Pentagon’s long-range plans to build a 313-ship navy. Congressman John Murtha (D-PA), who made headlines back in 2005 with his newfound opposition to the Iraq War, is typical of congressional hawks when he warns of the need to prepare for a coming conflict with China. “We’ve got to be able to have a military that can deploy to stop China or Russia or any other country that challenges us,” he recently told Reuters. “I’ve felt we had to be concerned about the direction China was going.” To counter China, the United States has pursued a classic containment strategy of strengthening military ties with India, Australia, the Philippines, and Japan.

 

The Bush administration trumpets its accomplishment of increasing military spending 74% since 2001. In addition to the $12.7 billion for new warships, there’s $17 billion for new aircraft and over $10 billion for missile defense. The administration wants to increase the Army from 482,400 to 547,400 troops by 2012. A sizable portion of the administration’s $607 billion Pentagon budget request for 2009, which doesn’t even include massive supplemental funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, will go to maintaining and expanding the U.S. military presence in the Pacific. The Democratic frontrunners for the presidential nomination have also called for troop increases and have said nothing about slowing, freezing, or even cutting the military budget. No matter who is elected, under the next administration, as under the last one, the United States will surely continue to be the chief driver of global arms spending.

 

The Armies of Austerity

 

Increased military spending is not always just a function of affluence. As the Russian economy contracted in the 1990s, the arms export industry became an ever more critical way for the faltering country to earn hard currency. Today, flush with oil and natural gas revenues, Russia has regained its place as the world’s second largest arms dealer by almost doubling its arms exports since 2000. Washington’s moves to establish a global missile defense system and encroach on Russian interests in Central Asia have only encouraged Moscow to boost its military spending in an effort to recover its lost superpower status.

 

With the renewed growth of the Russian economy on the strength of energy sales, Russian arms expenditures began to take off again in the new millennium, increasing nearly four-fold between 2000 and 2006. The Russian government, which projected a 29% increase in spending for 2007, plans to replace nearly half its arsenal with new weaponry by 2015.

 

Compared to Russia, North Korea has had the full experience of economic collapse with very little subsequent recovery. Yet, despite its woefully limited means, it has tried to keep up with the great powers that surround it. By many estimates, Pyongyang devotes as much as a quarter of its budget to the military (even though prosperous South Korea still spends as much, or more, on its military than the North’s entire gross domestic product). North Korea’s failure to match the conventional military spending of South Korea, much less Japan or the United States, was what made the building of a “nuclear deterrent” increasingly attractive to its leaders. In other words, the current nuclear crisis that sucks up so much diplomatic attention in Northeast Asia today is at least partly a result of the region’s accelerating conventional arms race and North Korea’s inability to keep pace.

 

Critics of the North Korean regime often point out that its military spending is ultimately a human rights violation, because the government essentially takes food out of the mouths of its people to spend on armaments. North Korea is, however, just a particularly gross example of an expanding global problem. Each of the six countries in the new Pacific arms race has devised a wealth of rationales for its military spending — and each has ignored significant domestic needs in the process.

 

Given the sums that would be necessary to address the decommissioning of nuclear weapons, the looming crisis of climate change, and the destabilizing gap between rich and poor, such spending priorities are in themselves a threat to humanity. The world put 37% more into military spending in 2006 than in 1997. If the “peace dividend” that was to follow the end of the Cold War never quite appeared, a decade later the world finds itself burdened with quite the opposite: a genuine peace deficit.

 

 

John Feffer is the co-director of Foreign Policy In Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, DC. He is the author of North Korea, South Korea: U.S. Policy at a Time of Crisis (Seven Stories, 2003) among other books.

[This article first appeared on Tomdispatch.com, a weblog of the Nation Institute, which offers a steady flow of alternate sources, news, and opinion from Tom Engelhardt, long time editor in publishing, co-founder of the American Empire Project and author of The End of Victory Culture (University of Massachusetts Press), which has just been thoroughly updated in a newly issued edition that deals with victory culture’s crash-and-burn sequel in Iraq.]

 

New Cold War: Great Game for Supremacy in the New World Order? by Andrew G. Marshall

October 31, 2007

New Cold War: Great Game for Supremacy in the New World Order? by Andrew G. Marshall

Dandelion Salad

by Andrew G. Marshall
Global Research, October 31, 2007

Imperial Playground:

The Story of Iran in Recent History

PART 4:

There has been much talk in recent months of a return to the Cold War, as increasingly there is growing disparities and tensing relations between the West, namely the Anglo-Americans, and the Russian Federation, the former Soviet Union, as well as China. ‘Is the Cold War Back?’ as the headline of a Reuters article asked, stating, “Russia has revived its Soviet-era practice of continuous long-range bomber patrols, sending 14 aircraft on such missions in the latest in a series of moves apparently designed to show off Russia’s new-found assertiveness,” and that “Russia’s military is now receiving a major injection of cash to modernise ageing equipment — including new planes — after years of under-funding and neglect since the Soviet Union ceased to exist.”1 Recent plans made public that the United States is building missile shields in Eastern European countries has sparked equal controversy over a revival of a Cold War. As the Austrian Defense Minister Norbert Darabos stated in late August of 2007, “That the United States are installing a defense shield in eastern Europe is a provocation in my view,” and that, “The U.S. has chosen the wrong path in my opinion. There is no point in building up a missile defense shield in Europe. That only unnecessarily rekindles old Cold War debates.”2 The article continued in saying, “The United States plans to deploy elements of its shield — designed to intercept and destroy missiles from ‘rogue states’ like Iran and North Korea — in Poland and the Czech Republic. Russia sees the initiative near its borders as a threat to its own security. On Tuesday Russia’s military chief told the Czech Republic that hosting the shield would be a ‘big mistake’. Darabos said he saw no danger from Iranian long range missiles and the United States should try for a different solution.”

NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which is largely controlled by the Anglo-American establishment, has also been stepping up Cold War actions. NATO was created as a treaty during the early years of the Cold War as a method of forming an alliance against the Communist powers of the world, which had a parallel treaty organization, known as the Warsaw Pact. So if the near entire life span of this organization was in containing communist countries, namely the Soviet Union, it does not seem unlikely that it would return to what it does best. As the Sunday Telegraph reported in late August of 2007, “NATO vessels are closely monitoring the sea trials of Russia’s latest submarine, following Moscow’s increasingly provocative tests of Western airspace. In the latest twist to worsening East-West relations, Nato submarines and surface ships, which may include Royal Navy vessels, are trying to gather information on the new Amur class boat being tested in the Baltic,” and that, “The greater-than-normal scrutiny is, in part, a response to Russia’s decision to resume long-range bomber flights close to Nato airspace which has revived memories of Cold War confrontation between the two blocs,” and it further mentioned that, “Twice this summer, Russian Tu-95 nuclear bombers have been spotted heading towards British airspace off Scotland, prompting the RAF [Royal Air Force] to send intercepting aircraft to warn them off. On another occasion, Russian planes came within striking distance of the US Pacific airbase of Guam.”3

The article continues in explaining, “Apart from the threat it [the Russian submarine] poses as part of the Russian navy, Moscow is believed to have won contracts to export it to other states such as Venezuela, which is challenging the United States’ influence in Latin America. Russia also exports weapons to Iran and Sudan, although there is no sign yet that either country plans to buy an Amur class submarine. The fact that President Vladimir Putin’s regime is testing a powerful new addition to the Russian navy – after its fleet went through years of decline – shows a new military build-up is underway.” The article further stated, “Russia’s neighbour Georgia claimed yesterday that it, too, was being intimidated by Moscow. Russian jets, the government said, had twice entered its airspace this week. Earlier this month, a Russian warplane had fired a missile at a village on its territory. But Russia protested its innocence yesterday, accusing Georgia of inventing the charge to stir up tensions. Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations said that the bomb fragments produced as evidence were of foreign origin.”

On this growing issue between Russia and Georgia, Press TV reported that, “Georgia’s aim to accelerate its joining the NATO by playing risky power games with Russia can stretch Moscow’s patience too far, observers say. ‘There is a threat’ that rising tensions between the two former Soviet republics could provoke a confrontation, said Pavel Felgenhauer, an independent Russian defense analyst,” and that, “During the 2006 winter, Russian gas supplies to Georgia were cut off for prolonged repairs on a pipeline. A few months later, Russia banned the import of wine and mineral water from Georgia. Then, in September 2006, Georgia arrested four Russian officers charged for spying. This prompted Russia to suspend all direct transport and postal links, as well as to deport hundreds of Georgian immigrants from Russia. Russia has also given political and economic backing to two Georgian separatist regions.”4

It was also reported that, “The Russian ambassador to the Court of St James’s rejects US statements over the controversial Missile Defense project to be exclusively against Iran. ‘There is no convincing explanation for the installation of the US Missile Defense in eastern Asia,’ said Yuri Viktorovich Fedotov in an interview with BBC Radio. ‘Despite what US calls a missile defense shield against Iran, the project is a threat for Russia and other countries,’ Fedotov added,” and that “The statements are made as recent diplomatic conflict between Britain and Russia over the missile defense project and the verbal war for the extradition of a Russian agent accused of being involved in the murder of Alexander [Litvinenko] in London has escalated.”5

In early September of 2007, it was reported by the BBC that, “The UK’s Royal Air Force has launched fighter jets to intercept eight Russian military planes flying in airspace patrolled by Nato, UK officials say. Four RAF F3 Tornado aircraft were scrambled in response to the Russian action, the UK’s defence ministry said. The Russian planes – long-range bombers – had earlier been followed by Norwegian F16 jets.”6 Also in early September it was reported by the Financial Times that, “The Chinese military hacked into a Pentagon computer network in June in the most successful cyber attack on the US defence department, say American –officials. The Pentagon acknowledged shutting down part of a computer system serving the office of Robert Gates, defence secretary, but declined to say who it believed was behind the attack. Current and former officials have told the Financial Times an internal investigation has revealed that the incursion came from the People’s Liberation Army [of China].”7

As well as this, it was reported that, “Taiwan’s cabinet agreed Wednesday to hike military spending by nearly 15 percent in next year’s budget in an apparent signal of its resolve against rival China. Under a draft budget, which has to be confirmed by parliament, the defence ministry is setting aside 345.9 billion Taiwan dollars (10.5 billion US), up 44.6 billion Taiwan dollars, the cabinet said in a statement,” and that, “The rise in spending is mainly aimed at financing procurement of military equipment, including US-made P-3C submarine-hunting aircraft. Washington, the island’s leading arms supplier despite not having formal diplomatic ties, has repeatedly asked Taipei to display its determination to defend itself by boosting military spending. The Chinese government had in May announced the biggest increase in its military budget in recent years, saying its spending in 2007 would rise 17.8 percent from last year to 350.9 billion yuan (about 45 billion dollars),” and the article continued in stating, “Reunification with Taiwan is one of China’s long-term strategic objectives, and analysts have said Beijing is beefing up its military partly to enable it to take the island back by force if necessary. China and Taiwan have been separated since the end of a civil war in 1949, but Beijing still considers the island part of its territory. Taiwan has been led since the turn of the century by independence-leaning President Chen Shui-bian, exacerbating fears in Beijing that the island could break away for good.”8

The above mentioned issue is extremely important, as it was reported back in 2005 by the Financial Times that, “China is prepared to use nuclear weapons against the US if it is attacked by Washington during a confrontation over Taiwan, a Chinese general said on Thursday. ‘If the Americans draw their missiles and position-guided ammunition on to the target zone on China’s territory, I think we will have to respond with nuclear weapons,’ said General Zhu Chenghu. Gen Zhu was speaking at a function for foreign journalists organised, in part, by the Chinese government. He added that China’s definition of its territory included warships and aircraft,” and the General continued in saying, “If the Americans are determined to interfere [then] we will be determined to respond,” as well as stating, “We . . . will prepare ourselves for the destrucion of all of the cities east of Xian. Of course the Americans will have to be prepared that hundreds . . . of cities will be destroyed by the Chinese.”9 The article further mentioned, “Gen Zhu is a self-acknowledged ‘hawk’ who has warned that China could strike the US with long-range missiles. But his threat to use nuclear weapons in a conflict over Taiwan is the most specific by a senior Chinese official in nearly a decade.” So, essentially what this is suggesting is that in the case that China attempts to take back Taiwan, which it consistently threatens to do, even if it requires military force, and the US responds militarily in any way, which they have said they would in such an event, even if the act is firing on a Chinese ship, then the response of China would be to engage in nuclear war with the United States.

