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It requires major suspension of disbelief to consider the G7, the self-described democracy’s most exclusive club, as relevant to the Raging Twenties. Real life dictates that even accounting for the inbuilt structural inequality of the current world system the G7’s economic output barely registers as 30% of the global total.

Cornwall was at best an embarrassing spectacle – complete with a mediocrity troupe impersonating “leaders” posing for masked elbow bump photo ops while on a private party with the 95-year-old Queen of England, everyone was maskless and merrily mingling about in an apotheosis of “shared values” and “human rights”.

Quarantine on arrival, masks enforced 24/7 and social distancing of course is only for the plebs.

The G7 final communique is the proverbial ocean littered with platitudes and promises. But it does contain a few nuggets. Starting with ‘Build Back Better’ – or B3 – showing up in the title. B3 is now official code for both The Great Reset and the New Green Deal.

Then there’s the Yellow Peril remixed, with the “our values” shock troops “calling on China to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms” with a special emphasis on Xinjiang and Hong Kong.

The story behind it was confirmed to me by a EU diplomatic source, a realist (yes, there are some in Brussels).

All hell broke loose inside the – exclusive – G7 room when the Anglo-American axis, backed by spineless Canada, tried to ramrod the EU-3 plus Japan into an explicit condemnation of China in the final communiqué over the absolute bogus concentration camp “evidence” in Xinjiang. In contrast to politicized accusations of “crimes against humanity”, the best analysis of what’s really going on in Xinjiang has been published by the Qiao collective.

Germany, France and Italy – Japan was nearly invisible – at least showed some spine. Internet was shut off to the room during the really harsh “dialogue”. Talk about realism – a true depiction of “leaders” vociferating inside a bubble.

The dispute essentially pitted Biden – actually his handlers – against Macron, who insisted that the EU-3 would not be dragged into the logic of a Cold War 2.0. That was something that Merkel and Mario ‘Goldman Sachs’ Draghi could easily agree upon.

In the end the divided G7 table chose to agree on a Build Back Better World – or B3W – “initiative” to counter-act the Chinese-driven Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Reset or else

The White House, predictably, pre-empted the final G7 communiqué. A statement later retracted from their website, replaced by the official communique, made sure that, “the United States and our G7 partners remains deeply concerned by the use of all forms of forced labor in global supply chains, including state-sponsored forced labor of vulnerable groups and minorities and supply chains of the agricultural, solar, and garment sectors – the main supply chains of concern in Xinjiang.”

“Forced labor” is the new mantra handily connecting the overlapping demonization of both Xinjiang and BRI. Xinjiang is the crucial hub connecting BRI to Central Asia and beyond. The new “forced labor” mantra paves the way for B3W to enter the arena as the “savior” human rights package.

Here we have a benign G7 “offering” the developing world a vague infrastructure plan that reflects their “values”, their “high standards” and their way of business, in contrast to the Yellow Peril’s trademark lack of transparency, horrible labor and environmental practices, and coercion methods.

Translation: after nearly 8 years since BRI, then named OBOR (One Belt, One Road) was announced by President Xi, and subsequently ignored and/or demonized 24/7, the Global South is supposed to be marveling at a vague “initiative” funded by private Western interests whose priority is short-term profit.

As if the Global South would fall for this remixed IMF/World Bank-style debt abyss. As if the “West” would have the vision, the appeal, the reach and the funds to make this scheme a real “alternative”.

There are zero details on how B3W will work, its priorities and where capital is coming from. B3W idealizers could do worse than learn from BRI itself, via Professor Wang Yiwei.

B3W has nothing to do with a trade/sustainable development strategy geared for the Global South. It’s an illusionist carrot dangling over those foolish enough to buy the notion of a world divided between “our values” and “autocracies”.

We’re back to the same old theme: armed with the arrogance of ignorance, the “West” has no idea how to understand Chinese values. Confirmation bias applies. Hence China as a “threat to the West”.

We’re the builders of choice

More ominously, B3W is yet another arm of the Great Reset.

To dig deeper into it, one could do worse than examining Building a Better World For All, by Mark Carney.

Carney is a uniquely positioned player: former governor of the Bank of England, UN Special Envoy on Climate Action and Finance, adviser to PM Boris “Global Britain” Johnson and Canadian PM Justin Trudeau, and a trustee of the World Economic Forum (WEF).

Translation: a major Great Reset, New Green Deal, B3W ideologue.

His book – which should be read in tandem with Herr Schwab’s opus on Covid-19 – preaches total control on personal freedoms as well as a reset on industry and corporate funding. Carney and Schwab treat Covid-19 as the perfect “opportunity” for the reset, whose benign, altruistic spin emphasizes a mere “regulation” of climate, business and social relations.

This Brave New Woke World brought to you by an alliance of technocrats and bankers – from the WEF and the UN to the handlers of hologram “Biden” – until recently seemed to be on a roll. But signs in the horizon reveal it’s far from a done deal.

Something uttered by B3W stalwart Tony Blair way back in January is quite an eye-opener: “It’s going to be a new world altogether… The sooner we grasp that and start to put in place the decisions [needed for a] deep impact over the coming years the better.”

So here Blair, in a Freudian slip, not only gives away the game (“deep impact over the coming years”, “new world altogether”) but also reveals his exasperation: the sheep are not being corralled as fast as necessary.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: China, China/America, EU, Joe Biden, NATO, New Silk Road 

The upcoming G7 in Cornwall at first might be seen as the quirky encounter of “America is Back” with “Global Britain”.

The Big Picture though is way more sensitive. Three Summits in a Row – G7, NATO and US-EU – will be paving the way for a much expected cliffhanger: the Putin-Biden summit in Geneva – which certainly won’t be a reset.

The controlling interests behind the hologram that goes by the name of “Joe Biden” have a clear overarching agenda: to regiment industrialized democracies – especially those in Europe – and keep them in lockstep to combat those “authoritarian” threats to US national security, “malignant” Russia and China.

It’s like a throwback to those oh so stable 1970s Cold War days, complete with James Bond fighting foreign devils and Deep Purple subverting communism. Well, the times they are-a-changin’. China is very much aware that now the Global South “accounts for almost two-thirds of the global economy compared to one-third by the West: in the 1970s, it was exactly the opposite.”

For the Global South – that is, the overwhelming majority of the planet – the G7 is largely irrelevant. What matters is the G20.

China, the rising economic superpower, hails from the Global South, and is a leader in the G20. For all their internal troubles, EU players in the G7 – Germany, France and Italy – cannot afford to antagonize Beijing in economic, trade and investment terms.

A G7 rebooted as a Sinophobic crusade will have no takers. Including Japan and special guests at Cornwall: tech powerhouse South Korea, and India and South Africa (both BRICS members), offered the dangling carrot of a possible extended membership.

