Archive | Asia

Yuan Clearing Bank Opens in Moscow as Russia, China Dump Dollar in Bilateral Trade

NOVANEWS

Russia and China accelerate local currency cooperation

 
Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping

Moscow and Beijing took another step towards de-dollarization with the announcement of the opening of a renminbi clearing bank in Russia on Wednesday. 

Local currency transactions were first used in both countries’ border regions. Today, more and more Chinese and Russian financial institutes and enterprises are using local currencies to invest and settle accounts, as the yuan-ruble trade platform is becoming more established and the transaction network is expanding amid deepening China-Russia economic and financial cooperation.

goodbye dollar, hello renminbi

The yuan clearing bank in Moscow will greatly accelerate trade in local currencies:

Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) officially started operating as a Chinese renminbi (CNY) clearing bank in Russia Wednesday, a move set to facilitate the use of the currency and cooperation in various fields between the two countries.

“Under the guidance of the governments and central banks of both countries, ICBC’s Moscow branch will effectively fulfill its responsibility and obligation as a renminbi clearing bank by taking further advantage of its leading edge in renminbi businesses, providing customers with safe, high quality and convenient clearing services,” said Hu Hao, ICBC’s deputy governor, at the opening ceremony.

“Financial regulatory authorities of China and Russia have signed a series of major agreements, which marks a new level of financial cooperation,” said Dmitry Skobelkin, deputy governor of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation.

“The launching of renminbi clearing services in Russia will further expand local settlement business and promote financial cooperation between the two countries,” the official added.

With the continuous deepening of the Russia-China comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination in recent years, the two countries are now starting to enhance local currency cooperation.

At the end of 2015, the Russian central bank announced the inclusion of the renminbi in its national foreign exchange reserves, making it Russia’s officially recognized reserve currency.

During Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s visit to China in June last year, the central banks of the two countries signed a memorandum of cooperation in starting renminbi clearing services in Russia, just three months before ICBC’s Moscow branch was appointed by China’s central bank as the clearing house for settling renminbi transactions there.

It’s no secret that Russia and China have employed a number of methods to slowly wean themselves off dollar dependency.

Russia became China’s largest energy exporter in February of last year after it agreed to accept payment in yuan.

The dollar is slowly losing its privileged place in international transactions.

We’re sure Washington is less than thrilled.

Posted in China, Russia0 Comments

US Presence in South Korea Drives Instability

The Geopolitics of the US-North Korea Standoff

US and European interests continue to portray the government and nation of North Korea as a perpetual security threat to both Asia and the world. Allegations regarding the nation’s nuclear weapon and ballistic missile programs are continuously used as justification for not only a continuous US military presence on the Korean Peninsula, but as justification for a wider continued presence across all of Asia-Pacific.

In reality, what is portrayed as an irrational and provocative posture by the North Korean government, is in fact driven by a very overt, and genuinely provocative posture by the United States and its allies within the South Korean government.

During this year’s Foal Eagle joint US-South Korean military exercises, US-European and South Korean media sources intentionally made mention of  preparations for a “decapitation” strike on North Korea. Such an operation would be intended to quickly eliminate North Korean military and civilian leadership to utterly paralyze the state and any possible response to what would most certainly be the subsequent invasion, occupation and subjugation of North Korea.

The Business Insider in an article titled,SEAL Team 6 is reportedly training for a decapitation strike against North Korea’s Kim regime,” would report:

The annual Foal Eagle military drills between the US and South Korea will include some heavy hitters this year — the Navy SEAL team that took out Osama bin Laden, Army Special Forces, and F-35s — South Korea’s Joon Gang Daily reports. 

South Korean news outlets report that the SEALs, who will join the exercise for the first time, will simulate a “decapitation attack,” or a strike to remove North Korea’s leadership.

To introduce an element of plausible deniability to South Korean reports, the article would continue by stating:

Pentagon spokesman Cmdr. Gary Ross later told Business Insider that the US military “does not train for decapitation missions” of any kind. 

Yet this is a categorically false statement. Throughout the entirety of the Cold War, US policymakers, military planners and operational preparations focused almost solely on devising methods of “decapitating” the Soviet Union’s political and military leadership.

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In more recent years, policy papers and the wars inspired by them have lead to documented instances of attempted “decapitation” operations, including the 2011 US-NATO assault on Libya in which the government of Muammar Qaddafi was targeted by airstrikes aimed at crippling the Libyan state and assassinating both members of the Qaddafi family as well as members of the then ruling government.