In early September of 2007, it was reported by the BBC that, “Britain has privately complained to Beijing that Chinese-made weapons are being used by the Taleban to attack British troops in Afghanistan. The BBC has been told that on several occasions Chinese arms have been recovered after attacks on British and American troops by Afghan insurgents.”10

Russia has extremely close ties with Iran, as it was reported back in 2005 that, “Russia has agreed to sell more than $1 billion worth of missiles and other defense systems to Iran,” and that, “The Interfax and ITAR-Tass news agencies cited unidentified sources in the Russian military-industrial complex as saying that Russian and Iranian officials had signed contracts in November that would send up to 30 Tor-M1 missile systems to Iran over the next two years.”11 In January of 2007, the Jerusalem Post reported that, “Voicing extreme concern over Russia’s recent sale of advanced anti-aircraft missiles to Iran, senior diplomatic and defense officials warned Moscow Tuesday that the deal could have serious security implications that would even ‘get back to Russia.’ Senior officials in Jerusalem said they ‘were not pleased’ with the sale of the anti-aircraft missiles, but that Russia was a sovereign country and they could not intervene. They did, however, issue a warning: ‘We hope they understand that this is a threat that could come back to them as well.’ Earlier Tuesday, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said Moscow had sent air defense missiles to Teheran, the first high-level confirmation that their delivery took place despite US complaints. Ivanov did not specify how many missile systems had been delivered.”12

On top of military agreements, Russia and Iran also have close ties economically and politically, and Russia is even helping Iran build a nuclear power plant. It was reported in September of 2007 that, “The Bushehr nuclear power plant that Russia is building in Iran will be commissioned no earlier than the fall of 2008, a source in the Russian nuclear sector said. The date for commissioning the $1 billion project in the south of the country, the Islamic Republic’s first NPP built by Russia, was postponed due to delays in Iranian payments to the contractor.”13 So, clearly, Russia has vested interests inside Iran, and has even gone so far as to help in building a nuclear power plant inside Iran, in a sign of a growing relationship between the two countries, and a very apparent signal that Russia is supporting Iran’s efforts to nuclear power, thusly, taking a position in opposition to the Anglo-American Alliance, and even the Franco-German Entente.

This is evident in as much as Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, back in 2006 had advised “to act without delay to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, saying that Iran had ‘blatantly crossed the line’,” and that “The chancellor compared Iran’s nuclear policy to the Nazi party’s rise to power in Germany, warning that in the past the nations of the world refused to take a stance against concrete threats, enabling some of history’s greatest catastrophes.”14 The newly elected French President Nicolas Sarkozy stated in August of 2007, that, “a diplomatic push by the world’s powers to rein in Tehran’s nuclear program was the only alternative to ‘an Iranian bomb or the bombing of Iran’,” and that, “In his first major foreign policy speech, Sarkozy emphasized his existing foreign policy priorities, such as opposing Turkish membership of the European Union and pushing for a new Mediterranean Union that he hopes will include Ankara,” and the article went on to report that, “Sarkozy said a nuclear-armed Iran would be unacceptable and that major powers should continue their policy of incrementally increasing sanctions against Tehran while being open to talks if Iran suspended nuclear activities.” The article then quoted Sarkozy as saying, “This initiative is the only one that can enable us to escape an alternative that I say is catastrophic: the Iranian bomb or the bombing of Iran,” and he continued, “Russia is imposing its return on the world scene by using its assets, notably oil and gas, with a certain brutality,” of which the article continued, “Energy disputes between Russia and neighbors such as Belarus and Ukraine have raised doubts in Europe about Moscow’s reliability as a gas exporter. It supplies Europe, via its neighbors, with around a quarter of its gas demands. Sarkozy had warm words for the United States, saying friendship between the two countries was important. But he said he felt free to disagree with American policies, highlighting what he called a lack of leadership on the environment.”15 I find it comical that Sarkozy talks of Russia saying that, “When one is a great power, one should not be brutal,” yet he had ‘warm words’ for the US, of which I know no other country that is so brutal as a great power.

The Washington Post reported in early September of 2007, that, “U.S. plans to site parts of a missile defense shield in Poland and the Czech Republic are ‘politically dangerous,’ former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said on Saturday. ‘From my point of view the missile defense system is politically dangerous. It is perceived as an attempt to isolate Russia, which is not in Europe’s political interests,’ said Schroeder, who is a personal friend of President Vladimir Putin,” and that, “The United States wants to base interceptor missiles and a radar system in Poland and the Czech Republic, saying it needs protection against missile attacks from what it terms ‘rogue states’ like Iran and North Korea. Russia has reacted furiously, saying the plan will upset a delicate strategic balance between major powers and poses a threat to its own security. Schroeder said the plan was not in the European Union’s interests either.” The article continued, “Although trade and investment are booming, diplomatic relations between Russia and the European Union have deteriorated sharply over the past year. This is partly because of Russia’s squabbles with the Union’s new members such as Poland, which were once part of the Soviet bloc and are now wary of Moscow’s rising influence.”16

Remember Zbigniew Brzezinski? The Trilateral Commission founder, architect of the Afghan-Soviet War and ‘Arc of Crisis’ Strategy, who wrote the geo-strategic blueprint for American global hegemony, The Grand Chessboard, in which he stated, “Potentially, the most dangerous scenario would be a grand coalition of China, Russia, and perhaps Iran, an ‘antihegemonic’ coalition united not by ideology but by complementary grievances. It would be reminiscent in scale and scope of the challenge once posed by the Sino-Soviet bloc.”17 Well, within ten years of writing his book, Brzezinski’s predictions became quite true, as an alternative strategic bloc to the NATO countries has been set up, called the Shanghai Cooperation Organization [SCO]. It was officially founded in 2001 [after initial agreements in 1996] by Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. In 2006, it was reported that, “Six member countries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Wednesday agreed to stage a joint anti-terror military exercise in 2007 in Russia, according to a joint communiqué,” and that, “Except Uzbekistan, other five countries of the SCO held their first-ever joint anti-terror exercise within the framework of the SCO in August 2003, with the first phase in Kazakhstan and the second in China. As new threats and challenges, such as terrorism, separatism, extremism and cross-border crimes, are becoming increasingly prominent, the regional and international cooperation are required.”18

In 2003, it was reported that the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), “signed a multilateral economic cooperation Framework Agreement in Beijing on 23 September to ‘deepen’ their mutual economic connections and ‘improve the investment environment’. At the meeting, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao made three proposals. He wanted members to set as a long-term objective the establishment of a free trade area within the SCO; elaborate a series of more immediate measures such as improving the flow of goods across the member-states and reducing non-tariff barriers such as customs, quarantine, standards and transport services; and create large projects on economic and technological cooperation, giving priority to those in transportation, energy, telecommunication, agriculture, home appliances, light industry and textiles.”19

Apart from the main members of the SCO, there are also countries which are permitted Observer Status, meaning they won’t take part in the war games, but will be official observers of them and still develop closer ties with the SCO. As the Guardian reported in 2006, “At the one day annual summit of the six-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) on June 15, more limelight fell on the leader of an observer country than on any of the main participants. That figure happened to be the controversial president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Despite the lowly observer status accorded to his country, Ahmadinejad went on to publicly invite the SCO members to a meeting in Tehran to discuss energy exploration and development in the region. And the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, proposed that the SCO should form an ‘energy club’. While making a plea that his country should be accorded full membership of the SCO, the Pakistani president, Parvez Musharraf, highlighted the geo-strategic position of his country as an energy and trade corridor for SCO members. ‘Pakistan provides a natural link between the SCO states to connect the Eurasian heartland with the Arabian Sea and South Asia,’ he said,” and the article continued, “Founded in 1996 primarily to settle frontier problems between China and its post-Soviet neighbors – Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan – the SCO expanded three years later to include Uzbekistan, which does not share common borders with China or Russia, the two countries at the core of the SCO. Since then SCO has developed as an organization concerned with regional security, thus focusing on counter-terrorism, defense, and energy cooperation. Energy-hungry China has its eyes fixed on the large oil and gas reserves that Russia and Kazakhstan possess, and even the modest gas reserves of Uzbekistan.” The article further mentioned that, “Iran applied for full membership; as did India,” as well as the fact that, “Last year [2005] when the SCO accorded observer status to four countries, it rejected a similar request from the United States,” and it continued, “The rising importance and coherence of the SCO worries Washington – as well as its closest Asian ally, Japan. ‘The SCO is becoming a rival block to the US alliance,’ said a senior Japanese official recently. ‘It does not share our values. We are watching it very closely’.”20

Further, it was reported in April of 2006 by the Asia Times that, “The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which maintained it had no plans for expansion, is now changing course. Mongolia, Iran, India and Pakistan, which previously had observer status, will become full members. SCO’s decision to welcome Iran into its fold constitutes a political statement. Conceivably, SCO would now proceed to adopt a common position on the Iran nuclear issue at its summit meeting June 15,” and that, “Visiting Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mohammadi told Itar-TASS in Moscow that the membership expansion ‘could make the world more fair’. And he spoke of building an Iran-Russia ‘gas-and-oil arc’ by coordinating their activities as energy producing countries. Mohammadi also touched on Iran’s intention to raise the issue of his country’s nuclear program and its expectations of securing SCO support.”21 Although, to this day, Iran’s membership has not been made official, making it a de-facto member of the SCO, much in the same sense that Israel is a de-facto member of NATO.22

In August of 2007, it was reported that, “Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said the proposed US missile defense shield in central Europe would pose a threat to Asia. At a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, Ahmadinejad said such a plan goes beyond threatening one country and it is a source of concern for most of the continent. Washington is planning to station a radar station in the Czech Republic and interceptor missiles in Poland. Ahmadinejad added the six SCO member states, including China, are among those countries who are threatened by the US plan. He also criticized the US military attack on Iraq, which has destabilized the entire region. Iran has observer status in the SCO, which groups China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.”23

As for the relationship between China and Iran, it was reported in 2006 that, “Chinese President Hu Jintao called Friday for closer ties with Iran as he met his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for the first time, while the United States followed events in Shanghai warily,” and that, “China and Iran have long had close economic ties, especially in the oil and gas fields, and are in negotiations over an energy deal that was tentatively inked in 2004 and could be worth more than 100 billion dollars. As part of the initial memorandum of understanding, Sinopec, China’s largest refiner, would buy 250 million tons of liquefied natural gas over 25 years, which alone could be worth more than 100 billion dollars. However, despite a series of Chinese delegations going to Tehran, the deal has yet to be finalized. Ahmadinejad arrived in China on Wednesday to participate in the leaders’ summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a regional forum that is increasingly being seen as a counterweight to US influence in Central Asia.”24

As we can see, this is not simply a strategy of Anglo-American interests at play in the region, as it is always necessary to take a look at the broader geopolitical implications of this region, especially in relation to the European Union, dominated by the Franco-German Entente, and most notably Russia and China. A competition for control of the region is very much underway, as whomever, or whichever powers control Central Eurasia (the Middle East and Central Asia); those same powers will then have control over the world’s primary oil and gas reserves and transportation, and thusly, will exert hegemonic influence over the entire world. With Russia, increasingly gaining strength and influence like never before since the fall of the Soviet Union, China, a rising world power whose thirst and demand for oil is the fastest growing in the world and whose future as a great power depends upon getting its hands on such resources, and with the European Union, a close ally of the Anglo-American Alliance, yet still has its own interests at heart so it, too, is increasingly attempting a relationship with Russia, which has massive natural gas reserves itself. The EU hopes to balance its relationships, so as to always remain on the winning end, however, as time goes forward, it may have to choose sides. Relations between the West, especially the Anglo-Americans, and the former Soviet Union grow tense, the EU may be caught in the middle and China forced to make strategic alliances.

It is clear that future military operations in Central Asia and the Middle East will not be like the previous occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, whereas Afghanistan remains under NATO control (the Anglo-American Alliance in collaboration with the Franco-German entente), and Iraq under Anglo-American occupation, but with little more than rhetorical opposition from observing countries around the world. The world accepted the occupation of Afghanistan under the guise of retribution for the 9/11 attacks, and the world stood by as Iraq was put under imperial control. But now the pieces have been set, the world sees the strategy, even though the general public may not, and other great powers have their fates vested in the region, such as Russia, China, the EU and most of the world at large, so to stand idly by now and do nothing as Anglo-American imperial expansion envelopes the entire region would be suicidal. It is in the interest of survival for Russia, China and the EU to maintain influence and control in the region. To do this, each will have to make strategic alliances, as is currently being done.

These activities have caused recent exclamations of a return to the Cold War era, however, I see it as something much more sinister and dangerous. Remember, the Cold War was referred to as “Cold” because it involved no actual fighting between the two main enemies, the United States and the USSR, or the NATO countries against the Warsaw Pact countries. In actuality, I would argue that what we are seeing take place is in fact a return not to the Cold War, but to the Great Game, which was the competition between the British Empire and the Russian Empire for supremacy in Central Asia from the early 1800s arguably up until the end of World War 2, when the Cold War began. One of the major theaters of war between Britain and Russia during the Great Game was Afghanistan, where the first Anglo-Afghan War began in 1838, the Second Anglo-Afghan War in 1878, a brief alliance occurred between Russia and Britain in the early 20th Century, then the Third Anglo-Afghan War occurred in 1919, otherwise known as the second phase of the Great Game. During the Cold War, or the third phase of the Great Game, Afghanistan was the major theater of operations between the United States (Anglo-Americans) and Russia (Soviet Union) from the late 1970s to the late 1980s, ultimately leading to a collapse of the Soviet Union and an end to the ‘Cold War’. Now, after another brief alliance between the Anglo-American Alliance and Russia, just as occurred in the early years of the previous century starting in 1907, leading up to World War 1, it seems that now, in 2007, the fourth phase of this 200-year long Great Game for dominance over Central Asia has begun. Now made all the more dangerous with other great power interests such as the European Union and rising China, not to mention the existence and discussion of the use of nuclear weapons.