Washington’s wishful thinking cum P.R. offensive boils down to selling itself as the primus inter pares of the West as a revitalized global leader. Why the Global South is not buying it can be observed, graphically, by what happened for the past eight years. The G7 – and especially the Americans – simply could not respond to China’s wide-ranging, pan-Eurasian trade/development strategy, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

The American “strategy” so far – 24/7 demonization of BRI as a “debt trap” and “forced labor” machine – did not cut it. Now, too little too late, comes a G7 scheme, involving “partners” such as India, to “support”, at least in theory, vague “high-quality projects” across the Global South: that’s the Clean Green Initiative , focused on sustainable development and green transition, to be discussed both at the G7 and the US-EU summits.

Compared to BRI, Clean Green Initiative hardly qualifies as a coherent geopolitical and geoeconomic strategy. BRI has been endorsed and partnered by over 150 nation-states and international bodies – and that includes more than half of the EU’s 27 members.

Facts on the ground tell the story. China and ASEAN are about to strike a “comprehensive strategic partnership” deal. Trade between China and the Central and Eastern European Countries (CCEC), also known as the 17+1 group, including 12 EU nations, continues to increase. The Digital Silk Road, the Health Silk Road and the Polar Silk Road keep advancing.

So what’s left is loud Western rumbling about vague investments in digital technology – perhaps financed by the European Investment Bank, based in Luxembourg – to cut off China’s “authoritarian reach” across the Global South.

The EU-US summit may be launching a “Trade and Technology Council” to coordinate policies on 5G, semiconductors, supply chains, export controls and technology rules and standards. A gentle reminder: the EU-US simply do not control this complex environment. They badly need South Korea, Taiwan and Japan.

Wait a minute, Mr. Taxman

To be fair, the G7 may have rendered a public service to the whole world when their Finance Ministers struck an alleged “historic” deal last Saturday in London on a global, minimal 15% tax on multinational companies (MNCs).

Triumphalism was in order – with endless praise lavished on “justice” and “fiscal solidarity” coupled with really bad news for assorted fiscal paradises.

Well, that’s slightly more complicated.

This tax has been discussed at the highest levels of the OECD in Paris for over a decade now – especially because nation-states are losing at least $427 billion a year in tax-dodging by MNCs and assorted multi-billionaires. In terms of the European scenario that does not even account for the loss of V.A.T. by fraud – something gleefully practiced by Amazon, among others.

So it’s no wonder G7 Finance Ministers had $1.6 trillion-worth Amazon pretty much on their sights. Amazon’s cloud computing division should be treated as a separate entity. In this case the mega-tech group will have to pay more corporate tax in some of its largest European markets – Germany, France, Italy, UK – if the global 15% tax is ratified.

So yes, this is mostly about Big Tech – master experts on fiscal fraud and profiting from tax paradises located even inside Europe, such as Ireland and Luxembourg. The way the EU was built, it allowed fiscal competition between nation-states to fester. To discuss this openly in Brussels remains a virtual taboo. In the official EU list of fiscal paradises, one won’t find Luxembourg, the Netherlands or Malta.

So could this all be just a P.R. coup? It’s possible. The major problem is that at the European Council – where governments of EU member-states discuss their issues – they have been dragging their feet for a long time, and sort of delegated the whole thing to the OECD.

As it stands, details on the 15% tax are still vague – even as the US government stands to become the largest winner, because its MNCs have shifted massive profits all across the planet to avoid US corporate taxes.

Not to mention that nobody knows if, when and how the deal will be globally accepted and implemented: that will be a Sisyphean task. At least it will be discussed, again, at the G20 in Venice in July.

What Germany wants

Without Germany there would not have been real advance on the EU-China Investment Agreement late last year. With a new US administration, the deal is stalled again. Outgoing chancellor Merkel is against China-EU economic decoupling – and so are German industrialists. It will be quite a treat to watch this subplot at the G7.

In a nutshell: Germany wants to keep expanding as a global trading power by using its large industrial base, while the Anglo-Saxons have completely ditched their industrial base to embrace non-productive financialization. And China for its part wants to trade with the whole planet. Guess who’s the odd player out.

Considering the G7 as a de facto gathering of the Hegemon with its hyenas, jackals and chihuahuas, it will also be quite a treat to watch the semantics. What degree of “existential threat” will be ascribed to Beijing – especially because for the interests behind the hologram “Biden” the real priority is the Indo-Pacific?

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: China/America, EU, New Silk Road 
Boat on canal in St Petersburg, Russia Photo: AFP / Tim Graham / Robert Harding Heritage
Boat on canal in St Petersburg, Russia Photo: AFP / Tim Graham / Robert Harding Heritage

It’s impossible to understand the finer points of what’s happening on the ground in Russia and across Eurasia, business-wise, without following the annual St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF).

So let’s cut to the chase, and offer a few choice examples of what is discussed on top panels.

The Russian Far East – Here’s a discussion on the – largely successful – strategies boosting productive investment in industry and infrastructure across the Russian Far East. Manufacturing in Russia grew by 12.2% between 2015 and 2020; in the Far East it was almost double, 23.1%. And from 2018 to 2020, per capita investment in fixed capital was 40% higher than the national average. The next steps center on improving infrastructure; opening global markets to Russian companies; and most of all, finding the necessary funds (China? South Korea?) for advanced tech.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) – As I’ve seen for myself in previous editions of the forum, there’s nothing remotely similar in the West in terms of seriously discussing an organization like the SCO – which has progressively evolved from its initial security focus towards a wide-ranging politico-economic role.

Russia presided the SCO in 2019-2020, when foreign policy got a fresh impetus and the socioeconomic consequences of Covid-19 were seriously addressed. Now the collective emphasis should be on how to turn these member nations – especially the Central Asian “stans” – more attractive for global investors. Panelists include former SCO secretary-general Rashid Alimov, and the current one, Vladimir Norov.

Eurasian partnership – This discussion involves what should be one of the key nodes of the Eurasian Century: the International North-South Transportation Corridor (INSTC). An important historical precedent apply: the 8th-9th centuries Volga trade route that connected Western Europe to Persia – and could now be extended, in a variation of the Maritime Silk Road, all the way to ports in India. That raises a number of questions, ranging from the development of trade and technology to the harmonic implementation of digital platforms. Here one finds panelists from Russia, India, Iran, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan.

The Greater Eurasian partnership – Greater Eurasia is the overarching Russian concept applied to the consolidation of the Eurasian Century. This discussion is largely focused on Big Tech, including full digitalization, automated managing systems and Green growth. The question is how a radical tech transition could work for pan-Eurasia interests.

And that’s where the Russian-led Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU) comes in: how the EAEU’s drive for a Greater Eurasian Partnership should work in practice. Panelists include the chairman of the board of the Eurasian Economic Commission, Mikhail Myasnikovich, and a relic from the Yeltsin past: Anatoliy Chubais, who is now Putin’s special representative for “relations with international organizations to achieve sustainable development goals.”

Gotta ditch all those greenbacks

Arguably the most eye-catching panel on SPIEF was on the post-Covid-19 “new normal” (or abnormal), and how economics will be reshaped. An important sub-section is how Russia can possibly capitalize on it, in terms of productive growth. That was a unique opportunity to see IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva, Russian Central Bank governor Elvira Nabiullina and Russian Minister of Finance Anton Siluanov debating on the same table.