Similar operations were aimed at Iraq earlier during the 2003 invasion and occupation by US-led forces.

Regarding North Korea more specifically, entire policy papers have been produced by prominent US policy think tanks including the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) devising plans to decimate North Korea’s military and civilian leadership, invade and occupy the nation and confound North Korea’s capacity to resist what would inevitably be its integration with its southern neighbor.

A 2009 report titled, Preparing for Sudden Change in North Korea,” lays out policy recommendations regarding regime change in North Korea. It states in its description:

The authors consider the challenges that these scenarios would pose–ranging from securing Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal to providing humanitarian assistance–and analyze the interests of the United States and others. They then provide recommendations for U.S. policy. In particular, they urge Washington to bolster its contingency planning and capabilities in cooperation with South Korea, Japan, and others, and to build a dialogue with China that could address each side’s concerns.

Preparations for these documented plans which include provisions for invasion, occupation and the eventual integration of North Korea with South Korea have been ongoing for years with the most recent Foal Eagle exercises being merely their latest, and most blatant manifestation.

The aforementioned Business Insider article would also report:

Yet a decapitation force would fit with a March 1 Wall Street Journal report that the White House is considering military action against the Kim regime. 

The SEALs boarded the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier and should arrive in South Korea on Wednesday, Joon Gang Daily reports. 

South Korea has also made efforts toward a decapitation force, and international calls for action have increased in intensity after North Korea’s latest missile test, which simulated a saturation attack to defeat US and allied missile defenses.

While US-European and South Korean media platforms continue claiming such preparations are being made in reaction to North Korean military programs, careful analysis of North Korea and South Korea’s respective economic and military power reveal immense disparity and North Korea’s military capabilities as solely defensive with any first strike against its neighbors almost certainly leading to retaliation and the nation’s destruction.

North Korea’s nuclear arsenal and its expanding ballistic missile capabilities serve then only to raise the costs of any first strike carried out against it by US and South Korean forces. Claims that preparations by US and South Korean forces to carry out these first strikes are in response to North Korean provocations mirror similar political deceit that surrounded and clouded debate and analysis regarding US aggression in North Africa and the Middle East over the past two decades.

Ultimately, regardless of what political leaders in Washington or Seoul claim, the historical track record of the United States and its allies speaks for itself. Its annual military exercises and its adversarial approach to negotiations and relations with North Korea serve only to further drive tensions on both the peninsula and across the wider Asia-Pacific region.

For the United States, the perpetuation of instability helps justify its otherwise unjustifiable presence in a region literally an ocean away from its own borders. And while Washington cites “North Korean” weapons as a pretext for its continued presence in South Korea, its decades-spanning policy of encircling and attempting to contain neighboring China serves as its actual purpose for remaining involved in Korea’s affairs.

Provocative policies coupled with equally provocative military preparations including these most recent exercises openly aimed at North Korea’s leadership, guarantee continued instability and thus continued justification for a US presence in the region.

Washington’s careful cultivation of tensions on the peninsula serve as just one of many intentionally engineered and perpetuated conflicts across the region. Knowing well that nations targeted by US subversion and provocations will make preparations to defend against them, and possessing the media platforms to portray these preparations as “provocations” in and of themselves, the US has persuaded entire swaths of both its own population and those in regions inflicted by instability it itself drives, that Washington alone possesses the ability to contain such instability with its continued, extraterritorial presence.

In reality, the true solution for establishing peace and prosperity in these inflicted regions is for the US to simply withdraw.

Posted in USA, South Korea0 Comments

Fukushima Anniversary: Japan’s Historic Love-Hate Relationship with Nuclear Power

NOVANEWS
Global Research News Hour Episode 175
 
Fukushima-Nuclear-Disaster-2

The United States knows that peaceful power from atomic energy is no dream of the future. ..To hasten the day when fear of the atom will begin to disappear from the minds of people, and the governments of the East and West, there are certain steps that can be taken now.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s address before the General Assembly of the United Nations on Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy, New York City, 1953

LISTEN TO THE SHOW

The island nation of Japan is ranked third in the world in terms of the number of functioning nuclear reactors on its territory.

Why would the one country to experience the destructive potential of nuclear power in wartime, the culture that gave the world ‘Godzilla,’ and has endured the meltdowns of three reactors in 2011 continue to embrace nuclear power?