Rising Tensions and Quiet Mentions of War

Lately, there has been a significant increase in tensions between the West, predominantly the Anglo-Americans and Iran, and its respective allies, namely, Syria. These escalations in tension and conflict suggest a rapid strategy of progression to an all out war on the Islamic Republic of Iran, and possibly a wider array of countries in the region, leading to a full region-wide war.

In late August of 2007, the Sunday Telegraph reported that, “The White House’s plans to designate Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist organisation are intended to give the Bush administration cover if it launches military strikes on the Islamic republic, according to a prominent former CIA officer. Robert Baer, who was a high-ranking operative in the Middle East, said last week that senior government officials had told him the administration was preparing for air strikes on the guards’ bases and probably also on Iran’s nuclear facilities within the next six months,” and the article continues, “But among President George W Bush’s closest advisers, there is a fierce debate about whether to take unilateral military action independently of any UN security council moves. While Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is set on diplomacy, Vice-President Dick Cheney is understood to favour air strikes. The justification for any attack, according to Mr Baer, would be claims – denied by Iran – that the guards are responsible for the sophisticated armour-penetrating improvised explosive devices that are exacting a heavy toll on US forces in Iraq.”25

On September 2, 2007, the Sunday Times reported that, “The Pentagon has drawn up plans for massive airstrikes against 1,200 targets in Iran, designed to annihilate the Iranians’ military capability in three days, according to a national security expert. Alexis Debat, director of terrorism and national security at the Nixon Center, said last week that US military planners were not preparing for ‘pinprick strikes’ against Iran’s nuclear facilities. ‘They’re about taking out the entire Iranian military’,” and it continued, “President George Bush intensified the rhetoric against Iran last week, accusing Tehran of putting the Middle East ‘under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust’. He warned that the US and its allies would confront Iran ‘before it is too late’.”26

A September 3 article in the Sunday Telegraph stated, “In a nondescript room, two blocks from the American Capitol building, a group of Bush administration staffers is gathered to consider the gravest threat their government has faced this century: the testing of a nuclear weapon by Iran. The United States, no longer prepared to tolerate the risk that Iranian nuclear weapons will be used against Israel, or passed to terrorists, has already launched a bombing campaign to destroy known Iranian nuclear sites, air bases and air defence sites. Iran has retaliated by cutting off oil to America and its allies, blockading the Straits of Hormuz, the Persian Gulf bottleneck, and sanctioned an uprising by Shia militias in southern Iraq that has shut down 60 per cent of Iraq’s oil exports. The job of the officials from the Pentagon, the State Department, and the Departments of Homeland Security and Energy, who have gathered in an office just off Massachusetts Avenue, behind the rail terminus, Union Station, is to prevent a spike in oil prices that will pitch the world’s economy into a catastrophic spin.” The article then said, “The good news is that this was a war game; for those who fear war with Iran, the less happy news is that the officials were real. The simulation, which took four months, was run by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank with close links to the White House. Its conclusions, drawn up last month and seen by The Sunday Telegraph, have been passed on to military and civilian planners charged with drawing up plans for confronting Iran. News that elements of the American government are working in earnest on how to deal with the fallout of an attack on Iran come at a tense moment.”27

A report in the Sunday Telegraph stated that, “Senior American intelligence and defence officials believe that President George W Bush and his inner circle are taking steps to place America on the path to war with Iran, The Sunday Telegraph has learnt. Pentagon planners have developed a list of up to 2,000 bombing targets in Iran, amid growing fears among serving officers that diplomatic efforts to slow Iran’s nuclear weapons programme are doomed to fail. Pentagon and CIA officers say they believe that the White House has begun a carefully calibrated programme of escalation that could lead to a military showdown with Iran,” and that, “Now it has emerged that Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, who has been pushing for a diplomatic solution, is prepared to settle her differences with Vice-President Dick Cheney and sanction military action. In a chilling scenario of how war might come, a senior intelligence officer warned that public denunciation of Iranian meddling in Iraq – arming and training militants – would lead to cross border raids on Iranian training camps and bomb factories. A prime target would be the Fajr base run by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Quds Force in southern Iran, where Western intelligence agencies say armour-piercing projectiles used against British and US troops are manufactured.” The article continued, “US action would provoke a major Iranian response, perhaps in the form of moves to cut off Gulf oil supplies, providing a trigger for air strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities and even its armed forces. Senior officials believe Mr Bush’s inner circle has decided he does not want to leave office without first ensuring that Iran is not capable of developing a nuclear weapon.”28

The New Yorker Magazine reported in late August of 2007 that, “If there were a threat level on the possibility of war with Iran, it might have just gone up to orange. Barnett Rubin, the highly respected Afghanistan expert at New York University, has written an account of a conversation with a friend who has connections to someone at a neoconservative institution in Washington,” which revealed that, “They [the source’s institution] have ‘instructions’ (yes, that was the word used) from the Office of the Vice-President [Dick Cheney] to roll out a campaign for war with Iran in the week after Labor Day; it will be coordinated with the American Enterprise Institute, the Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard, Commentary, Fox, and the usual suspects. It will be heavy sustained assault on the airwaves, designed to knock public sentiment into a position from which a war can be maintained. Evidently they don’t think they’ll ever get majority support for this—they want something like 35-40 percent support, which in their book is ‘plenty’,” and it continued stating, “It follows the pattern of the P.R. campaign that started around this time in 2002 and led to the Iraq war. The President’s rhetoric on Iran has been nothing short of bellicose lately, warning of ‘the shadow of a nuclear holocaust’.”29

On September 10, Reuters reported that, “The Pentagon is preparing to build a military base near the Iraq-Iran border to try to curtail the flow of advanced Iranian weaponry to Shiite militants across Iraq, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday in its online edition. Quoting Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, the commander of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, the Journal said the Pentagon also plans to build fortified checkpoints on major highways leading from the Iranian border to Baghdad, and install X-ray machines and explosives-detecting sensors at the only formal border crossing between the two countries.”30 On the same day, the Sunday Telegraph reported that, “Iran has established a sophisticated spying operation at the head of the Arabian Gulf in a move which has significantly heightened tensions in its standoff with the United States. The operation, masterminded by the country’s elite Revolutionary Guard, includes the construction of a high-tech spying post close to the point where Iranian forces kidnapped 15 British naval personnel in March. The move has forced British and American commanders to divert resources away from protecting oil platforms in the Gulf from terrorist attack and into countering the new Iranian threat,” and it continued, “The US military says that the spying post, built on the foundations of a crane platform sunk during the Iran-Iraq war, is equipped with radar, cameras and forward facing infra-red devices to track the movement of coalition naval forces and commercial shipping in the northern Arabian Gulf. Commanders fear that one of the main purposes of the Iranian operation is to enable the Revolutionary Guard to intercept more coalition vessels moving through the disputed waters near the mouth of the Shatt al Arab waterway south of the Iraqi city of Basra.”31

Incidentally, two days later, Raw Story ran an article stating, “As tensions between the United States and Iran increases, military action along the Iran-Iraq border intensifies. The latest moves come from America’s primary ally in its invasion of Iraq: Britain. Ostensibly to guard against importation of Iranian weapons and fighters targeting Western troops in Iraq, the UK is sending up to 350 troops to the Iranian border instead of bringing them home, The Independent of London reports Wednesday.” This follows much discussion recently that the UK, under the new unelected Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, was preparing to withdraw from Iraq, leaving the US alone. In fact, the announcement had been made that British troops were to be returning home from Basra, the British-controlled Iraqi city, and as Raw Story pointed out, “The troop move was requested by US commanders, the paper says, and it will delay — perhaps indefinitely — the homecoming of 250 British troops who were told just days ago that they would be returning to the UK as part of a drawdown of forces in Iraq,” and that “Prime Minister Gordon Brown initiated the drawdown, and about 500 British troops completed their withdrawal from Basra Palace, their last remaining base in the city, to an airport on the city’s outskirts. The move was expected to be the final stage in Britain’s complete extraction from Iraq. Wednesday’s report follows on the heels of news that US troops would be establishing a base on the border to guard against Iranian-imported weapons.

Tensions between the US and Iran have gone from bad to dismal in recent years, with some fearing all-out war will erupt between the two countries, and the top US commander in Iraq has refused to rule out that possibility. US Army Gen. David Petraeus demurred Tuesday when he was asked by Sen. Joseph Lieberman whether the war should be expanded ‘in Iranian territory.’ And Petraeus ‘strongly implied’ that action against Iran would be necessary soon, The Independent reported.” On top of this, it was further pointed out that, “Along with British and US troops, Georgia recently sent about 1,200 extra troops to Iraq to patrol the border with Iran.”32

Further, Press TV reported that, “Britain is planning to increase its naval presence in the Persian Gulf by next year, a top British naval commander in the area has revealed. Deputy Combined Force Commander Royal Navy Commodore Keith Winstanley said Monday that Britain has a range of capabilities deployed at various times in the region ranging between submarines, frigates, and destroyers, and that it plans to increase its naval presence by 2008,” and that, “Winstanley, speaking onboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard, added that strategic and economic interests had brought about a policy of engagement by Britain in the region,” and the article said at the end, “The last time there were active mine counter-measures in the region was in March of 2003,”33 which, coincidentally, was the same month that the war in Iraq began.

Not only are the Anglo-Americans fully on board and preparing for a possible attack on Iran, but even the Franco-German Entente seems to be steadily leaning that direction. French President Nicholas Sarkozy made headlines recently when he “called Iran’s nuclear ambition the world’s most dangerous problem,” and further, “raised the possibility that the country could be bombed if it persisted in building an atomic weapon,” as reported by the Sunday Times. The article continued, “The biggest challenge to the world was the avoidance of conflict between Islam and the West, President Sarkozy told the annual gathering of French ambassadors. Iran was the crossroads of the Middle East’s troubles and its nuclear aims ‘are without doubt the most serious crisis that weighs today on the international scene,” and that, “A nuclear-armed Iran would be unacceptable and the world must continue to tighten sanctions while offering incentives to Tehran to halt weapons development, he said. ‘This initiative is the only one that can enable us to escape an alternative that I say is catastrophic: the Iranian bomb or the bombing of Iran,’ he said. He did not say who would carry out such an attack, which has been suggested by policy experts in Israel and the US.”34 Further, it was reported that, “French Defence Minister Herve Morin warned on Sunday that Iran’s nuclear programme posed a ‘major risk’ to the stability of the Gulf region. ‘It is necessary to make Iran understand that the nuclear risk creates a major risk of destabilising the region,’ Morin told journalists as he wrapped up a visit to the Gulf state of Qatar.”35

On September 14, it was reported that, “Germany denied on Friday that it wanted to hold off on sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme. The government dismissed a report on the US TV channel Fox that it had broken ranks with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and wanted to delay any sanctions to allow a deal struck between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency on August 21 to take effect,” and it continued, quoting the German foreign ministry spokesman, “Germany is prepared to take the necessary steps against Iran, if necessary,” and that, “The five permanent Security Council members — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — plus Germany are due to meet to discuss a new draft UN resolution on sanctions against Iran on September 21 in Washington. Iran maintains that its nuclear programme is aimed at generating electricity but the United States accuses Tehran of covertly developing atomic weapons.”36

Another conflict, which is directly related to the growing Iranian conflict, has been accumulating significance in the region, as it was reported that, “Syria accused Israel of bombing its territory on Thursday [September 6] and said it could respond to the Jewish state’s ‘aggression and treachery’,” and further, “Israel declined to comment on the charge by Syria, which said no casualties or damage were caused. The Syrian accusation was partly responsible for triggering a rise in world oil prices of more than $1.40 a barrel.”37 Another report stated that, “Syria is mulling a ‘series of responses’ after Israeli warplanes violated its airspace this week, Vice President Faruq al-Shara said in an interview with an Italian newspaper published Saturday. ‘I can say now that in Damascus a series of responses is being examined at the highest political and military levels. The results will not take long in coming’.”38

Press TV reported that, “Syria says Israel is planning to wage another war in the region after the Israeli army staged military exercises on the Golan Heights. The state-run Syrian daily al-Thawra said on Sunday that a recent war game by the Israeli military on the occupied Golan Heights has sent a clear message reflecting Israel’s intention for waging a new war in the region.”39 Another report states that, “Tehran has announced its readiness to assist Damascus by all means to counter the violation of Syrian airspace by Israeli warplanes. Iran’s ambassador to Syria, Mohammad-Hassan Akhtari said the Zionist Regime’s provocative moves had prompted Tehran to offer help to the Syrian government. Earlier Thursday, Syria’s official News Agency reported that several Israeli fighter jets had bombed Syrian territories. However, the Syrian army successfully forced the Israeli warplanes out of the Syrian airspace.”40

A September 12 report stated that, “Israel recently carried out reconnaissance flights over Syria, taking pictures of possible nuclear installations that Israeli officials believed might have been supplied with material from North Korea, The New York Times reported Thursday. A US administration official said Israeli officials believed that North Korea might be unloading some of its nuclear material on Syria, the Times reported,” and it quoted an unnamed official, stating, “The Israelis think North Korea is selling to Iran and Syria what little they have left,” and the article further said, “A US defense official confirmed Tuesday that Israel carried out an air strike well inside Syria last week, apparently to send Damascus a message not to rearm Hezbollah in Lebanon. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, did not know the target of the strike, which was conducted Thursday, but said the US military believed it was to send a message to the Syrians.”41

The Sunday Times later reported that, “It was just after midnight when the 69th Squadron of Israeli F15Is crossed the Syrian coast-line. On the ground, Syria’s formidable air defences went dead. An audacious raid on a Syrian target 50 miles from the Iraqi border was under way,” and that, “Ten days after the jets reached home, their mission was the focus of intense speculation this weekend amid claims that Israel believed it had destroyed a cache of nuclear materials from North Korea,” and it continued, “The Syrians were also keeping mum. ‘I cannot reveal the details,’ said Farouk al-Sharaa, the vice-president. ‘All I can say is the military and political echelon is looking into a series of responses as we speak. Results are forthcoming.’ The official story that the target comprised weapons destined for Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Lebanese Shi’ite group, appeared to be crumbling in the face of widespread scepticism.