It was Siluanov who in fact commanded all the SPIEF-related headlines when he announced that Russia will totally ditch the US dollar in the structure of the National Wealth Fund (NWF) – the de facto Russian sovereign wealth fund – as well as reduce the share of the British pound. The NWF will have more euros and yuan, more gold, and the yen’s share remains stable.

This ongoing de-dollarization process has been more than predictable. In May, for the first time, less than 50% of Russian exports were denominated in US dollars.

Siluanov explained that the sales of roughly $119 billion in liquid assets will go through the Russian Central Bank, and not through financial markets. In practice, that will be a simple technical transfer of euros to the NWF. The Central Bank after all has been steadily getting rid of the US dollars for years now.

Sooner or later, China will follow. In parallel, some nations across Eurasia, in an extremely discreet manner, are also bypassing what is de facto the currency of a debt-based economy – to the tune of tens of trillions of dollars, as Michael Hudson has been explaining in detail. Not to mention that transacting US dollars exposes whole nations to an extra-territorial, extortionary judicial machine.

On the all-important Chinese-Russian front, permeating all the discussions at SPIEF, is the fact that a pool of Chinese technical knowhow and Russian energy is more than able to solidify a massive pan-Eurasian market capable of dwarfing the West. History tells us that in 1400, India and China were responsible for half of the world’s GDP.

As the West wallows in a self-induced Build Back Better collapse, the Eurasian caravan seems unstoppable. But then, there are those pesky US sanctions.

The Valdai Discussion Club Session dug deeper into the hysteria: sanctions serving a political agenda are threatening vast swathes of the world economic and financial infrastructure. So we’re back once again to the inescapable syndrome of the weaponized US dollar – deployed against India buying Iranian oil and Russian military hardware, or against Chinese tech companies.

Panelists including Russian Deputy Finance Minister Vladimir Kolychev and the UN Special Rapporteur on the “Negative Impact of Unilateral Coercive Measures on the Enjoyment of Human Rights”, Alena Douhan, debated the inevitable new escalation of anti-Russian sanctions.

Another running theme underneath the SPIEF debates is that, whatever happens on the sanctions front, Russia already has an alternative to SWIFT, and so does China. Both systems are compatible with SWIFT in software, so other nations may also be able use it.

No less than 30% of SWIFT’s traffic involves Russia. If that “nuclear
“option” would ever come to pass, nations trading with Russia would almost certainly ditch SWIFT. On top of it, Russia, China and Iran – the “threat” trio to the Hegemon – have currency swap agreements, bilaterally and with other nations.

SPIEF this year has taken place only a few days before the G7, NATO and US-EU summits – which will graphically highlight European geopolitical irrelevancy, reduced to the status of a platform for US power projection.

And taking place less than two weeks before the Putin-Biden summit in Geneva, SPIEF most of all performed a public service for those who care to notice, charting some of the most important practical contours of the Eurasian Century.

 
As Sino-Russo-Iranophobia dissolves in sanctions and hysteria, mapmakers carve the post-unilateral order
Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Chinese President Xi Jinping exchange documents at the signing ceremony in the Kremlin in Moscow in a file photo. Image: Pool / Agencies
Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Chinese President Xi Jinping exchange documents at the signing ceremony in the Kremlin in Moscow in a file photo. Image: Pool / Agencies

It’s the Nikolai Patrushev-Yang Jiechi show – all over again. These are the two players running an up and coming geopolitical entente, on behalf of their bosses Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping.

Last week, Yang Jiechi – the director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee – visited Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev in Moscow. That was part of the 16thround of China-Russia strategic security consultations.

What’s intriguing is that Yang-Patrushev happened between the Blinken-Lavrov meeting on the sidelines of the Arctic Council summit in Reykjavik, and the upcoming and highest-ranking Putin-Biden in Geneva on June 16 (possibly at the Intercontinental Hotel, where Reagan and Gorbachev met in 1985).

The Western spin before Putin-Biden is that it might herald some sort of reset back to “predictability” and “stability” in currently extra-turbulent US-Russia relations.

That’s wishful thinking. Putin, Patrushev and Lavrov harbor no illusions. Especially when in the G7 in London, in early May, the Western focus was on Russia’s “malign activities” as well as China’s “coercive economic policies.”

Russian and Chinese analysts, in informal conversations, tend to agree that Geneva will be yet another instance of good old Kissingerian divide and rule, complete with a few seducing tactics to lure Moscow away from Beijing, an attempt to bide some time and probing openings for laying out geopolitical traps. Old foxes such as Yang and Patrushev are more than aware of the game in play.

What’s particularly relevant is that Yang-Patrushev laid the groundwork for an upcoming Putin visit to Xi in Beijing not long after Putin-Biden in Geneva – to further coordinate geopolitically, once again, the “comprehensive strategic partnership”, in their mutually recognized terminology.

The visit might take place on July 1, the hundredth anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party – or on July 16, the 20thanniversary of the China-Russia Treaty of Friendship.

So Putin-Biden is the starter; Putin-Xi is the main course.

That Putin-Luka tea for two

Beyond the Russian president’s “outburst of emotions” comment defending his Belarusian counterpart’s action, the Putin-Lukashenko tea for two in Sochi yielded an extra piece of the puzzle concerning the RyanAir emergency landing in Minsk– starring a blogger from Belarus who is alleged to have lent his services to the ultra-nationalist, neo-Nazi-ridden Azov battalion, which fought against the people’s republics of Donetsk and Lugansk in the Ukrainian Donbass in 2014.

Lukashenko told Putin he had “brought along some documents so you can understand what is going on.” Nothing has been leaked regarding the contents of these documents, but it’s possible they may be incandescent – related to the fact that sanctions were imposed by the EU against Belavia Airlines even though the carrier had nothing to do with the RyanAir saga – and potentially capable of being brought up in the context of Putin-Biden in Geneva.

The Big Picture is always Eurasia versus the Atlanticist West. As much as Washington will keep pushing Europe – and Japan – to decouple from both China and Russia, Cold War 2.0 on two simultaneous fronts has very few takers.

Rational players see that the 21st century combined scientific, economic and military power of a Russia-China strategic partnership would be a whole new ball game in terms of global reach compared with the former USSR/Iron Curtain era.

And when it comes to appealing to the Global South, and the new iterations of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), emphasis on an international order upholding the UN Charter and the rule of international law is definitely sexier than a much-vaunted “rules-based international order” where only the hegemon sets the rules.

In parallel to Moscow’s lack of illusions about the new Washington dispensation, the same applies to Beijing – especially after the latest outburst by Kurt Campbell, the former Obama-Biden 1.0 assistant secretary of state for East Asia and the Pacific who is now back as the head of Indo-Pacific Affairs on the National Security Council under Obama-Biden 3.0.

Campbell is the actual father of the ‘pivot to Asia’ concept when he was at the State Department in the early 2010s – although as I pointed out during the 2016 US presidential campaign, it was Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State who claimed Mothership of the pivot to Asia in an October 2011 essay.