As part of the Global Research News Hour’s commemoration of the sixth anniversary of the Fukushima Daichii nuclear catastrophe, we focus on the historical and political context of the disaster.

First up, we hear from Professor Peter Kuznick about the early years after the War. He explains the role of Japan in America’s postwar geostrategy, and comments on the public relations campaign that convinced the population of the Asian country to stop worrying and love nuclear power.

Later, Canadian nuclear expert Gordon Edwards returns to the program to comment on Canada’s connections with the Japanese nuclear industry and on how the Fukushima disaster should have informed Canadian nuclear policy and regulations.

Finally, we hear from celebrated Kyoto-based anti-nuclear activist Aileen Mioko Smith about the evolution of the anti-nuclear movement within Japan.

We also hear from a short video produced by Fairewinds Energy Education (fairewinds.org) outlining the fallacy of nuclear power as a strategy for fighting climate change.

 Peter Kuznick is Professor of History at American University in Washington D.C. And Director of that university’s Nuclear Studies Institute. . He is co-author with Akira Kimura of ‘Rethinking the Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Japanese and American Perspectives’ (Horitsu Bunkasha, 2010), and co-author with Yuki Tanaka of ‘Genpatsu to hiroshima – genshiryoku heiwa riyo no shinso’ (Nuclear Power and Hiroshima: The Truth Behind the Peaceful Use of Nuclear Power (Iwanami, 2011).He also worked on ‘The Untold History of the United States’, a ten part Showtime documentary film series and book co-authored with Oliver Stone. 

The Global Research News Hour airs every Friday at 1pm CT on CKUW 95.9FM in Winnipeg. The programme is also podcast at globalresearch.ca . The show can be heard on the Progressive Radio Network at prn.fm. Listen in everyThursday at 6pm ET.

Community Radio Stations carrying the Global Research News Hour:

CHLY 101.7fm in Nanaimo, B.C – Thursdays at 1pm PT

Boston College Radio WZBC 90.3FM NEWTONS  during the Truth and Justice Radio Programming slot -Sundays at 7am ET.

Port Perry Radio in Port Perry, Ontario –1  Thursdays at 1pm ET

Burnaby Radio Station CJSF out of Simon Fraser University. 90.1FM to most of Greater Vancouver, from Langley to Point Grey and from the North Shore to the US Border.

It is also available on 93.9 FM cable in the communities of SFU, Burnaby, New Westminister, Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody, Surrey and Delta, in British Columbia, Canada. – Tune in  at its new time – Wednesdays at 4pm PT.

Radio station CFUV 101.9FM based at the University of Victoria airs the Global Research News Hour every Sunday from 7 to 8am PT.

CORTES COMMUNITY RADIO CKTZ  89.5 out of Manson’s Landing, B.C airs the show Tuesday mornings at 10am Pacific time.

Cowichan Valley Community Radio CICV 98.7 FM serving the Cowichan Lake area of Vancouver Island, BC airs the program Thursdays at 6am pacific time.

Campus and community radio CFMH 107.3fm in  Saint John, N.B. airs the Global Research News Hour Fridays at 10am.

Caper Radio CJBU 107.3FM in Sydney, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia airs the Global Research News Hour starting Wednesday Morning from 8:00 to 9:00am. Find more details at www.caperradio.ca 

 Notes:

1)  Dwight D. Eisenhower: ”Address Before the General Assembly of the United Nations on Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy, New York City.,” December 8, 1953. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=9774.;

Posted in Japan0 Comments

“The War is Worth Waging”: Afghanistan’s Vast Reserves of Minerals and Natural Gas

NOVANEWS

The War on Afghanistan is a Profit driven “Resource War”.

 
"The War is Worth Waging": Afghanistan's Vast Reserves of Minerals and Natural Gas

Author’s Note

US and NATO forces invaded Afghanistan more than 16 years ago in October 2001. It’s has been a continuous war marked by US military occupation.

The justification is “counterterrorism”.  Afghanistan is defined as a state sponsor of terrorism, allegedly responsible for attacking America on September 11, 2001. 

The war on Afghanistan continues to be heralded as a war of retribution in response to the 9/11 attacks. US troops are still present and deployed in Afghanistan.

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The legal argument used by Washington and NATO to invade and occupy Afghanistan under “the doctrine of collective security” was that the September 11 2001 attacks constituted an undeclared “armed attack” “from abroad” by an unnamed foreign power, namely Afghanistan. 