Andrew Semmel, a senior US State Department official, said Syria might have obtained nuclear equipment from ‘secret suppliers’, and added that there were a ‘number of foreign technicians’ in the country. Asked if they could be North Korean, he replied: ‘There are North Korean people there. There’s no question about that’,” and further, “According to Israeli sources, preparations for the attack had been going on since late spring, when Meir Dagan, the head of Mossad, presented Olmert with evidence that Syria was seeking to buy a nuclear device from North Korea.”42
It was then reported that, “An official Syrian daily warned on Sunday that US ‘lies’ over nuclear cooperation with North Korea could serve as a pretext for an attack on Syria following an Israeli violation of its airspace,” and that, “Syria has said its air defences fired on Israeli warplanes which dropped munitions deep inside its territory in the early hours of September 6, triggering intense media speculation about the action. Israel has not confirmed the incident and kept up a policy of official silence, with the only details on the mysterious attack coming from foreign media reports citing anonymous officials.”43

Call It What You Want, It’s All Just a Game

As the prospect of a US-led war on Iran increases by the day, it is vital to understand the history of such actions. This was my intent in writing this essay, as to understand current crises and conflicts evolving in the region, it is important to examine the historical context of such crises over the past 200 years. Dating from the Great Game between the British and Russian empires for control of Central Eurasia, namely fighting for control in Afghanistan and Iran, the reasons behind the Great Game were simply stated as for maintaining hegemonic control. With brief alliances generating between Britain and Russia, formed for strategic conveniences, namely to counter rising German influence in the region in the lead up to World War 1 and during World War 2, the Great Game continued after the Second World War under a different name, the Cold War. For a new century, it was necessary to give a hundred year old strategy a new name, as especially after World War 2, the concepts of hegemony and expansion of control, imperialism in general, were not well received, considering the world just came out of Hitler’s attempt at such a strategy. In 1947, India gained independence from the British Empire, instigating the collapse of its imperial hegemony across the globe.

It was at this time, however, that the United States was now in the most pivotal position to exert its hegemony across the globe. With its extensive ties to Great Britain, the British latched onto the Americans in the Anglo-American Alliance, allowing not only for the US to protect US hegemony and interests abroad, but also British. To do this, however, there needed to be an excuse, as the world would not accept another global hegemon for the sake of hegemony. Thus, the Cold War came into being. Under the guise of deterring the spread of Communism under the auspices of the ‘Domino Theory’, the US managed to expand and protect Anglo-American hegemony around the globe. The Cold War was simply the third phase of the Great Game, as it applied the same strategies used for the previous hundred years, just under a new name and justified under a new threat.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, bringing an end to the Cold War, a New World Order began to form, the birth pangs of which were felt in the Middle East. This New World Order of creating a new global structure, of a more integrated global society, still has many conflicts arising out of it. After World War 1, the League of Nations was created in the hopes of securing a more integrated global community, which ultimately failed with the start of World War 2, after which the United Nations was created to serve the same purpose. Out of each world war, we see the move to create a more global society. Now, after the Cold War ended, we have a new conflict arising between the West and the East. This new conflict is about gaining supremacy in the New World Order, as many great powers seek to sway the balance away from a US-dominated New World Order, and towards a Russian or Chinese New World Order.

In the year 2000, then Chinese President, “Jiang Zemin called for joint efforts of the people of all countries to establish a fair and equitable new international political and economic order,” and he further stated, “With the collapse of the centuries-long colonialist system and the end of half-a-century Cold War, it has become increasingly difficult for hegemonism and power politics to go on and for the very few big powers or blocs of big powers to monopolize international affairs and control the fate of other countries.”44 In 2005, both China and Russia “issued a joint statement on a new world order in the 21st century, setting forth their common stand on major international issues, such as UN reforms, globalization, North-South cooperation, and world economy and trade. The statement was signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin and visiting Chinese President Hu Jintao after their talks. During their talks, the two leaders discussed ways to further enhance the strategic and cooperative partnership between China and Russia, and exchanged views on major regional and international issues,” and that “The joint statement said the two countries are determined to strengthen their strategic coordination in international affairs.”45 More recently, in 2007, Russian President Vladimir Putin called “for a radical overhaul of the world’s financial and trade institutions to reflect the growing economic power of emerging market countries – including Russia. Mr Putin said the world needed to create a new international financial architecture to replace an existing model,” and as the Financial Times further reported, Putin’s “apparent challenge to western dominance of the world economic order came at a forum in St Petersburg designed to showcase the country’s economic recovery. Among 6,000 delegates at the biggest business forum ever held in post-Soviet Russia were scores of international chief executives including heads of Deutsche Bank, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Nestlé, Chevron, Siemens and Coca-Cola. Business deals worth more than $4bn were signed at the conference – including an order by Aeroflot for Boeing jets – as executives said they were continuing to invest in Russia despite deteriorating relations with the west. Mr Putin’s hosting of the forum capped a week in which he dominated the international stage. He warned last Monday that Russia might target nuclear missiles at Europe if the US built a missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic,” and Putin’s “speech on financial institutions suggested that, along with an aggressive recent campaign against US ‘unilateralism’ in foreign policy, he was also seeking to challenge western dominance of the world economic order.”46

So clearly, from this last statement especially, we can see that both China and Russia are not opposed to forming a New World Order, which would be largely based on international institutions and integration, both economically and politically, but they are opposed to the West’s dominance of such a world order, and instead, seek to challenge that dominance with their own. Ultimately, the goals are similar, but the methods of getting there is where the West and the East differ. As the above Financial Times article mentioned, large global corporations are still investing in Russia, despite recent setbacks in certain areas, which shows the support for the process of globalization, which has thusly shaped the current world order. International corporations have no allegiance to people or national identities, but rather seek to exert their control across the entire globe, and will support any nations with great influence, so that with the battle for control in shaping the New World Order, the corporations will always be on the winning side. As the multinational corporations seek a more integrated global society, they must first gain control of the world markets, integrating the economies first. With economic integration, political and cultural will follow. The challenge for the great powers of the world is which ones will be dominant in this process, and thusly, which ones will have dominant control over the New World Order.

Out of conflict, comes societal reorganization. We seem to rapidly be heading toward another World War, which would have its starting point with an attack on Iran. Talk of a ‘new Cold War’ is misleading, as if any conflict occurs with Iran, if the US attacks the Islamic Republic, there will be nothing Cold about it. This new conflict, the fourth phase of the Great Game, will give rise to competition between the great powers for control over the Middle East and Central Eurasia in order to achieve hegemony in the New World Order. It is likely that a New Great Game will lead to a New World War, out of which will rise the New World Order. Whichever great powers come out of the next war as the victors, if indeed there are any, it is likely that it will be that power which will lead the New World Order.

As I have mentioned Zbigniew Brzezinski much in this essay, as his relevance to American hegemonic strategy is almost unparalleled, apart from other figures like Henry Kissinger, I feel it is relevant to end with a discussion on testimony that Brzezinski recently gave to the US Senate. In February of 2007, Brzezinski, “the national security adviser in the Carter administration, delivered a scathing critique of the war in Iraq and warned that the Bush administration’s policy was leading inevitably to a war with Iran, with incalculable consequences for US imperialism in the Middle East and internationally,” and Brzezinski was quoted as saying about the Iraq war, “Undertaken under false assumptions, it is undermining America’s global legitimacy. Its collateral civilian casualties as well as some abuses are tarnishing America’s moral credentials. Driven by Manichean principles and imperial hubris, it is intensifying regional instability,” and he continued, describing what he termed a “plausible scenario for a military collision with Iran”, of which he said would involve, “Iraqi failure to meet the benchmarks, followed by accusations of Iranian responsibility for the failure, then by some provocation in Iraq or a terrorist act in the US blamed on Iran, culminating in a ‘defensive’ US military action against Iran that plunges a lonely America into a spreading and deepening quagmire eventually ranging across Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan.” [Emphasis added].47

Brzezinski’s startling warning should not be taken for granted. Even though many factions of the ruling class are divided, for example someone like Brzezinski, who is very much opposed to the neo-conservatives, they are all still playing the same game. The game is hegemony and empire, the only difference is that some people and some countries have different methods of playing. In previous centuries, the battle for control of Central Eurasia was called what it was, the Great Game, a game for control, a game for power. The difference between two hundred years ago and today, is that we are in a much more globalized, integrated society, which has turned this Great game into, as Brzezinski aptly named his blueprint for American hegemony, the Grand Chessboard. It’s no longer simply just a great game, but is now simply a board game for the global ruling class. Sacrificing pawns, a simple act for them, can be seen in the eyes of the moral society as the destruction of entire nations and peoples.

There’s only so many players in this game, and they all have the same aim, just different methods of getting there. The unfortunate aspect of this, is that the people of the world are being tossed around like pawns in a chess game. The world is meant for all people, not just a select few, to inhabit and have a say in. So, if these people want to play games, let’s put them back in the playground, because their mentality has yet to surpass that of children during recess.

Mahatma Gandhi, the man who led India to independence from the British Empire, once said, “Remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible but in the end, they always fall — think of it, ALWAYS.”

Notes

Andrew G. Marshall is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Global Research Articles by Andrew G. Marshall

see
Imperial Playground: Marching East of Iraq by Andrew G. Marshall

Imperial Playground: The Story of Iran in Recent History by Andrew G. Marshall

The New World Order, Forged in the Gulf by Andrew G. Marshall

Attacking Iran for Israel? By Ray McGovern

The CRG grants permission to cross-post original Global Research articles on community internet sites as long as the text & title are not modified. The source and the author’s copyright must be displayed. For publication of Global Research articles in print or other forms including commercial internet sites, contact: crgeditor@yahoo.com

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The March to War: NATO Preparing for War with Serbia? by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya

October 19, 2007

The March to War: NATO Preparing for War with Serbia? by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya

by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya
Global Research, October 19, 2007

Today in the globalized realm of international relations everything is interlinked. Eurasia is all but a giant jigsaw in name. Two opposite forces are creating a synthesis. This state is a result of the dynamic and static pushes to infiltrate the Eurasian Heartland and those opposed to the American-led drive of infiltration, the Eurasian reactionary outward counter-drive.

A Second Kosovo War Scenario against Serbia: NATO’s Noble Midas 2007

NATO has performed military exercises based on the scenario of a military conflict in an unnamed breakaway province in the Balkans. [1]  The breakaway province is clearly the predominately Albanian inhabited Serbian province of Kosovo. The exercises took place from September 27 till October 12, 2007 in the Adriatic Sea and Croatia according to the NATO Public Information Office in Naples, Italy. [2] The exercise was inaugurated as a “peace enforcement exercise” in the Adriatic Sea. [3]

The problems that have arisen between Kosovar Albanians and Serbia have been problems that have been mostly fueled by NATO powers. In fact the issue of full independence was not a problem between Serbia and the Kosovar Albanians before 1999. Kosovo’s Albanians also enjoyed autonomy from Belgrade for many years. It has only been under the influence of NATO that animosity has been raised between the two sides.

Croatia and Albania have also participating in the NATO exercise and both are projected to have roles in any future war against Serbia and its regional allies and supporters inside Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro over the fate of Kosovo. Many Croats are also unhappy about their government’s decision to coordinate or cooperate with NATO, which they view with suspicion and as a destabilizing force in the Balkans.

According to a NATO press release, “Approximately 2,000 military and 50 civilian personnel, over 30 ships and submarines and 20 fixed-wing aircraft from NATO and the Croatian Armed Forces will train together in a Crisis Response Operation scenario, where NATO is appointed by the U.N. to build up an immediate reaction in a fictitious country on the brink of civil war.” [4]

It is clear that NATO intends to settle the issue of Kosovo through military means. Rear-Admiral Alain Hinden, the French commandant of the NATO exercise has made a statement that is a dead giveaway about the underlying intentions of NATO in regards to the exercise: “This exercise has been designed for years. The U.N. and NATO are training for this type of real intervention, of humanitarian assistance be it in this region [the Balkans] or anywhere else in the world.” [5]

NATO Military Integration: Preparing the World for a Broader War?