At a gig promoted by Stanford University last week, Campbell said, “The period that was broadly described as engagement [with China] has come to an end.” After all, the “pivot to Asia” never really died, as there has been a clear Trump-Biden continuum.

Campbell obfuscated by talking about a “new set of strategic parameters” and the need to confront China by working with “allies, partners and friends”. Nonsense: this is all about the militarization of the Indo-Pacific.

That’s what Biden himself reiterated during his first address to a joint session of the US Congress, when he boasted about telling Xi that the US will “maintain a strong military presence in the Indo-Pacific” just as it does with NATO in Europe.

The Iranian factor

On a different but parallel track with Yang-Patrushev, Iran may be on the cusp of a momentous directional change. We may see it as part of a progressive strengthening of the Arc of Resistance – which links Iran, the People’s Mobilization Units in Iraq, Syria, Hezbollah, the Houthis in Yemen and now a more unified Palestine.

The proxy war on Syria was a tragic, massive fail on every aspect. It did not deliver secular Syria to a bunch of takfiris (aka “moderate rebels”). It did not prevent the expansion of Iran’s sphere of influence. It did not derail the Southwest Asia branch of the New Silk Roads. It did not destroy Hezbollah.

“Assad must go”? Dream on; he was reelected with 95% of Syrian votes, with a 78% turnout.

As for the upcoming Iranian presidential election on June 18 – only two days after Putin-Biden – it takes place when arguably the nuclear deal revival drama being enacted in Vienna will have reached an endgame. Tehran has repeatedly stressed that the deadline for a deal expires today, May 31.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: China, Iran, Russia 
Ebrahim Raeisi, the Islamic Republic’s Chief Justice
Ebrahim Raeisi, the Islamic Republic’s Chief Justice

When Iran’s Interior Ministry released on Tuesday the final list of candidates approved by the 12-member Guardian Council to run for President in the upcoming June 18 election, all hell was breaking loose in Tehran for at least 24 hours.

An “unofficial” list of the 7 candidates for the presidential election was already circulating and causing quite a stir, but not confirmed yet to be final.

The talk of the town was that the list barred a lot of important people. Former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was out. So was Ali Larijani – a former Parliament speaker, and even the current Iranian Vice President, Es’haq Jahangiri, who should be the top reformist running.

The Fars news agency had broken the story on Monday, announcing the final 7. They got everything right – from the elimination of Ahmadinejad, Larijani and Jahangiri to the fact that no women candidates were approved.

Fars is very close to the IRGC. So what happened makes perfect sense. Including the rumors swirling around Tehran that outgoing President Rouhani went into panic mode, calling Ayatollah Khamenei for a revision of the list.

As it stands, the Magnificent Seven who will be running are Ebrahim Raeisi, Saeed Jalili, Mohsen Rezaei, Alireza Zakani, Seyyed Amir-Hossein, Ghazizadeh-Hashemi, Albdolnasser Hemmati and Mohsen Mehr-Alizadeh.

The undisputed leader of the pack is Raeisi, the head of the Judiciary since 2019. He is technically a Principlist – an Islamic Revolution conservative, in Iranian terms – but says he will run as an independent. Call him a soft hardliner.

Among the others, the only one relatively known outside of Iran is Jalili, also a Principlist, and former top nuclear negotiator as secretary of the Supreme National Security Council from 2007 to 2013.

At least in thesis, two reformists are left: Mehr-Alizadeh and Hemmati, the current governor of the Central Bank. But they have no national appeal.

So Raeisi now seems to be nearly a done deal: a relatively faceless bureaucrat without the profile of an IRGC hardliner, well known for his anti-corruption fight and care about the poor and downtrodden. On foreign policy, the crucial fact is that he will arguably follow crucial IRGC dictates.

Raeisi is already spinning that he “negotiated quietly” to secure the qualification of more candidates, “to make the election scene more competitive and participatory”. The problem is no candidate has the power to sway the opaque decisions of the 12-member Guardian Council, composed exclusively by clerics: only Ayatollah Khamenei.

The Guardian Council cryptically stated that only 40 out of 592 candidates had submitted “all the required documents” to the Interior Ministry’s election HQ. There was no explanation about the content of these “documents”.

Abbas-Ali Kadkhodaee, the Council’s spokesman, dismissed any politicking: decisions were made based on “election law”. So no one can contest them – except Khamenei. He stressed that the Council “had not been informed” of any action by the Leader.

The end of the reformist era

Vice President Jahangiri, who would have been the reformist standard bearer, did not take it lightly: in a forceful statement, he said, “the Council naturally bears the responsibility for the decision and its legal basis and for the political and social consequences arising from it.”

More crucially for the Tehran establishment, he highlighted a “serious threat” to the system: “I hope that the republican aspect of the establishment, the effective participation of the people in determining their own fate, the national interests, and the future of Iran will not be sacrificed to immediate political expediencies.”

Advisers to former President Ahmadinejad – still extremely popular nationally – told me they are still weighing their options: “It is a very big disappointment, but expected. A big mistake, that will lead to anger and distrust among common people, and eventually backlash.”

Professor Mohammad Marandi of the University of Tehran remarked, “there’s still some uncertainty about the candidates.” He’s not making a full assessment yet because he’s not sure the vetoing of Larijani, especially, “will be the final say”.

Even as the Magnificent Seven are now free to start campaigning, the overall sentiment is that the Rouhani-Zarif era seems to be over, not with a bang but a whimper.

At the JCPOA negotiations in Vienna, Iranian deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi continues to sound as a realist, stressing, “I am not confident that it would be possible to conclude the negotiations but there is a possibility.” That would require “political decisions to be made”, a direct reference to Washington.

Everyone in Vienna knows that what was agreed to far on the JCPOA revival was the easy part. The real problem are the remaining hundreds of sanctions that must be canceled by the US Congress – and that’s not gonna happen.

Besides, the Americans continue to insist that Tehran should first resume the nuclear commitments it has suspended – following its legal retaliation rights as defined by Article 26 of the JCPOA. Tehran’s red line is clear: it was Washington which ditched the JCPOA, so it’s up to the US to first remove all sanctions, “practically and verifiably”.

Tehran has reiterated over and over again it will walk out of Vienna by the end of May if there’s no deal. The IRGC couldn’t care less: they are already in post-JCPOA mode. Focused on the Iran-China strategic deal. Focused on wider Eurasia integration alongside Russia and China. And relying on the perfect candidate placed to become the next Iranian president.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Iran, Iran Nuclear Agreement 

Andrei Martyanov is in a class by himself. A third wave baby boomer, born in the early 1960s in Baku, in the Caucasus, then part of the former USSR, he’s arguably the foremost military analyst in the Russian sphere, living and working in the US, writing in English for a global audience, and always excelling in his Reminiscence of the Future blog.

I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing Martyanov’s previous two books. In Losing Military Supremacy: The Myopia of American Strategic Planning, nearly three years ago he conclusively proved, among other things, how the missile gap between the US and Russia was a “technological abyss”, and how the Khinzal was “a complete game-changer geopolitically, strategically, operationally, tactically and psychologically”.