Yet there were no Afghan fighter planes in the skies of New York on the morning of September 11, 2001. 

This article, first published in June 2010, points to the “real economic reasons”  why US-NATO forces invaded Afghanistan in the wake of 9/11.  

Under the Afghan-US security pact,  established under Obama’s Asian pivot, Washington and its NATO partners have established a permanent military presence in Afghanistan, with military facilities located within proximity of China’s Western frontier.  The pact was intended to allow the US to maintain their nine permanent military bases, strategically located on the borders of  China, Pakistan and Iran as well as Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

In recent developments, President Trump in his February 28, 2017 address to a joint session of  Congress vowed to “demolish and destroy” terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq as well as in Afghanistan under a fake counter-terrorism mandate.

According to Foreign Affairs, “there are more U.S. military forces deployed there [Afghanistan] than to any other active combat zone” and their mandate is to go after the Taliban, Al Qaeda and ISIS (which are supported covertly by US intelligence). 

There is both a geopolitical as well as an economic agenda in Afghanistan requiring the permanent presence of US troops.

In addition to its vast mineral and gas reserves, Afghanistan produces more than 90 percent of the World’s supply of opium which is used to produce grade 4 heroin.

US military bases in Afghanistan are also intent upon protecting the multibillion narcotics trade.  Narcotics, at present, constitutes the centerpiece of Afghanistan’s export economy.

The heroin trade, instated at the outset of the Soviet-Afghan war in 1979 and protected by the CIA, generates cash earnings in Western markets in excess of $200 billion dollars a year.

“The highest concentration of NATO servicemen in Afghanistan is being accompanied with the highest concentration of opium poppy, ….  That situation causes doubts about the anti-terrorist mission and leads to the conclusion about catastrophic consequences of the eight-year stay [of coalition forces] in Afghanistan,” (Russia’s Federal Drug Control Service head Viktor Ivanov, January 2010)

Michel Chossudovsky,  March 25, 2017

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“The War is Worth Waging”: Afghanistan’s Vast Reserves of Minerals and Natural Gas

The War on Afghanistan is a Profit driven “Resource War”.

By Prof Michel Chossudovsky

October 2010

The 2001 bombing and invasion of Afghanistan has been presented to World public opinion as a “Just War”, a war directed against the Taliban and Al Qaeda, a war to eliminate “Islamic terrorism” and instate Western style democracy.

The economic dimensions of  the “Global War on Terrorism” (GWOT) are rarely mentioned. The post 9/11 “counter-terrorism campaign” has served to obfuscate the real objectives of the US-NATO war.

The war on Afghanistan is part of a profit driven agenda: a war of economic conquest and plunder,  ”a resource war”.

While Afghanistan is acknowledged as a strategic hub in Central Asia, bordering on the former Soviet Union, China and Iran, at the crossroads of pipeline routes and major oil and gas reserves, its huge mineral wealth as well as its untapped natural gas reserves have remained, until June 2010, totally unknown to the American public.

According to a joint report by the Pentagon, the US Geological Survey (USGS) and USAID, Afghanistan is now said to possess “previously unknown” and untapped mineral reserves, estimated authoritatively to be of the order of one trillion dollars (New York Times, U.S. Identifies Vast Mineral Riches in Afghanistan – NYTimes.com, June 14, 2010, See also BBC, 14 June 2010).

The previously unknown deposits — including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium — are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe.

An internal Pentagon memo, for example, states that Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” a key raw material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and BlackBerrys.

The vast scale of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth was discovered by a small team of Pentagon officials and American geologists. The Afghan government and President Hamid Karzai were recently briefed, American officials said.

While it could take many years to develop a mining industry, the potential is so great that officials and executives in the industry believe it could attract heavy investment even before mines are profitable, providing the possibility of jobs that could distract from generations of war.

“There is stunning potential here,” Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of the United States Central Command, said… “There are a lot of ifs, of course, but I think potentially it is hugely significant.”

The value of the newly discovered mineral deposits dwarfs the size of Afghanistan’s existing war-bedraggled economy, which is based largely on opium production and narcotics trafficking as well as aid from the United States and other industrialized countries. Afghanistan’s gross domestic product is only about $12 billion.

“This will become the backbone of the Afghan economy,” said Jalil Jumriany, an adviser to the Afghan minister of mines. (New York Times, op. cit.)