According to the British Broadcasting Service (BBC), “With the military forces of Western [meaning NATO] nations stretched, particularly those of the U.S. and U.K. [in Iraq and Afghanistan], flexibility and adaptability are becoming increasingly important.” [6]

Commander Cunningham, a British naval officer, aboard the H.M.S. Illustrious in the Adriatic Sea, off the coastline of the former Yugoslavia and Albania, has told the BBC’s Nick Hawton that “integrating [NATO] forces at this level has simply not happened before.” [7]

Commander Cunningham also clarified how NATO forces are being merged: “Military equipment is hugely expensive and it’s impossible for each nation to hold individually the whole repertoire. What we’re seeing here is the ability of several nations to provide a capability together that no-one could alone.” [8]

The BBC also quotes Lieutenant Eduardo Lopez, a Spanish air officer or pilot, as saying “right now all these countries [meaning NATO members] are working together. You realise you can operate as a joint force community…” [9]

NATO is clearly pooling its resources together; but what for? The answer lies eastward in the Eurasian Heartland where Russia, Iran, China, and their allies have gradually huddled together in sculpting a far larger Eurasian counter-alliance.

A new cycle of global war seems to be in the works for the Twenty-First Century. According to various reports in Russia approximately a quarter of the population believe that Russia and the U.S. will eventually go to war in the future.  In China there are also similar views amongst the population.

Kosovo and Monetary Colonization

The euro is officially shared by thirteen E.U. members and their dependencies. However, it is also used by Montenegro and Kosovo too.

In a divulging statement Amelia Torres, an E.U. spokeswoman, claimed that the E.U. opposed currency “euro-ization” in other states unless they join the European Union: “The conditions for the adoption of the euro are clear,” she told reporters. “That means, first and foremost, to be a member of the EU.” [10]

The fate of Kosovo under this declaration in the eyes of the E.U. is clear. It should also be noted that it has been under the presence of NATO troops and both U.S. and E.U. officials that Kosovo adopted the euro as its currency.

A Dangerous International Trend: World War in the Horizon?

As tensions rise over Kosovo in the Balkans, tensions between Russia and China with the U.S. and NATO are also rising in regards to Iran and other countries and issues. From Myanmar (Burma) and the Korean Peninsula to Sudan and the Balkans, the U.S. and its allies are facing-off against Russia, China, and their allies. The Persian Gulf and the Levant are also two of these fronts where Iran and Syria are opposing the encroachment of the U.S. and NATO.

The SCO and the CSTO alliance have also signed an October 2007 defence agreement which formalizes the existence of a Sino-Russian military bloc from Eastern Europe to the Pacific shorelines of Asia. [11] All the members of CSTO, with the exception of Belarus and Armenia, are members of the SCO. China is now a semi-formal CSTO member. Russia has also announced that all CSTO members will enjoy internal Russian prices on military hardware. [12]  

The U.S. Secretary of Defence, Robert Gates, has also wrapped up an official tour of Latin America in Suriname. The U.S. is contemplating establishing a base in Suriname, near Venezuela. [13] This is part of a broader effort to encircle and isolate Venezuela and its Latin American allies. The U.S. Secretary of Defence’s tour itinerary also is a giveaway to American intentions in Latin America. His tour included Chile (which borders Bolivia), El Salvador (near Nicaragua), Columbia (next to Venezuela), Peru (bordering both Bolivia and Venezuela), and Suriname.

On Iran’s borders with NATO-garrisoned Afghanistan a new Iranian air base has been built. The Russian News and Information Agency, RIA Novosti, has reported that during the inauguration of the air base the Commander of the Air Force stated “The base is designed to enhance the combat readiness of our Armed Forces in standing up to possible aggression against our country.” [14] Clearly the new Iranian air base is in response to NATO forces in Afghanistan and the U.S. air base built in Afghanistan next to the Iranian border. The U.S. is also building bases on the Iranian border in Iraq and constructing military positions next to the border areas of Russia, China, and Belarus.

The U.S., along with Australia, Canada, Britain, and Guam has also planned large scale war games and anti-terrorist security exercises that involve NORAD, the Pentagon, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The exercise appears to anticipate some form of nuclear reprisals in the continental United States that could be part of a terrorist attack (that may be blamed on Iran) or military attacks from China and Russia. [15]

Vigilant Shield 2008 ties a terrorist attack scenario to the domestic use of the U.S. military within American cities and a broader global war. It is already known from the statements about Vigilant Shield 2007, which was held in 2006, that the U.S. is contemplating a nuclear war against Russia and China, in connection with attacks on Iran. [07]

NOTES

[1] Croatia hosts major Nato exercise, British Broadcasting Service (BBC), October 10, 2007.

[2] NATO NRF Exercises Peace Enforcement in the Adriatic Sea: CC-MAR Press Release {16}, NATO Public Information Office, September 25, 2007 (Updated September 27, 2007).

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Croatia hosts Nato, Op. cit.

[6] Ibid.

[7]
Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] EU warns other nations about using the euro as its currency, Associated Press, October 8, 2007.

[11] Vladimir Radyuhin, Defence pact to balance NATO, The Hindu, October 7, 2007.

[12] CSTO to receive RF weapons at internal prices, ITAR-TASS News Agency, October 6, 2007.

[13] Ivan Cairo, US proposes military site in Suriname, Carribean Net News, October 8, 2007.

[14] Iran builds air base near Afghan border, Russian News and Information Agency (RIA Novosti), October 9, 2007.

[15] Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, Vigilant Shield 2008: Terrorism, Air Defences, and the Domestic Deployment of the US Military, Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG), October 6, 2007; Michel Chossoduvsky, Dangerous Crossroads: US Sponsored War Games, Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG), October 6, 2007.

[16] William A. Arkin, Early Warning: Russia Supports North Korea in Nuclear War, The Washington Post (Opinion Blog), October 6, 2007.

Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya is an independent writer based in Ottawa specializing in Middle Eastern affairs. He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG).

Global Research Articles by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya

We Are in a Bad Fix

October 12, 2007

We Are in a Bad Fix

This is a planet in denial. While the existential question gets a red hot “apocalypse now” for an answer, our stock markets seem to have regained paradise lost.

We are witnessing nothing less than history’s first confluence of unsustainable “peaks.”

Perhaps, we are incapable of piecing them all, for when crude oil reached an all-time intra-day high of $84.10 per barrel on Sept 20, its entitlement to a front pager screamer was conceded to the tale of a few thousand empty — or emptying — American homes.

It was like the Butterfly Effect, with a twist. The flapping rooftops of confiscated homes were now whipping up an economic tsunami worldwide.

Here is how it works.

US mortgage lenders, voracious as ever for “more,” had extended loans to the default-income group, who, were in turn hit by bad economic management. Credit card issuers followed suit to bloat consumer fantasies, and banks tightened the noose with additional loans for cars, tuition and businesses.

In the world of finance, debt is ironically regarded as an “asset.” Think of the rock-solid house that can be repossessed in the event of a default.

Debts, with the outward promise of a steady cash flow, are regularly pooled, “securitized” and converted into a bewildering array of financial products along an upward chain, where, they are hawked off by fund managers to the global market

This money buys up commodities, stocks, and yes, more “securities and derivatives,” along with junk bonds and blue chips.

It was easy come, easy go, wherever the money takes you…a 24/7 electronic casino…a Las Vegas without borders.

London bankers were toasting to the dawn of “the haves and the have yachts” at cocktail parties where sauvé qui peut was the vintage.

One of the greatest scams in recent memory was unfolding, exposing a pyramid scheme of epic proportions.

When this reached the point of metastasis, stock markets began to collapse.

The bottom feeders could not pay up anymore. Even the middle class were finding it difficult to pass the buck upwards.

This is called a liquidity crisis, and it happens when the laws of gravity finally exert a pull on the cash flow.

Still the champagne flowed. Lip-smacking advertorials continued to gush over “securities,” “derivatives,” and “comprehensive financial suites,” set in a Jacuzzi lilting to Ponzi’s version of “money for nothing and chicks for free.”

The pyramids may come crashing down, but the missing capstones are free to roam, investing in gold here, financial products there and junk bonds everywhere.

To avert a panic run though, central banks worldwide pumped $400 billion to maintain liquidity’s equilibrium.

Stock markets were no longer in the bearish or bullish mode; rather they were cancroidal, allowing fund managers to sidewheel from one market to another in search of profits, suckers, and a subtle pullout before the big bang.

It was the dawn of the crab, of cancer in stock market terminology, if one was needed. Suspicions were mounting. European banks were facing insolvency.

For three days beginning Sept. 14, savers across the United Kingdom removed £2 billion ($4 billion) from Northern Rock, Britain’s fifth largest lender. The Bank of England had to step in to guarantee all deposits in all banks — a move with little or no precedence.

However, the banks were not convinced either. Inter-bank lending, which profitably cycled cash from one bank to another as demand dictated, was now deemed an inter-bank debt trap. Available cash was hoarded up.

The Bank of England’s cash auction of £10bn — at a rate of 6.75% over three-months — has been shunned for the third consecutive week.

Either the “have yachts” have sailed away, or banks may actually find it difficult to repay the Bank of England.

Worldwide, the full weight of the “asset-backed” collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) and structured investment vehicles (SIVs) may run into more than the $400 billion which central banks coughed up to keep the system afloat.

CDOs and SIVs are the sleek-sounding trillion-dollar apexes built on loans taken from simple homeowners.

Banks are still tallying what is real and redeemable, and what was created and whirling in thin air. Their best bet now is for a deux ex machina.

Bull in the China Shop

The biggest economic success story of our times was the product of Western consumerism. It created a real supply and demand situation, which forced the relocation of factories to the Third World of cheap labor.

China was the champion recipient. Demand for toys, screws, machinery, computers and cellphones could never ebb, whether it came leaded or unleaded. Beijing’s policymakers decided that the perennial flow of greenbacks demanded a domestic infrastructural revolution dictated by the export market — a first in history if there was one.

Factories, coal-fired plants, superhighways, skyscrapers were springing up at breakneck speed to fulfill the export craze. Excessive pollution and the plight of “unregistered” migrant workers from rural China mattered little.

What mattered were prestige, kickbacks and $1.2tr in hard currency-based reserves. It did not matter that China’s domestic consumption vis a vis its GDP was actually decreasing; it was more a matter of consumer opiates, of who was boss in the center of the universe.

It did not matter that Chinese cities were shrouded in toxic gray, where “only 1 percent of the country’s 560 million city dwellers breathe air considered safe by the European Union.”1

The Chinese may cough but the ‘days when the world caught a cold whenever Uncle Sam sneezed was over.” Or so it seemed.

Uncle Sam sneezed.

Global finance began hemorrhaging, and it had to be resuscitated through an intravenous flow of taxpayer money.

Western consumers finally realized that girths had to be tightened, and what to better way than to curb spending, and let a market correction take place in the import sector.

An entire supply chain leading to China’s factories are in danger of folding up. Mineral resources from Africa, semiconductor plants in Malaysia, raw textile products elsewhere, now face acute market uncertainty.

China is in a bad fix. However, this is not deterring factories from coming online next year to meet the projected “global demand.” If Western consumers are scaling down their purchases, Africans are not in a position to be the replacement buyers, and without a market, they will not be able to sell their raw products either.

In such circumstances, moods can shift. When “Beijing rolled out the red carpet for more than 40 African heads of state last November, billboards depicting Africans clad in leopard skin underwear, and an indigenous man from Papua New Guinea, plastered the city.”2 It is no wonder that China’s list of “allies” is getting shorter by the day.

Events in Myanmar are not proving helpful. China enjoys a near monopoly over Myanmar’s estimated 2.46 trillion cubic meters of gas and 3.2 billion barrels of crude oil. Beijing had plans to develop two parallel oil and gas pipelines stretching 2,380-km to link the deepwater port of Sittwe to Kunming, in the Chinese province of Yunnan. Upon completion, a good portion of Middle Eastern oil and gas is expected to bypass the Straits of Malacca.

The quid pro quo was arms supply and support at the UN for Myanmar’s military junta. Any new government now might negate all existing deals, and pull Yangon into the US orbit. This is a timely revolution from Washington’s perspective.

North Korea too is seeking rapprochement. There is enough operational space now to tackle Tehran, Damascus and the Hezbollah.

China can of course play the spoiler by providing arms to these regimes via a proxy. It is still a bad idea as the Israelis are just itching for war.

The IAF recently destroyed a Syrian installation that was purportedly an embryonic nuclear facility, but may well turn out to be a Kolchuga-type passive radar system, ideal for downing B2 stealth bombers. Coincidentally, the Russians have pledged to upgrade Syrian radar defenses after the attack.

If a wider conflagration breaks out in the Middle East, there will be no oil flowing from the Straits of Hormuz to China, either through Sitte, or through the Straits of Malacca.

The best option for Beijing will be to lock its oil and gas grid to the Russian Far East at a breakneck speed, and clean up some level of air pollution in time for the 2008 Olympics.