He extensively mapped “the final arrival of a completely new paradigm” in warfare and military technology. This review is included in my own Asia Times e-book Shadow play.

Then came The (Real) Revolution in Military Affairs, where he went one step beyond, explaining how this “revolution”, introduced at the Pentagon by the late Andrew Marshall, a.k.a. Yoda, the de facto inventor of the “pivot to Asia” concept, was in fact designed by Soviet military theoreticians way back in the 1970s, as MTR (Military-Technological Revolution).

His new book, Disintegration, completes a trilogy. And it’s a stunning departure.

Here, Martyanov, in meticulous detail, analyzes the imperial decline thematically – with chapters on Consumption, Geoeconomics, Energy, Losing the Arms Race, among others, composing a devastating indictment especially of toxic D.C. lobbies and the prevailing political mediocrity across the Beltway. What is laid bare for the reader is the complex interplay of forces that are driving the political, ideological, economic, cultural and military American chaos.

Chapter 3, on Geoeconomics, is a joy ride. Martyanov shows how geoeconomics as a field separate from warfare and geopolitics is nothing but an obfuscation racket: good old conflict “wrapped in the thin shroud of political sciences’ shallow intellectualism” – the stuff Huntington, Fukuyama and Brzezinski’s dreams are made of.

That is fully developed on Chapter 6, on Western Elites – complete with a scathing debunking of the “myth of Henry Kissinger”: “just another American exceptionalist, mislabeled a ‘realist’”, part of a gang that “is not conditioned to think multi-dimensionally”. After all they’re still not capable of understanding the rationale and the implications of Putin’s 2007 Munich speech that declared the unipolar moment – a crude euphemism for Hegemony – dead and buried.

How not to win wars

One of Martyanov’s key assessments is that having lost the arms race and every single war it unleashed in the 21st century – as the record shows – geoeconomics is essentially an “euphemism for America’s non-stop sanctions and attempts to sabotage the economies of any nation capable of competing with the United States” (see, for instance, the ongoing Nord Stream 2 saga). This is “the only tool” (his italics) the US is using trying to halt its decline.

On a chapter on Energy, Martyanov demonstrates how the US shale oil adventure is financially non-viable, and how a rise in oil exports was essentially due to the US “pickin up’ quotas freed chiefly as a result of Russia and Saudi Arabia’s earlier cuts within OPEC + in an attempt to balance the world’s oil market”.

In Chapter 7, Losing the Arms Race, Martyanov expands on the key theme he’s the undisputed superstar: the United States cannot win wars. Inflicting Hybrid War is another matter entirely, as in creating “a lot of misery around the world, from effectively starving people to killing them outright”.

A glaring example has been “maximum pressure” economic sanctions on Iran. But the point is these tools – which also included the assassination of Gen Soleimani – that are part of the arsenal of “spreading democracy” have nothing to do with “geoeconomics”, but have “everything to do with the raw power plays designed to achieve the main Clausewitzian object of war – ‘to compel our enemy to do our will’”. And “for America, most of the world is the enemy”.

Martyanov also feels compelled to update what he’s been excelling at for years: the fact that the arrival of hypersonic missiles “has changed warfare forever”. The Khinzal, deployed way back in 2017, has a range of 2,000 km and “is not interceptable by existing US anti-missile systems”. The 3M22 Zircon “changes the calculus of both naval and ground warfare completely”. The US lag behind Russia in air-defense systems is “massive, and both quantitative and qualitative”.

Disintegration additionally qualifies as a sharp critique of the eminently post-modernist phenomenon – starring infinite cultural fragmentation and the refusal to accept that “truth is knowable and can be agreed upon” – responsible for the current social re-engineering of the US, in tandem with an oligarchy that “realistically, is not very bright, despite being rich”.

ORDER IT NOW

And then there’s rampant Russophobia. Martyanov sounds the definitive red alert: “Of course, the United States is still capable of starting a war with Russia, but if it does so, this will mean only one thing – the United States will cease to exist, as will most of the human civilization. The horrific thing is that there are some people in the US for whom even this price is too small to pay.”

In the end, a cool scientific intellect cannot but rely on sound realpolitik: assuming the US avoids complete disintegration into “separatist territories”, Martyanov stresses that the only way for the American “elite” to maintain any kind of control “over generations increasingly woke or desensitized by drugs” is through tyranny. Actually techno-tyranny. And that seems to be the brave new dysfunctional paradigm further on down the road.

 
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (right) laugh as they arrive for a meeting at the Harpa Concert Hall in Reykjavik, Iceland, May 19, 2021, on the sidelines of the Arctic Council Ministerial summit. Photo : AFP / Saul Loeb / Pool
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (right) laugh as they arrive for a meeting at the Harpa Concert Hall in Reykjavik, Iceland, May 19, 2021, on the sidelines of the Arctic Council Ministerial summit. Photo : AFP / Saul Loeb / Pool

So Sergey Lavrov and Tony Blinken met for nearly two hours at the Harpa Concert Hall in Reykjavik, on the sidelines of the ministerial session of the Arctic Council.

Frosty? Not really. Even if the get together may not have been a throwback to a Reagan-Gorbachev funfest in the good old Cold War days. After all, there was a NATO warship parked right outside the windows of Harpa Hall – like a prop in a Marvel blockbuster.

Self-described “amateur guitarist” Blinken may have been relatively swayed by the charms of the 1968 Elvis stunner A Little Less Conversation.

Well, at least there was some conversation. As for “a little more action”, as Elvis sang it, it remains to be seen. A good sign is that they addressed each other as “Sergey” and “Tony”. Blinken even attempted a “Spasiba”.

Let’s start with Lavrov – who routinely dwells in the Valhalla of diplomacy, unlike average apparatchik Blinken.

We agreed to continue our joint actions, which are developing quite successfully, on regional conflicts where the interests of the United States and Russia coincide. This is the nuclear problem of the Korean Peninsula, and the situation with efforts to restore the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on the Iranian nuclear program. This is Afghanistan, where the expanded troika consisting of Russia, China, the United States, Pakistan is actively working. We discussed how at this stage we can make all our joint actions more effective.

So there was “a very useful conversation” (Lavrov again) on what they do coincide (revival of the JCPOA), don’t coincide (Afghanistan) and hardly coincide (North Korea).

More than useful, actually: “constructive”. Lavrov again: “There is an understanding of the need to overcome the unhealthy situation that developed between Moscow and Washington in previous years.”

Lavrov made it very clear what we are at a stage of mere “proposal” to “start a dialogue, considering all aspects, all factors affecting strategic stability: nuclear, non-nuclear, offensive, defensive. I have not seen a rejection of such a concept, but experts still have to work on it.”

So Blinken did not reject it. The devil is how the “experts” will “work on it”.

Those pesky “laws of diplomacy”

It’s quite useful to compare what they said to each other – at least according to what was leaked.

Lavrov stressed discussions must be “honest, factual and with mutual respect”. Most important area of cooperation is “strategic stability”. He crucially invoked the “laws of diplomacy” – something that the Hegemon has not exactly been fond of lately: they “call for reciprocity, especially when it comes to responding to any kind of unfriendly action.” Implied is Moscow’s willingness to solve problems “inherited from previous US administrations.”