Afghanistan could become, according to The New York Times “the Saudi Arabia of lithium”. “Lithium is an increasingly vital resource, used in batteries for everything from mobile phones to laptops and key to the future of the electric car.” At present Chile, Australia, China and Argentina are the main suppliers of lithium to the world market. Bolivia and Chile are the countries with the largest known reserves of lithium. “The Pentagon has been conducting ground surveys in western Afghanistan. “Pentagon officials said that their initial analysis at one location in Ghazni province showed the potential for lithium deposits as large as those of Bolivia” (U.S. Identifies Vast Mineral Riches in Afghanistan – NYTimes.com, June 14, 2010, see also Lithium – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

“Previously Unknown Deposits” of Minerals in Afghanistan

The Pentagon’s near one trillion dollar “estimate” of previously “unknown deposits” is a useful smokescreen. The Pentagon one trillion dollar figure is more a trumped up number rather than an estimate:  “We took a look at what we knew to be there, and asked what would it be worth now in terms of today’s dollars. The trillion dollar figure seemed to be newsworthy.” (The Sunday Times, London, June 15 2010, emphasis added)

Moreover, the results of a US Geological Survey study (quoted in the Pentagon memo) on Afghanistan’s mineral wealth were revealed three years back, at a 2007 Conference organized by the Afghan-American Chamber of Commerce. The matter of Afghanistan’s mineral riches, however, was not considered newsworthy at the time.

The US Administration’s acknowledgment that it first took cognizance of Afghanistan’s vast mineral wealth  following the release of the USGS 2007 report is an obvious red herring. Afghanistan’s mineral wealth and energy resources (including natural gas) were known to both America’s business elites and the US government prior to the Soviet-Afghan war (1979-1988).

Geological surveys conducted by the Soviet Union in the 1970s and early 1980s confirm the existence of  vast reserves of copper (among the largest in Eurasia), iron, high grade chrome ore, uranium, beryl, barite, lead, zinc, fluorspar, bauxite, lithium, tantalum, emeralds, gold and silver.(Afghanistan, Mining Annual Review, The Mining Journal,  June, 1984). These surveys suggest that the actual value of these reserves could indeed be substantially larger than the one trillion dollars “estimate” intimated by the Pentagon-USCG-USAID study.

More recently, in a 2002 report, the Kremlin confirmed what was already known: “It’s no secret that Afghanistan possesses rich reserves, in particular of copper at the Aynak deposit, iron ore in Khojagek, uranium, polymetalic ore, oil and gas,” (RIA Novosti, January 6, 2002):

“Afghanistan has never been anyone’s colony – no foreigner had ever “dug” here before the 1950s. The Hindu Kush mountains, stretching, together with their foothills, over a vast area in Afghanistan, are where the minerals lie. Over the past 40 years, several dozen deposits have been discovered in Afghanistan, and most of these discoveries were sensational. They were kept secret, however, but even so certain facts have recently become known.

It turns out that Afghanistan possesses reserves of nonferrous and ferrous metals and precious stones, and, if exploited, they would possibly be able to cover even the earnings from the drug industry. The copper deposit in Aynak in the southern Afghan Helmand Province is said to be the largest in the Eurasian continent, and its location (40 km from Kabul) makes it cheap to develop. The iron ore deposit at Hajigak in the central Bamian Province yields ore of an extraordinarily high quality, the reserves of which are estimated to be 500m tonnes. A coal deposit has also been discovered not far from there.

Afghanistan is spoken of as a transit country for oil and gas. However, only a very few people know that Soviet specialists discovered huge gas reserves there in the 1960s and built the first gas pipeline in the country to supply gas to Uzbekistan. At that time, the Soviet Union used to receive 2.5 bn cubic metres of Afghan gas annually. During the same period, large deposits of gold, fluorite, barytes and marble onyxes that have a very rare pattern were found.

However, the pegmatite fields discovered to the east of Kabul are a real sensation. Rubies, beryllium, emeralds and kunzites and hiddenites that cannot be found anywhere else – the deposits of these precious stones stretch for hundreds of kilometres. Also, the rocks containing the rare metals beryllium, thorium, lithium and tantalum are of strategic importance (they are used in air and spacecraft construction).

The war is worth waging. … (Olga Borisova, “Afghanistan – the Emerald Country”, Karavan, Almaty, original Russian, translated by BBC News Services, Apr 26, 2002. p. 10, emphasis added.)