If an all-out war in the Middle East is our worst nightmare, think of the following unfolding crises…

The Peak Crises and its plural

Peak Oil: Fossil fuels, compressed and formed over aeons in subterranean geological layers are now releasing the telltale sibilant whispers of a punctured gas tank — low as it was on petrol in the first place. With crude oil hovering above $80 per barrel, the various subsidies built into national economies are bound to burst at the seams, and precipitate price increases for basic necessities.

There is however a unique solution — falling consumer demand worldwide. That would crimp industrial demand for fossil fuel. It is no wonder oil majors were reluctant to build new refineries when profits seemed guaranteed in the era of “peak oil.” This day would surely come!

Peak oil is also tied to the current dollar crises. With the US dollar dipping against other major currencies, crude oil should come cheaper for Washington.

Oil and other commodities are traded in dollars, and dollar-denominated assets outnumber assets weighed in other currencies. Beijing can dump its hundreds of billions in dollar reserves for euros, only to trade them back into dollars to buy crude oil, gold and other assets.

The dollar blackmail will not work, especially with the US Army entrenched in the oil-rich Middle East.

Doomsday theorists are however predicting another Great Depression ahead, where the value of the dollar may mean little in the event of a global financial meltdown.

If this occurs, a global depression will have to deal with the following phenomena that was absent in the 30s.

Peak Urbanization: More than half of the world’s population will live in urban areas in just… a few months, according to a United Nations Population Fund report. That translates to 3.3 billion people in an urban concentration camp of shantytowns and high-rise pigeonholes.

Children are growing up in a peculiarly boxed-in environment, removed from the soil that births their identity. They do not wake up to the sound of a crowing rooster, which is nature’s way of sowing repentance and a turning of mindsets outside the conventional thinking box.

They wake up to beastly clangor instead. It is either the alarm clock or the barking dog, installed as “pets” to yelp any perceived intruder during the morning rush hour. The urban jungle is an industrialized Ziggurat, which pecks out a hierarchy from childhood. The ones right at the bottom will be the ones shouldering more concrete, or the biggest debt burden.

Close human proximity also leads to petty competitiveness and conflict. That is why “civilization” is held at gunpoint; by the police, by the army and by “treaties.”

The urban life is delicate and vulnerable to all sorts of hazards, from plagues to a breakdown in the utilities, communications and transportation services. And political upheavals. A disaster will grind down traffic to a gridlock, far from the escapist countryside.

What if an energy warfare broke out? What if a global depression hits us? Can three billion people grow a patch of greens on their balconies?

When it comes to greens, the outlook is not at all verdant…

Peak Grain: Global grain stockpiles are down to their tightest levels in three decades after two years of unusual weather patterns. Heatwaves have wilted crops in the granaries of the world while floods and other environmental scourges have devastated some of the poorer “self-sustaining” regions.

Global wheat stockpiles will fall to a 34-year low by June 2008, according to the International Grains Council. U.S. stockpiles will fall to lowest level since 1951-52. Wheat futures in Chicago reached $9.3925 a bushel late September when major supplier Ukraine slashed exports.

The price of a bushel has more than doubled in the past year.

The bushel of woes includes rice, barley, soybeans, sorghum, oats and lentils as well, and they are all sagging under record prices. The grapes of wrath have gone on to stalk eggs, cheese, milk, meat and the a la carte menu.

There may come a point when the industrial food chain has little choice but to pass the rising costs to consumers in a dramatic fashion.

Creeping upticks in the price of milk and bread are turning Europeans livid. Milk is now dubbed as the “new white gold.”

It is not just bad weather to blame. Rising demand from China is pushing up prices, despite the fact that only half of its urban population has basic health insurance. Tragically, processed food re-exported through Beijing’s food chain is causing a global health nightmare.

But why pick on China? The current biodiesel craze is inducing farms to purpose-plant their crops for the profitable bioenergy industry, according to the Hamburg-based Oil World.

“It is high time to realise that the world community is approaching a food crisis in 2008 unless usage of agricultural products for biofuels is curbed or ideal weather conditions and sharply higher crop yields are achieved in 2008,” it added

Bad news gets worse.

Peak Water: There is not enough freshwater around to sustain the planet’s inland ecosystem and its human population. Rivers that help supply drinking water are laden with toxic industrial wastes. Population growth is already straining the capacities of water treatment plants worldwide while desalination plants remain the prerogative of wealthy nations. According to the Pacific Institute: “Over 1 billion people don’t have access to clean drinking water; more than 2 billion lack access to adequate sanitation; and millions die every year due to preventable water-related diseases. Water resources around the globe are threatened by climate change, misuse, and pollution.” It estimates that “over 34 million people might perish in the next 20 years from water-related disease — even if the United Nations ‘Millennium Development Goals,’ which aim to cut the proportion of those without safe access by half, are met.”3

Lots of water will be diverted to industries and agriculture, or the highest bidder as privatization of water supply gains currency. In some regions, the situation is so acute that water diversion in one country may precipitate conflict with a neighbor. As early as 1974, Iraq reportedly mobilized its army to target Syria’s al-Thawra dam on the Euphrates. Israel has cast its own eyes on Lebanon’s Litani River.

According to Former UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali: “The next war in the Near (Middle) East will not be about politics, but over water.”

If this watery grave is not enough, think of the next one…

Peak Fish: There is some fishy business going on in our oceans. Like oil and water, we are trawling deeper and deeper for our fish supplies. Such piscatorial adventures have led to a global decline in fish stocks. “Ecologists worry that entire fisheries will collapse as… ‘junk fish’ are used up.” Aquaculture, which substitutes marine catches to an extent, comes with its own environmental problems.4

The Times of London paints a similar gloomy scenario. According to some experts, 90% of fish around British waters “will disappear within 20 years” in the absence of an immediate intervention.

With 75% of fish stocks fully exploited, declining numbers across species worldwide hint at a collapse point by 2048, beyond which replenishment is not possible.

Peak Fish “comes at a time when their nutritional value is recognized more than ever.”

“World Health Organisation officials recommend a weekly intake of 200 to 300 grams of fish each week but today’s catches can only just meet this target. Since the 1950s an estimated 60 per cent of stocks in British waters have collapsed…”

The Times invokes the paradox that “measures proposed to limit fishing to a sustainable level will only place a cap on the nutritional flow for the coming decades.”5

The full circle

What began as sub-prime woes in the US housing sector may ripple into something we cannot yet imagine. Will there be a severe global recession, or worse? If wars are yet contained, bidding wars will yet emerge over wheat, water, fish, medicines and oil. What will the future hold in this ecology of crises?

Here is a refrain from the book of Hosea (4:3):

Because of this the land mourns,
and all who live in it waste away;
the beasts of the field and the birds of the air
and the fish of the sea are dying.

  1. As China Roars, Pollution Reaches Deadly Extremes, NYT, Aug 26, 2007.
  2. Beijing police round up and beat African expats Guardian, September 26, 2007.
  3. Global Water Crisis Pacific Institute.
  4. Water shortages will leave world in dire straits USA Today, 26th Jan 2003.
  5. Fish will vanish from British waters in 20 years, says author Times Online, Sept 15, 2007.

Mathew Maavak can be found online at www.maavak.net Read other articles by Mathew.

The Sino-Russian Alliance: Challenging America’s Ambitions in Eurasia

September 25, 2007

The Sino-Russian Alliance: Challenging America’s Ambitions in Eurasia

Global Research, September 23, 2007

“But if the middle space [Russia and the former Soviet Union] rebuffs the West [the European Union and America], becomes an assertive single entity, and either gains control over the South [Middle East] or forms an alliance with the major Eastern actor [China], then America’s primacy in Eurasia shrinks dramatically. The same would be the case if the two major Eastern players were somehow to unite. Finally, any ejection of America by its Western partners [the Franco-German entente] from its perch on the western periphery [Europe] would automatically spell the end of America’s participation in the game on the Eurasian chessboard, even though that would probably also mean the eventual subordination of the western extremity to a revived player occupying the middle space [e.g. Russia].”

-Zbigniew Brzezinski (The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives, 1997)

 

Sir Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Motion states that “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” These precepts of physics can also be used in the social sciences, specifically with reference to social relations and geo-politics.

America and Britain, the Anglo-American alliance, have engaged in an ambitious project to control global energy resources. Their actions have resulted in a series of complicated reactions, which have established a Eurasian-based coalition which is preparing to challenge the Anglo-American axis.

 

Encircling Russia and China: Anglo-American Global Ambitions Backfire

 

“Today we are witnessing an almost uncontained hyper use of force – military force – in international relations, force that is plunging the world into an abyss of permanent conflicts. As a result we do not have sufficient strength to find a comprehensive solution to any one of these conflicts. Finding a political settlement also becomes impossible. We are seeing a greater and greater disdain for the basic principles of international law. And independent legal norms are, as a matter of fact, coming increasingly closer to one state’s legal system. One state and, of course, first and foremost the United States, has overstepped its national borders in every way.”

 

-Vladimir Putin at the Munich Conference on Security Policy in Germany (February 11, 2007)

 

What American leaders and officials called the “New World Order” is what the Chinese and Russians consider a “Unipolar World.” This is the vision or hallucination, depending on perspective, that has bridged the Sino-Russian divide between Beijing and Moscow.

China and Russia are well aware of the fact that they are targets of the Anglo-American alliance. Their mutual fears of encirclement have brought them together. It is no accident that in the same year that NATO bombarded Yugoslavia, President Jiang Zemin of China and President Boris Yeltsin of Russia made an anticipated joint declaration at a historic summit in December of 1999 that revealed that China and the Russian Federation would join hands to resist the “New World Order.” The seeds for this Sino-Russian declaration were in fact laid in 1996 when both sides declared that they opposed the global imposition of single-state hegemony.

 

Both Jiang Zemin and Boris Yeltsin stated that all nation-states should be treated equally, enjoy security, respect each other’s sovereignty, and most importantly not interfere in the internal affairs of other nation-states. These statements were directed at the U.S. government and its partners.

The Chinese and Russians also called for the establishment of a more equitable economic and political global order. Both nations also indicated that America was behind separatist movements in their respective countries. They also underscored American-led amibitions to balkanize and finlandize the nation-states of Eurasia. Influential Americans such as Zbigniew Brzezinski had already advocated for de-centralizing and eventually dividing up the Russian Federation.

 

Both the Chinese and Russians issued a statement warning that the creation of an international missile shield and the contravention of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM Treaty) would destabilize the international environment and polarize the globe. In 1999, the Chinese and Russians were aware of what was to come and the direction that America was headed towards. In June 2002, less than a year before the onslaught of the “Global War on Terror,” George W. Bush Jr. announced that the U.S. was withdrawing from the ABM Treaty.

On July 24, 2001, less than two months before September 11, 2001, China and Russia signed the Treaty of Good-Neighbourliness and Friendly Cooperation. The latter is a softly worded mutual defence pact against the U.S., NATO, and the U.S. sponsored Asian military network which was surrounding China. [1]

The military pact of the Shanghai Treaty Organization (SCO) also follows the same softly worded format. It is also worth noting that Article 12 of the 2001 Sino-Russian bilateral treaty stipulates that China and Russia will work together to maintain the global strategic balance, “observation of the basic agreements relevant to the safeguard and maintenance of strategic stability,” and “promote the process of nuclear disarmament.” [2] This seems to be an insinuation about a nuclear threat posed from the United States.

 

Standing in the Way of America and Britain: A “Chinese-Russian-Iranian Coalition”

 

As a result of the Anglo-American drive to encircle and ultimately dismantle China and Russia, Moscow and Beijing have joined ranks and the SCO has slowly evolved and emerged in the heart of Eurasia as a powerful international body.

The main objectives of the SCO are defensive in nature. The economic objectives of the SCO are to integrate and unite Eurasian economies against the economic and financial onslaught and manipulation from the “Trilateral” of North America, Western Europe, and Japan, which controls significant portions of the global economy.

The SCO charter was also created, using Western national security jargon, to combat “terrorism, separatism, and extremism.” Terrorist activities, separatist movements, and extremist movements in Russia, China, and Central Asia are all forces traditionally nurtured, funded, armed, and covertly supported by the British and the U.S. governments. Several separatist and extremist groups that have destabilized SCO members even have offices in London.

 

Iran, India, Pakistan, and Mongolia are all SCO observer members. The observer status of Iran in the SCO is misleading. Iran is a de facto member. The observer status is intended to hide the nature of trilateral cooperation between Iran, Russia, and China so that the SCO cannot be labeled and demonized as an anti-American or anti-Western military grouping.

 

The stated interests of China and Russia are to ensure the continuity of a “Multi-Polar World.” Zbigniew Brzezinski prefigured in his 1997 book The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and the Geostrategic Imperatives and warned against the creation or “emergence of a hostile [Eurasian-based] coalition that could eventually seek to challenge America’s primacy.” [3] He also called this potential Eurasian coalition an “‘antihegemonic’ alliance” that would be formed from a “Chinese-Russian-Iranian coalition” with China as its linchpin. [4] This is the SCO and several Eurasian groups that are connected to the SCO.