Blinken said the US wants a predictable and stable relationship: “It’s our view that if the leaders of Russia and the United States can work together cooperatively, our people, the world can be a safer and more secure place.” Areas where interests “intersect and overlap” include battling Covid-19 and climate change, apart from Iran, Afghanistan and North Korea.

“Russian aggression” though could not simply be thrown into the Arctic Sea: “If Russia acts aggressively against us, our partners, our allies, we will respond… not for purposes of escalation, not to seek conflict, but to defend our interests.”

So “experts” will have a field day – actually, days, weeks and months – figuring out how which brands of “Russian aggression” attack “our interests.”

As it stands, it looks like the bilateral Putin-Biden summit next month in a “European diplomatic capital” – as rumors swirl in Brussels – may be a go. To hope that it would take place, for instance, in Nursultan – the diplomatic capital of Eurasia – is a long shot.

Lavrov: “We will prepare proposals for our presidents both on these issues [the work of diplomatic missions] and the matters related to our dialogue on strategic stability.”

It’s quite enlightening to consider two parallel developments to Reykjavik.

The State Dept. confirmed it will waive sanctions against the Swiss-based company overseeing the construction of Nord Stream 2. And SWIFT confirmed to the Russian Central Bank that business continues as usual, and Moscow won’t be cut off from the system.

These may be interpreted as goodwill gestures ahead of the possible June summit. Afterwards, no one knows.

It’s also enlightening to note what Lavrov and Blinken did not discuss: vaccine diplomacy.

Sergey Naryshkin, the director of the SVR foreign intel, is now on the record saying that the registration of Sputnik V vaccine at the EU is being stalled by “signals from the corridors of power” in Brussels – something I confirmed weeks ago with relatively independent diplomats. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) still sustains that the vaccine may be registered before the end of the month.

And then there are glaring cases like Brazil, the target of tremendous pressure by Washington to prevent Sputnik V’s approval. Sputnik V has been registered by 61 nations, overwhelmingly in the Global South.

Let’s assume that Cold War 2.0, in theory, may have been put on hold. Now it’s time then for a “little more action”. Will it come to the point that Sergey and Tony will agree on “a little less fight, a little more spark” and dance to the rhythm of “all this aggravation ain’t satisfactioning me”?

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Joe Biden, Russia, Tony Blinken 

Nakba, May 15, 2021. Future historians will mark the day when Western “liberal democracy” issued a graphic proclamation: We bomb media offices and destroy “freedom of the press” in an open air concentration camp while we forbid peaceful demonstrations under a state of siege in the heart of Europe.

And if you revolt, we cancel you.

Gaza meets Paris. The bombing of the al-Jalaa tower – an eminently residential building which also housed the bureaus of al-Jazeera and AP, among others – by “the only democracy in the Middle East” is directly connected to the verboten order carried out by Macron’s Ministry of Interior.

For all practical purposes Paris endorsed the occupying power’s provocations in East Jerusalem; the invasion of al-Aqsa mosque – complete with tear gas and stun grenades; racist Zionist gangs harassing and crying “death to Arabs”; armed settlers aggressing Palestinian families threatened with expulsion from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan; a campaign of carpet bombing whose lethal victims – on average – are 30% children.

Paris crowds were not intimidated. From Barbes to Republique, they marched in the streets – their rallying cry being Israel assassin, Macron complice. They instinctively understodood that Le Petit Roi – a puny Rothschild employee – had just firebombed the historical legacy of the nation that coined the Déclaration Universelle des Droits de L’Homme.

The mask of “liberal democracy” kept falling again and again in a loop – with imperial Big Tech dutifully canceling the voices of Palestinians and defenders of Palestine en masse, in tandem with a diplomatic kabuki that could fool only the already brain-dead.

On May 16, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi chaired a United States Security Council (UNSC) debate via video link that had been stalled by Washington, non-stop, throughout the week. China presides over the UNSC throughout May.

The UNSC could not even agree on a mere joint statement. Once again because the UNSC was blocked by the – cowardly – Empire of Chaos.

It was up to Hua Liming, former Chinese ambassador to Iran, to break it all down in a single sentence:

“The US doesn’t want to give the credit of mediating the Palestine-Israel conflict to China, especially when China is the president of the UNSC.”

The usual imperial procedure is to “talk”, “offer you can’t refuse” Mafia-style, to both sides under the table – as the combo behind Crash Test Dummy, an avowed Zionist, had already admitted on an appalling White House tweet “reaffirming” its “strong support for Israel’s right to defend itself”.

Hua emphasized, correctly, “this is the key reason why any solution or ceasefire between Israel and Gaza or other forces in the region would be temporary.”

The whole Global South is incessantly bombarded by the imperial “human rights” rhetoric – from convicted crook Navalny to fake reports on Xinjiang. Yet when there is a real human rights catastrophe unleashed by the settler colonialist ally’s carpet bombing, Hua pointed out how “the hypocrisy and double standards of the US have been exposed again”.

One phone call can stop it

Amos Yadlin is the former IDF Military Intelligence Directorate chief, and also former Israeli military attaché to the US.

In a meeting with South African Zionists, he admitted the obvious: the Zionist carnage against Gaza can be stopped by Crash Test Dummy – who happens to be, what else, a Zionist puppet.

Yadlin claimed that the Crash Test Dummy administration, rather the combo behind it, was getting “impatient” and he would be “not surprised if this will all stop in 48 hours.” And once again he had to reinforce the obvious: “When the Egyptians ask Israel to stop, Israel doesn’t want to stop. But if the Americans will ask Israel to stop, Israel will have to listen.”

The Empire practices trademark doublespeak when referring to the “international community” – which in theory gathers at the UN. The concomitant 24/7 propaganda barrage applies only to the motley crew of partners in crime, minions, lackeys, poodles and vassals, imperially ignoring and/or pissing on the heads of over 80% of the planet. Confronted with the reality of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Ukraine and others, “rules-based international order” does not even qualify as a joke for retards.

So next time you see some sub-zoology specimen deploying the “Israel has the right to defend itself” Maximum Stupidity argument, the only possible response is to unleash facts as missiles.

Every sentient being with a conscience knows Palestine faces a racist settler colonialism project boasting an armed-to-the-hilt-military and several nuclear bombs, specialized in practicing state terrorism.

Gaza though is a particularly horrifying case. Population: nearly 2 million people. One of the top densely populated areas on the planet. A de facto open air concentration camp where no less than 50% are children, one in ten stunted to a great extent because of food shortages provoked by the Israeli blockade. The official Israeli military plan is to allow just enough food in so the whole population barely survives. 50% of the population depends on food aid.

No less than 70% of families are refugees, who were ethnically cleansed from what is now southern Israel: there are roughly 1.46 million refugees out of a population of 1.9 million.

Gaza has 8 refugee camps – some being bombed as we speak. Never forget that Israel ruled Gaza directly from 1967 to 2005 and did less than zero to better their appalling conditions.