While public opinion was fed images of a war torn resourceless developing country, the realities are otherwise: Afghanstan is a rich country as confirmed by Soviet era geological surveys.

The issue of “previously unknown deposits” sustains a falsehood. It excludes Afghanstan’s vast mineral wealth as a justifiable casus belli. It says that the Pentagon only recently became aware that Afghanistan was among the World’s most wealthy mineral economies, comparable to The Democratic Republic of the Congo or former Zaire of the Mobutu era. The Soviet geopolitical reports were known. During the Cold War, all this information was known in minute detail:

… Extensive Soviet exploration produced superb geological maps and reports that listed more than 1,400 mineral outcroppings, along with about 70 commercially viable deposits … The Soviet Union subsequently committed more than $650 million for resource exploration and development in Afghanistan, with proposed projects including an oil refinery capable of producing a half-million tons per annum, as well as a smelting complex for the Ainak deposit that was to have produced 1.5 million tons of copper per year. In the wake of the Soviet withdrawal a subsequent World Bank analysis projected that the Ainak copper production alone could eventually capture as much as 2 percent of the annual world market. The country is also blessed with massive coal deposits, one of which, the Hajigak iron deposit, in the Hindu Kush mountain range west of Kabul, is assessed as one of the largest high-grade deposits in the world. (John C. K. Daly,  Analysis: Afghanistan’s untapped energy, UPI Energy, October 24, 2008, emphasis added)

Afghanistan’s Natural Gas

Afghanistan is a land bridge. The 2001 U.S. led invasion and occupation of Afghanistan has been analysed by critics of US foreign policy as a means to securing control  over the strategic trans-Afghan transport corridor which links the Caspian sea basin to the Arabian sea.

Several trans-Afghan oil and gas pipeline projects have been contemplated including the planned $8.0 billion TAPI pipeline project (Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India) of 1900 km., which would transport Turkmen natural gas across Afghanistan in what is described as a “crucial transit corridor”. (See Gary Olson, Afghanistan has never been the ‘good and necessary’ war; it’s about control of oil, The Morning Call, October 1, 2009). Military escalation under the extended Af-Pak war bears a relationship to TAPI. Turkmenistan possesses third largest natural gas reserves after Russia and Iran. Strategic control over the transport routes out of Turkmenistan have been part of Washington’s agenda since the collapse of the Soviet union in 1991.

What was rarely contemplated in pipeline geopolitics, however, is that Afghanistan is not only adjacent to countries which are rich in oil and natural gas (e.g Turkmenistan), it also possesses within its territory sizeable untapped reserves of natural gas, coal  and oil. Soviet estimates of the 1970s placed “Afghanistan’s ‘explored’ (proved plus probable) gas reserves at about 5  trillion cubic feet. The Hodja-Gugerdag’s initial reserves were placed at slightly more than 2 tcf.” (See, The Soviet Union to retain influence in Afghanistan, Oil & Gas Journal, May 2, 1988).

The US.Energy Information Administration (EIA) acknowledged in 2008 that Afghanistan’s natural gas reserves are “substantial”:

“As northern Afghanistan is a ‘southward extension of Central Asia’s highly prolific, natural gas-prone Amu Darya Basin,’ Afghanistan ‘has proven, probable and possible natural gas reserves of about 5 trillion cubic feet.’ (UPI, John C.K. Daly, Analysis: Afghanistan’s untapped energy, October 24, 2008)

From the outset of the Soviet-Afghan war in 1979, Washington’s objective has been to sustain a geopolitical foothold in Central Asia.

The Golden Crescent Drug Trade

America’s covert war, namely its support to the Mujahideen “Freedom fighters” (aka Al Qaeda) was also geared towards the development of the Golden Crescent trade in opiates, which was used by US intelligence to fund the insurgency directed against the Soviets.1

Instated at the outset of the Soviet-Afghan war and protected by the CIA, the drug trade developed over the years into a highly lucrative multibillion undertaking. It was the cornerstone of America’s covert war in the 1980s. Today, under US-NATO military occupation, the drug trade generates cash earnings in Western markets in excess of $200 billion dollars a year. (See Michel Chossudovsky, America’s War on Terrorism, Global Research, Montreal, 2005, see also Michel Chossudovsky, Heroin is “Good for Your Health”: Occupation Forces support Afghan Narcotics Trade, Global Research, April 29, 2007)

Towards an Economy of Plunder

The US media, in chorus, has upheld the “recent discovery” of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth as “a solution” to the development of the country’s war torn economy as well as a means to eliminating poverty. The 2001 US-NATO invasion and occupation has set the stage for their appropriation by Western mining and energy conglomerates.