 

In 1993, Brzezinski wrote “In assessing China’s future options, one has to consider also the possibility that an economically successful and politically self-confident China — but one which feels excluded from the global system and which decides to become both the advocate and the leader of the deprived states of the world — may decide to pose not only an articulate doctrinal but also a powerful geopolitical challenge to the dominant trilateral world [a reference to the economic front formed by North America, Western Europe, and Japan].” [5]

Brzezinski warns that Beijing’s answer to challenging the global status quo would be the creation of a Chinese-Russian-Iranian coalition: “For Chinese strategists, confronting the trilateral coalition of America and Europe and Japan, the most effective geopolitical counter might well be to try and fashion a triple alliance of its own, linking China with Iran in the Persian Gulf/Middle East region and with Russia in the area of the former Soviet Union [and Eastern Europe].” [6] Brzezinski goes on to say that the Chinese-Russian-Iranian coalition, which he moreover calls an “antiestablishmentarian [anti-establishmentarian] coalition,” could be a potent magnet for other states [e.g., Venezuela] dissatisfied with the [global] status quo.” [7]

 

Furthermore, Brzezinski warned in 1997 that “The most immediate task [for the U.S.] is to make certain that no state or combination of states gains the capacity to expel the United States from Eurasia or even to diminish significantly its decisive arbitration role.” [8] It may be that his warnings were forgotten, because the U.S. has been repealed from Central Asia and U.S. forces have been evicted from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

 

“Velvet Revolutions” Backfire in Central Asia

 

Central Asia was the scene of several British-sponsored and American-sponsored attempts at regime change. The latter were characterised by velvet revolutions similar to the Orange Revolution in Ukraine and the Rose Revolution in Georgia.

These velvet revolutions financed by the U.S. failed in Central Asia, aside from Kyrgyzstan where there had been partial success with the so-called Tulip Revolution.

As a result the U.S. government has suffered major geo-strategic setbacks in Central Asia. All of Central Asia’s leaders have distanced themselves from America.

Russia and Iran have also secured energy deals in the region. America’s efforts, over several decades, to exert a hegemonic role in Central Asia seem to have been reversed overnight. The U.S. sponsored velvet revolutions have backfired. Relations between Uzbekistan and the U.S. were especially hard hit.

 

Uzbekistan is under the authoritarian rule of President Islam Karamov. Starting in the second half of the 1990s President Karamov was enticed into bringing Uzbekistan into the fold of the Anglo-American alliance and NATO. When there was an attempt on President Karamov’s life, he suspected the Kremlin because of his independent policy stance. This is what led Uzbekistan to leave CSTO. But Islam Karamov, years later, changed his mind as to who was attempting to get rid of him.

 

According to Zbigniew Brzezinski, Uzbekistan represented a major obstacle to any renewed Russian control of Central Asia and was virtually invulnerable to Russian pressure; this is why it was important to secure Uzbekistan as an American protectorate in Central Asia.

Uzbekistan also has the largest military force in Central Asia.  In 1998, Uzbekistan held war games with NATO troops in Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan was becoming heavily militarized in the same manner as Georgia was in the Caucasus. The U.S. gave Uzbekistan huge amounts of financial aid to challenge the Kremlin in Central Asia and also provided training to Uzbek forces.

 

With the launching of the “Global War on Terror,” in 2001, Uzbekistan, an Anglo-American ally, immediately offered bases and military facilities to the U.S. in Karshi-Khanabad.

The leadership of Uzbekistan already knew the direction the “Global War on Terror” would take. To the irritation of the Bush Jr. Administration, the Uzbek President formulated a policy of self-reliance. The honeymoon between Uzbekistan and the Anglo-American alliance ended when Washington D.C. and London contemplated removing Islam Karamov from power. He was a little too independent for their comfort and taste. Their attempts at removing the Uzbek President failed, leading eventually to a shift in geo-political alliances.  

 

The tragic events of Andijan on May 13, 2005 were the breaking point between Uzbekistan and the Anglo-American alliance. The people of Andijan were incited into confronting the Uzbek authorities, which resulted in a heavy security clampdown on the protesters and a loss of lives.

Armed groups were reported to have been involved. In the U.S., Britain, and the E.U., the media reports focused narrowly on human rights violations without mentioning the covert role of the Anglo-American alliance. Uzbekistan held Britain and the U.S. responsible accusing them of inciting rebellion. 

 

M. K. Bhadrakumar, the former Indian ambassador to Uzbekistan (1995-1998), revealed that the Hezbut Tahrir (HT) was one of the parties blamed for stirring the crowd in Andijan by the Uzbek government. [9] The group was already destabilizing Uzbekistan and using violent tactics. The headquarters of this group happens to be in London and they enjoy the support of the British government. London is a hub for many similar organizations that further Anglo-American interests in various countries, including Iran and Sudan, through destabilization campaigns. Uzbekistan even started clamping down on foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) because of the tragic events of Andijan.

The Anglo-American alliance had played its cards wrong in Central Asia. Uzbekistan officially left the GUUAM Group, a NATO-U.S. sponsored anti-Russian body. GUUAM once again became the GUAM (Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldava) Group on May 24, 2005.

On July 29, 2005 the U.S. military was ordered to leave Uzbekistan within a six-month period. [10] Literally, the Americans were told they were no longer welcome in Uzbekistan and Central Asia.

Russia, China, and the SCO added their voices to the demands. The U.S. cleared its airbase in Uzbekistan by November, 2005.

Uzbekistan rejoined the CSTO alliance on June 26, 2006 and realigned itself, once again, with Moscow. The Uzbek President also became a vocal advocate, along with Iran, for pushing the U.S. totally out of Central Asia. [11] Unlike Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan continued to allow the U.S. to use Manas Air Base, but with restrictions and in an uncertain atmosphere. The Kyrgyz government also would make it clear that no U.S. operations could target Iran from Kyrgyzstan.

 

Major Geo-Strategic Error 

It appears that a strategic rapprochement between Iran and America was in the works from 2001 to 2002. At the outset of the global war on terrorism, Hezbollah and Hamas, two Arab organizations supported by Iran and Syria, were kept off the U.S. State Department’s list of terrorist organizations. Iran and Syria were also loosely portrayed as potential partners in the “Global War on Terror.”

Following the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Iran expressed its support for the post-Saddam Hussein Iraqi government. During the invasion of Iraq, the American military even attacked the Iraqi-based Iranian opposition militia, the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MEK/MOK/MKO). Iranian jets also attacked the Iraqi bases of the MEK in approximately the same window of time.

Iran, Britain, and the U.S. also worked together against the Taliban in Afghanistan. It is worth mentioning that the Taliban were never allies of Iran. Up until 2000, the Taliban had been supported by the U.S. and Britain, working hand in glove with the Pakistani military and intelligence.

The Taliban were shocked and bewildered at what they saw as an American and British betrayal in 2001 — this is in light of the fact that in October, 2001 they had stated that they would hand over Osama bin Laden to the U.S. upon the presentation of evidence of his alleged involvement in the 9/11 attacks.

Zbigniew Brzezinski warned years before 2001 that “a coalition allying Russia with both China and Iran can develop only if the United States is shortsighted enough to antagonize China and Iran simultaneously.” [12] The arrogance of the Bush Jr. Administration has resulted in this shortsighted policy.

According to The Washington Post, “Just after the lightning takeover of Baghdad by U.S. forces three years ago [in 2003], an unusual two-page document spewed out of a fax machine at the Near East bureau of the State Department. It was a proposal from Iran for a broad dialogue with the United States, and the fax suggested everything was on the table — including full cooperation on nuclear programs, acceptance of Israel and the termination of Iranian support for Palestinian militant groups.” [13]

The White House impressed by what they believe were “grand victories” in Iraq and Afghanistan merely ignored the letter sent through diplomatic channels by the Swiss government on behalf of Tehran.

However, it was not because of what was wrongly perceived as a quick victory in Iraq that the Bush Jr. Administration pushed Iran aside. On January 29, 2002, in a major address, President Bush Jr. confirmed that the U.S. would also target Iran, which had been added to the so-called “Axis of Evil” together with Iraq and North Korea. The U.S. and Britain intended to attack Iran, Syria, and Lebanon after the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In fact immediately following the invasion, in July 2003, the Pentagon formulated an initial war scenario entitled “Theater Iran Near Term (TIRANNT).”

Starting in 2002, the Bush Jr. Administration had deviated from their original geo-strategic script. France and Germany were also excluded from sharing the spoils of war in Iraq.

The intention was to act against Iran and Syria just as America and Britain had used and betrayed their Taliban allies in Afghanistan. The U.S. was also set on targeting Hezbollah and Hamas. In January of 2001, according to Daniel Sobelman, a correspondent for Haaretz, the U.S. government warned Lebanon that the U.S. would go after Hezbollah. These threats directed at Lebanon were made at the start of the presidential term of George W. Bush Jr., eight months before the events of September 11, 2001.


The conflict at the United Nations Security Council between the Anglo-American alliance and the Franco-German entente, supported by Russia and China, was a pictogram of this deviation.

American geo-strategists for years after the Cold War had scheduled the Franco-German entente to be partners in their plans for global primacy. In this regard, Zbigniew Brzezinski had acknowledged that the Franco-German entente would eventually have to be elevated in status and that the spoils of war would have to be divided with Washington’s European allies.

By the end of 2004, the Anglo-American alliance had started to correct its posture towards France and Germany. Washington had returned to its original geo-strategic script with NATO playing an expanded role in the Eastern Mediterranean. In turn, France was granted  oil concessions in Iraq.

The 2006 war plans for Lebanon and the Eastern Mediterranean also point to a major shift in direction, a partnership role for the Franco-German entente, with France and Germany playing a major military role in the region.   

 
It is worth noting that a major shift occurred in early 2007 with regard to Iran. Following U.S. setbacks in Iraq and Afghanistan (as well as in Lebanon, Palestine, Somalia, and former Soviet Central Asia),  the White House entered into secret negotiatiations with Iran and Syria. However, the dye has been cast and it would appear that America will be unable to break an evolving military alliance which includes Russia, Iran, and China as its nucleus.

 

The Baker-Hamilton Commission: Covert Anglo-American Cooperation with Iran and Syria?

 

“America should also strongly support Turkish aspirations to have a pipeline from Baku in [the Republic of] Azerbaijan to Ceyhan on the Turkish Mediterranean cost serve as [a] major outlet for the Caspian Sea basin energy sources. In addition, it is not in America’s interest to perpetuate American-Iranian hostility. Any eventual reconciliation should be based on the recognition of a mutual strategic interest in stabilizing what currently is a very volatile regional environment for Iran [e.g., Iraq and Afghanistan]. Admittedly, any such reconciliation must be pursued by both sides and is not a favor granted by one to the other. A strong, even religiously motivated but not fanatically anti-Western Iran is in the U.S. interest, and ultimately even the Iranian political elite may recognize that reality. In the meantime, American long-range interests in Eurasia would be better served by abandoning existing U.S. objections to closer Turkish-Iranian economic cooperation, especially in the construction of new pipelines…”

 

-Zbigniew Brzezinski (The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives, 1997)

 

The recommendations of the Baker-Hamilton Commission or the Iraq Study Group (ISG) are not a redirection in regards to engaging Iran, but a return to the track that the Bush Jr. Administration had deviated from as a result of the delusions of its hasty victories in Afghanistan and Iraq.  In other words, the Baker-Hamilton Commission was about damage control and re-steering America to the geo-strategic path originally intended by military planners that the Bush Jr. Administration seems to have deviated from.

The ISG Report also subtly indicated that adoption of so-called “free market” economic reforms be pressed on Iran (and by extension Syria) instead of regime change. The ISG also favoured the accession of both Syria and Iran to the World Trade Organization (WTO). [14] It should also be noted, in this regard, that Iran has already started a mass privatization program that involves all sectors from banking to energy and agriculture.

The ISG Report also recommends an end to the Arab-Israeli Conflict and the establishment of peace between Israel and Syria. [15]

The joint interests of Iran and the U.S. were also analysed by the Baker-Hamilton Commission. The ISG recommended  that the U.S. should not empower the Taliban again in Afghanistan (against Iran). [16] It should also be noted that Imad Moustapha, the Syrian ambassador to the U.S., the Syrian Foreign Minister, and Javad Zarif, the Iranian representative to the United Nations, were all consulted by the Baker-Hamilton Commission. [17] The Iranian Ambassodor to the U.N., Javad Zarif, has also been a middle man between the U.S. and Iranian governments for years. 

 

It is worth mentioning that the Clinton Administration was involved in the track of rapprochement with Iran, while also attempting to keep Iran in check under the “dual-containment” policy directed against Iraq and Iran. This policy was also linked to the 1992 Draft Defence Guidance paper written by people within the Bush Sr. and Bush Jr. Administrations.

It is worth noting that Zbigniew Brzezinski had stated as far back as 1979 and again in 1997 that Iran under its post-revolutionary political system could be co-opted by America. [18] Britain also ensured Syria and Iran in 2002 and 2003 that they would not be targeted and encouraged their cooperation with the White House.

It should be noted that Turkey has recently signed a pipeline deal with Iran that will take gas to Western Europe. This project includes the participation of Turkmenistan. [19] It would appear that this cooperation agreement between Tehran and Ankara points to reconciliation rather than confrontation with Iran and Syria. This is in line with what Brzezinski in 1997 claimed was in America’s interest.