There are only 22 health centers, 16 social services offices and 11 food distribution centers, serving roughly 1 million people. No airport or port: both destroyed by Israel. The unemployment rate is 50% – the highest on the whole planet. Clean water is available to only 5% of the population.

But then there’s the Resistance. Elijah Magnier has shown how they have already pierced Israel’s pre-fabricated aura of invulnerability and “prestige” – and there’s only one way to go, as the speed, accuracy, range and potency of rockets and missiles can only improve.

In parallel, in a wise strategic move, Hamas and Islamic Jihad have made it very clear they prefer that Hezbollah does not get itself directly involved – for now, thus allowing the whole Global South to be focused on the carnage perpetrated against Gaza.

“A landscape of iron and desolation”

Sociologie de Jerusalem, by Sylvaine Bulle, is a short but quite illuminating book showing how the battle for East Jerusalem is as imperative for the future of Palestine as the tragedy in Gaza.

Bulle focuses on the “internal racism” in Israel directly linked to the hegemony of extreme-right Zionist “elites”. A key consequence has been the “peripherization” and marginalization of East Jerusalem, thrown into a situation of “forced dependence” of Westernized West Jerusalem.

Bulle shows how East Jerusalem only exists as “a landscape of iron and desolation”, through a juxtaposition of ultra-dense and totally abandoned zones. Palestinians who live in these areas are not regarded or respected as citizens.

 
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Left) during an April 17, 2017, visit to the tomb of Yavuz Sultan Selim, a sultan of the former Ottoman Empire 1512-1520, in Istanbul, a day after Erdogan’s victory in a national referendum. Photo : AFP / Yasin Bulbul / Turkish Presidential Press Office
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Left) during an April 17, 2017, visit to the tomb of Yavuz Sultan Selim, a sultan of the former Ottoman Empire 1512-1520, in Istanbul, a day after Erdogan’s victory in a national referendum. Photo : AFP / Yasin Bulbul / Turkish Presidential Press Office

Once upon a time in Anatolia, in the late 13th century a Turkic principality – one of many shaped in the wake of the Mongol invasion of the 1240s – consigned the Seljuk Turks to the past and emerged as the Ottoman emirate. It was named after its founder, Osman I.

By the middle of the 15th century, the time of the game-changing conquest of Constantinople by Sultan Mehmet II, the expanding Ottoman empire had absorbed virtually all its neighboring Turkic emirates.

And by the start of the 16th century, what sprang up was a multi-religious and multi-ethnic empire that – pragmatic and tolerant – ruled for four centuries over the Balkans, Anatolia and Southwest Asia.

Talk about a major historical riddle: How did a small principality in the western fringe of what used to be known as Asia Minor turn into what could arguably be defined as Islam’s most important empire? The key to unlocking the riddle may be offered by Sultan Selim I.

God’s Shadow, which in its original English edition (Faber & Faber) is subtitled The Ottoman Sultan Who Shaped the Modern World, may reveal that author Alan Mikhail, chair of the Department of History at Yale, is uniquely qualified to argue the case.

Mehmet II, who with his endless obsession and cunning extinguished the Byzantine empire on the fateful May 29, 1453, when he was only 21, was a larger-than-life figure for peoples of the Mediterranean, the Balkans and Asia Minor.

He bridged Europe and Asia. He refashioned Constantinople, renamed Istanbul, into the capital of the sprawling empire. He lorded over the silk roads from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean. The Fatih (“Conqueror”) assumed mythical proportions east and west – and even branded himself Caesar, heir to Byzantine emperors.

Christopher Columbus taking leave of Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon before setting out on his first voyage to the New World, August 8, 1492. Photo: AFP / Ann Ronan Picture Library
Christopher Columbus taking leave of Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon before setting out on his first voyage to the New World, August 8, 1492. Photo: AFP / Ann Ronan Picture Library

Mehmet II conquered the Balkans in the 1460s, finished off with Genoese trading colonies in Crimea and imposed vassalage over the Crimean Tatar Khanate in 1478. That meant, in practice, turning the Black Sea into a virtual Ottoman lake.

Author Mikhail stresses right at the start that the Ottoman Empire was the most powerful state on earth – more powerful than the Ming dynasty, not to mention the Safavids – for quite some time. It was the largest empire in the Mediterranean since ancient Rome and “the most enduring” in the history of Islam.

Then he sets the crux of the – explosive – thesis he will develop in detail: “It was the Ottoman monopoly of trade routes with the East, combined with their military prowess on land and on sea, that pushed Spain and Portugal out of the Mediterranean, forcing merchants and sailors from these 15th-century kingdoms to become global explorers as they risked treacherous voyages across oceans and around continents – all to avoid the Ottomans.”

This thesis will be extremely unpalatable to a hegemonic (at least for the past 150 years) West, now confronted with its turbulent decline. Mikhail does his best to show how, “from China to Mexico, the Ottoman empire shaped the known world at the turn of the 16th century.”

Obviously ideological, military and economic competition with the Spanish and Italian states – and then Russia, China and other Islamic states – was no holds barred. Still, Mikhail relishes showing how Columbus, Vasco da Gama, Montezuma, Luther, Tamerlan – one and all “calibrated their actions and defined their very existence in reaction to the reach and grasp of Ottoman power.”

Geoeconomic superpower

It takes a lot of balls for a historian employed by an elite American university to offer a self-described “revolutionary” narrative on the role of Islam and the Ottomans in shaping not only the Old World, but also the New World. Mikhail is fully aware of how this will come as “a bitter pill for many in the West.”

Exit Muslims as the “terrorist.” Exit “the rise of the West.” Enter the Ottomans as a civilizing power. Mikhail is adamant: The practice “since the Industrial Revolution and the so-called glories of the 19th century” of stretching European primacy back to Columbus “is a historical absurdity.” The Ottoman empire “struck fear into the world for centuries before it earned its derogatory 19th-century sobriquet, ‘the sick man of Europe.’”

The fact is that, for all its setbacks, the Ottoman Empire – in over 600 years of history – remained the hegemon in the Middle East and one of the most important states in Europe, Africa and Asia until World War I. From 1453 up to the 19th century, the Ottomans remained “at the center of global politics, economics and war.”

Just imagine. Ottoman armies ruled over vast swaths of Europe, Africa and Asia; the most crucial Silk and non-Silk trade corridors; key city hubs along the Mediterranean, the Red Sea, the Black Sea, the Caspian Sea, the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean. They ruled over Damascus, Istanbul, Cairo, Jerusalem, Mecca and Medina. That’s a long way from their humble beginnings as sheepherders in desolate trails across Central Asia.

And then there’s the ultimate badass: Sultan Selim.

Mikhail spends a great deal of his narrative carefully setting the stage for the eruption of the quintessentially Machiavellian Selim, even before he became Sultan in 1512. Still in Trabzon, in the Black Sea, as provincial governor, consolidating the imperial forces in the East, by 1492 Selim was fully aware how the alliance between Istanbul and Cairo conditioned European trade in what US neo-cons not long ago called the “Greater Middle East.”