The war on Afghanistan is  a profit driven “resource war”.

Under US and allied occupation, this mineral wealth is slated to be plundered, once the country has been pacified, by a handful of multinational mining conglomerates. According to Olga Borisova, writing in the months following the October 2001 invasion, the US-led “war on terrorism [will be transformed] into a colonial policy of influencing a fabulously wealthy country.” (Borisova, op cit).

Part of the US-NATO agenda is also to eventually take possession of Afghanistan’s reserves of natural gas, as well as prevent the development of competing Russian, Iranian and Chinese energy interests in Afghanistan.

Note

1. The Golden Crescent trade in opiates constitutes, at present, the centerpiece of Afghanistan’s export economy. The heroin trade, instated at the outset of the Soviet-Afghan war in 1979 and protected by the CIA, generates cash earnings in Western markets in excess of $200 billion dollars a year.

Since the 2001 invasion, narcotics production in Afghanistan  has increased more than 35 times. In 2009, opium production stood at 6900 tons, compared to less than 200 tons in 2001. In this regard, the multibillion dollar earnings resulting from the Afghan opium production largely occur outside Afghanistan. According to United Nations data, the revenues of the drug trade accruing to the local economy are of the order of 2-3 billion annually.

In contrast with the Worldwide sales of heroin resulting from the trade in Afghan opiates, in excess of $200 billion. (See Michel Chossudovsky, America’s War on Terrorism”, Global Research, Montreal, 2005)

ORDER DIRECTLY FROM GLOBAL RESEARCH

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America’s “War on Terrorism”

Michel Chossudovsky

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Saudi Arabia’s Southeast Asia Terror Tour

NOVANEWS
Tony Cartalucci – NEO
Saudi Arabia’s king, Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, has recently undertaken a sweeping tour of Southeast Asia in what the media and analysts are claiming is a bid to firm up economic and political ties with Muslim-majority nations in the region.

However, both the media and analysts are sidestepping or entirely omitting the role Saudi Arabia has played in fueling global terrorism, extraterritorial geopolitical meddling, and even divisive and terroristic activities the notorious state sponsor of terrorism has been implicated in across the planet including within Southeast Asia itself.

German broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) in an article titled,Saudi King Salman’s Southeast Asia trip affirms Muslim friendship,” would report:

The Saudi monarch’s rare month-long trip takes him to strategically important nations in the economically fast-growing region, with which Riyadh wants to deepen commercial engagement and socio-political ties.

DW would also report that:

Salman’s visit to the Southeast Asian countries also underscores cooperative and mutually reinforcing ties between Muslim-majority countries and affirms the Islamic credentials as well as image of the governments of Malaysia and Indonesia…

However, Saudi Arabia indisputably represents perhaps the greatest danger to Islam on Earth. The brand of politicized religion propagated by Saudi Arabia both within its borders and well beyond them known as Wahhabism was initially created and is still used today to establish, maintain, and expand Saudi political influence behind a tenuous veil of religion.

Saudi Arabia Exports More Than Just Oil and for More Than Just Petrodollars 

Saudi Arabia as a protectorate of the United States, the United Kingdom, and other special interests across Europe, grants these nations a vector for power and influence through the use of Wahhabism in any nation it is allowed to take root and flourish.

In Southeast Asia specifically, Saudi-funded Wahhabi madrases dot Malaysia, Indonesia, and to a lesser extent elsewhere fueling extremism that often manifests itself politically against parties and political leaders the West seeks to coerce or replace.

In Myanmar, Saudi-funded terrorists are attempting to infiltrate the nation’s Rohingya minority, turning the group’s persecution into a regional security crisis and a pretext for greater US involvement, including US political and military expansion.

In reality, the United States and its Saudi proxies have no interest in the Rohingya beyond leveraging the crisis – nor does the US genuinely believe extremist infiltrators constitute a genuine security risk, The US does however seek to place a further wedge between Myanmar and China, and placing US military advisers in Myanmar to deal with a manufactured security risk Saudi Arabia is engineering serves that objective well.