Also, the Anglo-American sponsored Iraqi government has recently signed pipeline deals with Iran.

Once again, America’s interests in this deal should be questioned, as should the high opinions being given about Iran by the puppet leaders of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Something’s Amiss…

The media attention given in North America and Britain to the positive comments made about Tehran by Anglo-American clients in Baghdad and Kabul is sinister.

Although these comments from Baghdad and Kabul about the positive role Iran plays in Iraq and Afghanistan are not new, the media attention is. President George W. Bush Jr. and the White House criticized the Iraqi Prime Minister for saying Iran plays a constructive role in Iraq in early-August of 2007. The White House and North American or British press would usually just ignore or refuse to acknowledge these comments. However, this was not the case in August, 2007.

The Afghani President, Hamid Karzai, during a joint press conference with George W.  Bush Jr. stated that Iran was a positive force in his country. It is not odd to hear that Iran is a positive force inside Afghanistan because the stability of Afghanistan is in Iran’s best interests. What comes across as odd are “when” and “where” the comments were made. White House press conferences are choreographed and the place and time of the Afghani President’s comments should be questioned. It also so happens that shortly after the Afghani President’s comments, the Iranian President arrived in Kabul in an unprecedented visit that must have been approved by the White House.

Iran’s Political Leverage

In regards to Iran and the U.S., the picture is blurry and the lines between cooperation and rivalry are less clear. Reuters and the Iranian Student’s News Agency (ISNA) have both reported that the Iranian President may visit Baghdad after August 2007. These reports surfaced just before the U.S. government started threatening to label the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as a special international terrorist organization. Without insinuating anything, it should also be noted that the Revolutionary Guard and the U.S. military have also had a low-key history of cooperation from Bosnia-Herzegovina to Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

The Iranian President has also invited the presidents of the other four Caspian states for a Caspian Sea summit in Tehran. [20] He invited the Turkmen president while in Turkmenistan and later the Russian and Kazakh presidents at the August of 2007 SCO summit in Kyrgyzstan. President Aliyev, the leader of the Republic of Azerbaijan (Azarbaijan) was also personally invited during a trip by the Iranian President to Baku. The anticipated Caspian Sea summit may be similar to the one in Port Turkmenbashi, Turkmenistan between the Kazakh, Russian, and Turkmen presidents where it was announced that Russia would not be cut out of the pipeline deals in Central Asia.

Iranian leverage is clearly getting stronger. Officials in Baku also stated that they will expand energy cooperation with Iran and enter the gas pipeline deal between Iran, Turkey, and Turkmenistan that will supply European markets with gas. [21] This agreement to supply Europe is similar to a Russian energy transport deal signed between Greece, Bulgaria, and the Russian Federation. [22]

In the Levant, Syria is involved in energy-related negotiations with Ankara and Baku and important talks have started between American officials and both Tehran and Damascus. [23]

Iran has also been involved in diplomatic exchanges with Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, and the Republic of Azerbaijan. Additionally, starting in August 2007, Syria has agreed to reopen Iraqi oil pipelines to the Eastern Mediterranean, through Syrian territory. [24] The recent official visit of Iraqi Prime Minister Al-Maliki to Syria has also been described as historical by news sources like the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). Also, Syria and Iraq have agreed to build a gas pipeline from Iraq into Syria, where Iraqi gas will be treated in Syrian plants. [25] These agreements are being passed as the sources of tensions between Baghdad and the White House, but they are doubtful. [26]

Iran and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are also planning on starting the process for creating an Iranian-GCC free trade zone in the Persian Gulf. In the bazaars of Tehran and amongst the political circle of Rafsanjani there are also discussion about the eventual creation of a single market between Iran, Tajikistan, Armenia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria. The American role in these processes in regards to Afghanistan, Iraq, and the GCC should be explored.

Under President Nicholas Sarkozy, France has indicated that it is willing to engage the Syrians fully if they gave specific guarantees in regards to Lebanon. These guarantees are linked to French economic and geo-strategic interests.

In the same period of time as the French statements about Syria, Gordon Brown indicated that Britain was also willing to engage in diplomatic exchanges with both Syria and Iran. Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, the German Minister of Economic Cooperation and Development, has also been involved in talks with Damascus on mutual projects, economic reform and bringing Syria closer to the European Union. These talks, however  tend to be camouflaged by the discussion between Syria and Germany in regard to the mass exodus of Iraqi refugees, resulting from the Anglo-American occupation of their country. The French Foreign Minister is also expected in Tehran to talk about Lebanon, Palestine, and Iraq. Despite the war-mongering by the U.S. and more recently by France, this has all led to speculation of a potential about-turn in regards to Iran and Syria. [27]

Then again, this is part of the two-pronged U.S. approach of preparing for the worst (war), while suing for the diplomatic capitulation of Syria and Iran as client states or partners. When large oil and weapons deals were signed between Libya and Britain, London said that Iran should follow the Libyan example, as has the Baker-Hamilton Commission.

Has the March to War been Interrupted?

Despite talks behind closed doors with Damascus and Tehran, Washington is nonetheless arming its clients in the Middle East. Israel is in an advanced state of military preparedness for a war on Syria.

Unlike France and Germany, Anglo-American ambitions pertaining to Iran and Syria are not one of cooperation. The ultimate objective is political and economic subordination.

Moreover, either as a friend or foe, America cannot tolerate Iran within its present borders. The balkanization of Iran, like that of Iraq and Russia, is a major long-term Anglo-American goal.

What lies ahead is never known. While there is smoke in the horizon, the U.S.-NATO-Israeli military agenda will not necessarily result in the implementation of war as planned.

A “Chinese-Russian-Iranian coalition” — which forms the basis of a global counter-alliance — is emerging. America and Britain rather than opting for outright war, may choose to reel in Iran and Syria through macro-economic manipulation and velvet revolutions.

War directed against Iran and Syria, however, cannot be ruled out. There are real war preparations on the ground in the Middle East and Central Asia. A war against Iran and Syria would have far-reaching worldwide implications.


Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya is an independent writer based in Ottawa specialising on the Middle East and Central Asia. He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG).


NOTES

 

[1] Treaty of Good-Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation Between the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation, signed and entered into force July 16, 2001, P.R. of China-Russian Federation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China.

http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/eng/wjdt/2649/t15771.htm

 

The following are treaty articles that are relevant to the mutual defence of China and Russia against American-led encirclement and efforts to dismantle both nations;

 

ARTICLE 4

 

The Chinese side supports the Russian side in its policies on the issue of defending the national unity and territorial integrity of the Russian Federation.

The Russian side supports the Chinese side in its policies on the issue of defending the national unity and territorial integrity of the People’s Republic of China.

 

ARTICLE 5

 

The Russian side reaffirms that the principled stand on the Taiwan issue as expounded in the political documents signed and adopted by the heads of states of the two countries from 1992 to 2000 remain unchanged. The Russian side acknowledges that there is only one China in the world, that the People’s Republic of China is the sole legal government representing the whole of China and that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China. The Russian side opposes any form of Taiwan’s independence.

 

ARTICLE 8


The contracting parties shall not enter into any alliance or be a party to any bloc nor shall they embark on any such action, including the conclusion of such treaty with a third country which compromises the sovereignty, security and territorial integrity of the other contracting party. Neither side of the contracting parties shall allow its territory to be used by a third country to jeopardize the national sovereignty, security and territorial integrity of the other contracting party.

Neither side of the contracting parties shall allow the setting up of organizations or gangs on its own soil which shall impair the sovereignty, security and territorial integrity of the other contrasting party and their activities should be prohibited.

 

ARTICLE 9

 

When a situation arises in which one of the contracting parties deems that peace is being threatened and undermined or its security interests are involved or when it is confronted with the threat of aggression, the contracting parties shall immediately hold contacts and consultations in order to eliminate such threats.

 

ARTILCE 12

 

The contracting parties shall work together for the maintenance of global strategic balance and stability and make great efforts in promoting the observation of the basic agreements relevant to the safeguard and maintenance of strategic stability.

The contracting parties shall actively promote the process of nuclear disarmament and the reduction of chemical weapons, promote and strengthen the regimes on the prohibition of biological weapons and take measures to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, their means of delivery and their related technology.

 

[2] Ibid.

 

[3] Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives (NYC, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1997), p.198.

 

[4] Ibid., pp. 115-116, 170, 205-206.

 

Note: Brzezinski also refers to a Chinese-Russian-Iranian coalition as a “counteralliance” (p.116).

 

[5] Zbigniew Brzezinski, Out of Control: Global Turmoil on the Eve of the 21st Century (NYC, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons Macmillan Publishing Company, 1993), p.198.

 

[6] Ibid.

 

[7] Ibid.

 

[8] Brzezinski, The Grand Chessboard, Op. cit., p.198.

 

[9] M. K. Bhadrakumar, The lessons from Ferghana, Asia Times, May 18, 2005.

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Central_Asia/GE18Ag01.html

 

[10] Nick Paton Walsh, Uzbekistan kicks US out of military base, The Guardian (U.K.), August 1, 2005.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/0,12271,1540185,00.html

 

[11] Vladimir Radyuhin, Uzbekistan rejoins defence pact, The Hindu, June 26, 2006.

http://www.thehindu.com/2006/06/26/stories/2006062604491400.htm

 

[12] Brzezinski, The Grand Chessboard, Op. cit., p.116.

 

[13] Glenn Kessler, In 2003, U.S. Spurned Iran’s Offer of Dialogue, The Washington Post, June 18, 2006, p.A16.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/06/17/AR2006061700727.html

 

[14] James A. Baker III et al., The Iraq Study Group Report: The Way Forward A New Approach, Authroized ed. (NYC, New York: Random House Inc., 2006), p.51.

[15] Ibid., pp.51, 54-57.

[16] Ibid., pp.50-53, 58.

[17] Ibid., p.114.

[18] Brzezinski, The Grand Chessboard, Op. cit., p.204.

 

[19] Iran, Turkey sign energy cooperation deal, agree to develop Iran’s gas fields, Associated Press, July 14, 2007.

http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/07/14/business/ME-FIN-Iran-Turkey-Energy-deal.php


[20] Tehran to host summit of Caspian nations Oct.18, Russian Information Agency (RIA Novosti), August 22, 2007.
http://en.rian.ru/world/20070822/73387774.html

 

[21] Azerbaijan, Iran reinforce energy deals, United Press International (UPI), August 22, 2007.

[22] Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, The March to War: Détente in the Middle East or “Calm before the Storm?,” Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG), July 10, 2007.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=6281

[23] Ibid.

It is worth noting that Iran has been involved in pipeline deals with Turkey and in negotiation between Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, and the Republic of Azerbaijan in the possible creation of an energy corridor in the Eastern Mediterranean. These deals occurred in the same time frame that both Syria and Iran started talks with the U.S. after the Baker-Hamilton Commission’s report.


[24] Syria and Iraq to reopen oil pipeline link, Agence France-Presse (AFP), August 22, 2007.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Roger Hardy, Why the US is unhappy with Maliki, British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), August 22, 2007.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/6958440.stm

[27] Hassan Nafaa, About-face on Iran coming?, Al-Ahram (Egypt), no. 859, August 23-29, 2007.

http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2007/859/op22.htm


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Leaders of China, Russia, Central Asian states to observe war games

August 9, 2007

International Herald Tribune

Leaders of China, Russia, Central Asian states to observe war games

Thursday, August 9, 2007

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BEIJING: The leaders of China, Russia, and four Central Asian states will observe joint war games being held this month by their countries’ armed forces, China’s foreign ministry said Thursday.

The Aug. 9-17 drill, called “Peace Mission 2007,” in eastern Russia will coincide with an annual summit of the six-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Li Hui told reporters at a briefing.

“This is the first time that all the leaders of SCO nations will attend the war games,” Li said. “All the member countries put a high value on these drills.”

The exercises are aimed at countering terrorism, including a scenario in which militants occupy a town, requiring SCO forces to retake it by force — a scenario similar to threats faced by Russia in the Caucuses.

The China and Russia-dominated SCO had its origins in the late 1990s, but only took on a formal structure in 2001 to address regional threats and economic integration and counter U.S. influence in oil- and gas-rich Central Asia.

Other members are Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, which is hosting the year’s summit in its capital, Bishkek.

China has sent a 1,600-member contingent, the biggest military unit to be sent such a long distance from China for military exercises. A total of 32 Mi-17 and Z-9 helicopters will also take part, along with six heavy transport aircraft, eight attack aircraft, and a company of airborne troops.

“The regional security situation is extremely complex and all members face threats,” Li said.

“The point of these exercises is to make a contribution to regional peace, security and stability,” he said, adding, “they are not targeted at any third parties.”

Representatives from the SCO’s four observer states, Iran, India, Mongolia and Pakistan, will attend the Aug. 16 summit but not the war games, Li said.

Iran, whose President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will be attending his second SCO summit, is among those reportedly interested in joining the SCO as a full member.

Prior to the summit, Chinese President Hu Jintao will make his first state visit to Kyrgyzstan, followed by a state visit to Russia on Aug. 17-18.