The Ottomans and the Mamluks – whom Selim would later destroy as Sultan – controlled all access to the East from the Mediterranean. This geoeconomic fact by itself destroys the fable of European ascendancy during the Renaissance and the much-lauded “Age of Exploration”; it was all about Ottoman control of trade and commerce.

If anyone in Europe wanted to trade with China and India, they would have to adjust to the Ottoman’s “my way or the highway.” The Venetians tried, and it didn’t work. Genoese Columbus went full highway. Mikhail relishes nothing more than showing how the voyages of Columbus, in so many ways, “were a response to the power of the Ottomans.” They were “the political force that shaped Columbus and his generation more than any other.”

Selim casually hanging out with crocodiles in Egypt. Photo: Miniature included in the book
Selim casually hanging out with crocodiles in Egypt. Photo: Miniature included in the book

Things get positively heavy metal when Columbus is depicted as a Christian jihadi, as “he used the notion of a global civilizational war between Christendom and Islam to push his case for the Atlantic voyage.” Queen Isabella ended up buying it.

 
• Category: History • Tags: Ottoman Empire, Turkey 

Henry Kissinger, 97, Henry the K. for those he keeps close, is either a Delphic oracle-style strategic thinker or a certified war criminal for those kept not so close.

He now seems to have been taking time off his usual Divide and Rule stock in trade – advising the combo behind POTUS, a.k.a. Crash Test Dummy – to emit some realpolitik pearls of wisdom.

At a recent forum in Arizona, referring to the festering, larger than life Sino-American clash, Henry the K. said, “It’s the biggest problem for America; it’s the biggest problem for the world. Because if we can’t solve that, then the risk is that all over the world a kind of cold war will develop between China and the United States.”

In realpolitik terms, this “kind of Cold War” is already on; across the Beltway, China is unanimously regarded as the premier US national security threat.

Kissinger added US policy toward China must be a mix of stressing US “principles” to demand China’s respect and dialogue to find areas of cooperation: “I’m not saying that diplomacy will always lead to beneficial results…This is the complex task we have… Nobody has succeeded in doing it completely.”

Henry the K. actually must have lost the – diplomatic – plot. What Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov are now involved in, full time, is to demonstrate – mostly to the Global South – how the American-enforced “rules-based international order” has absolutely nothing to do with international law and the respect of national sovereignty.

At first I had archived these Henry the K. platitudes out of sight. But then someone who used to hold a stellar position at the top of the US Deep State showed he had been paying close attention.

This personality – let’s call him Mr. S. – has been one of my invaluable, trustworthy sources since the early 2000s. Mutual confidence was always key. I asked him if I could publish selected passages of his analysis, not naming names. Consent was given – ruefully. So fasten your seat belts.

Dancin’ with Mr. S.

Mr. S., in a quite intriguing fashion, seems to be expressing the collective views of a number of extremely qualified people. Right from the start, he points out how Henry the K.’s observations explain today’s Russia-China-Iran triangle.

The first point that we make is that it was not Kissinger who created policy for Nixon, but the Deep State. Kissinger was just a messenger boy. In the 1972 situation the Deep State wanted to get out of Vietnam, which policy was put in place as containment of communist China and Russia. We were there based on the domino theory.

He goes on:

The Deep State wanted to achieve a number of objectives in approaching Chairman Mao, who was antagonized by Russia. It wanted to ally in 1972 with China against Russia. That made Vietnam meaningless, for China would become the containing party of Russia and Vietnam no longer meant anything. We wanted to balance China against Russia. Now, China was not a major power in 1972 but it could drain Russia, forcing it to place 400,000 troops on their border. And our Deep State policy worked. We in the Deep State had thought it through, and not Kissinger. 400,000 troops on the Chinese border was a drain on their budget, as later Afghanistan became with over 100,000 troops, and the Warsaw Pact had another 600,000 troops.

And that brings us into Afghanistan:

The Deep State wanted to start a Vietnam for Russia in Afghanistan in 1979. I was among those against it, as this would needlessly use the Afghani people as cannon fodder and that was unfair. I was overruled. Here Brzezinski was playing Kissinger; another overrated nothing who just carried messages.

The Deep State also decided to crash the oil price, as that would economically weaken Russia. And that worked in 1985, driving the price to eight dollars a barrel, which ate up half the Russian budget. Then, we basically gave permission for Saddam Hussein to invade Kuwait as a ploy to send in our advanced army to knock him out and demonstrate our superiority to the world in weaponry, which very much demoralized the Russians and put the fear of God into Islamic oil. Then we created the Star Wars fiction. Russia to our surprise lost their nerve and collapsed.

Mr. S. defines all of the above as “wonderful” in his opinion, as “communism went out and Christianity came in”:

We then wanted to welcome Russia into the community of Christian nations, but the Deep State wanted to dismember them. That was stupid, as they would balance against China at least from their Mackinder point of view. It was naive on my part to hope to a return of Christianity, as the West was moving rapidly toward total moral disintegration.

In the meantime, our ally China continues to grow as we were not finished with the dismemberment of Russia and the advisors we sent to Russia destroyed the whole economy in the 1990s against my objections. The 78-day Belgrade bombing finally woke Russia up and they started a massive re-militarization as it was obvious that the intention was in the end to bomb Moscow into the ground. So defensive missiles became essential. Thus, the S-300, S-400, S-500 and soon S-600s.

The Deep State had been warned by me at our meetings on how bombing Belgrade in 1999 would cause Russia to remilitarize and I lost the argument. Belgrade was bombed for 78 days versus the vengeance bombing of Hitler for two days. And China continues to grow.

Why balance of power doesn’t work

And that bring us to a new era – that started in practice with the Chinese announcement of the New Silk Roads in 2013 and Maidan in Kiev in 2014:

China wakes up to all of this in that they begin to realize that they have been just used, and that the US fleet controls their trade routes, and decides to approach Russia in 2014 just about the time of their witnessing the Maidan overthrow of Ukraine. This overthrow was organized by the Deep State when they started to understand that they had lost the arms race, and did not even know what was happening.

The Deep State wanted to draw Russia into a Vietnam again in the Ukraine to drain them and crash the oil price again, which they did. Beijing studied this and saw the light. If Russia is overthrown, the West will control all their natural resources, which they see themselves needing as they grew into a giant economy larger than the US. And Beijing starts to open up a warm relationship with Moscow seeking to obtain land based natural resources as oil and natural gas from Russia to avoid the seas for natural resources as much as they can. In the meantime, Beijing massively accelerates its building of submarines carrying missiles capable of destroying the US fleets.

So where does Kissinger in Arizona fit in?

Now, Kissinger reflects the Deep State angst on the Russia-Chinese relationship and wants this split up for dear life. This is interestingly covered here by Kissinger. He does not want to tell the truth about balance of power realities. He describes them as “our values”, when the US has no values left but anarchy, looting, and burning down hundreds of cities. Biden hopes to buy all these disenfranchised masses as money printing goes wild.

So we are back to Kissinger shocked at the new Russian-Chinese alliance. They must be separated.