In the Philippines, Saudi-funded and indoctrinated terrorist organizations help maintain constant pressure on the Philippine government and serves as a perpetual pretext for America’s continued military presence in the Philippines.

The United States has repeatedly attempted to transform separatist violence in Thailand’s southern most provinces into a religious-themed conflict to likewise put additional pressure on Bangkok and serve as a potential vector for introducing US military influence.

Just as US-Saudi meddling serves to disrupt Myanmar-Chinese relations, US-Saudi attempts to fuel terrorism in the Philippines and Thailand are also intended to prevent the two nations from strengthening ties with China at the expense of America’s longstanding regional hegemony.

US-Saudi Terror Serve Policy Aimed At China  

And in China itself, US-backed terrorism in the nation’s western province of Xinjiang serves as one of several pressure points America maintains in an attempt to divide and overturn Beijing’s influence both in the region and even within China’s own borders.

While the majority of the population in Xinjiang – regardless of their religion or ethnicity – prefer stability and socioeconomic progress, the US has created, funds, and directs opposition groups to create political upheaval and serve as cover for organized terrorism carried out against both the people and government of Xinjiang province.

Xinjiang’s extremist minority has also served as a recruiting ground for joint US-Saudi terror abroad, including in Syria where Uyghur terrorists were trafficked out of China, through Southeast Asia, and into Turkey where they would be armed and deployed into Syria itself.

Thailand’s detainment and extradition of several suspects believed to be part of this terror pipeline became a source of serious political contention between Bangkok and Washington, culminating in a deadly bombing carried out in the center of Bangkok killing 20 and injuring many more – with all evidence suggesting it was carried out as reprisal for Bangkok’s defiance.

In addition to Thailand’s very public defiance of Washington’s demands, the Southeast nation has been incrementally divesting from its Cold War ties to the US and building more diversified ties with China, Russia, and other significant centers of power across Eurasia. Finding additional points of leverage against Bangkok is essential for Washington, and using Saudi Arabia’s talent for creating sectarian firestorms is a likely option.

Stronger Saudi Presence Means Stronger US Influence 

The United States throughout decades of foreign policy have used Saudi Arabia as a means of laundering political support, weapons, and cash through when attempting to co-opt and use groups within Muslim-majority nations.

A stronger Saudi presence in Southeast Asia means greater opportunities for the US itself to tap into Muslim communities, cultivate extremism, and recruit human resources to use in destructive proxy wars across the planet, as well as across Southeast Asia itself.

Attempts to create religious divisions within the culturally diverse and tolerant populations of Southeast Asia have been ongoing for years but with little success. While it is uncertain whether a greater Saudi presence in the region can significantly improve the odds in Washington’s favor, it is certain that tensions, chaos, and division will follow.

While some may argue Saudi Arabia is simply attempting to diversify its ties abroad with Salman’s visit, the overt sectarian nature of his itinerary suggests otherwise. Without a concerted effort both regionally and within Southeast Asia’s respective nations to expose and disarm this dangerous geopolitical weapon the US and Saudi Arabia are attempting to deploy, the unprecedented trip of Salman may be looked back upon as the calm before an “Arab Spring” style wave of chaos swept the region.

Posted in Asia, Saudi Arabia0 Comments

The Resolve of the Republic Day 2017 for an India of Liberty and Equality

NOVANEWS
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On the 67th anniversary of its proclamation, the Indian Republic finds itself in a veritable state of siege. The government of the day and the corporate-communal cabal that it represents and serves so brazenly have mounted a multi-pronged assault on the constitutional basis and framework of the Republic of India. The principles and values enunciated in the Constitution are being subverted in every possible way and the institutions that had been built to promote and protect the rights of the citizens and the collective interests and aspirations of the people are being systematically hijacked and destroyed.

Indeed, the RSS has time and again made it clear that it does not recognise the Constitution as the basis of the modern Indian Republic. For the RSS, the Republic is just an ornamental attire for the ancient civilization of India; and the RSS notion of civilization is more a matter of mythology than history. Manusmriti, that obnoxious charter of social slavery and human indignity is the real constitution for the RSS. Just the other day, speaking at the Jaipur Literature Festival RSS ideologue Vaidya yet again questioned the inclusion of the word ‘secular’ in the Preamble to the Constitution while calling for an end to the system of reservations. Caste is the essential pillar of the RSS’s its cherished Brahminical order so reservation continues to be an anathema.

What makes the situation really alarming is that the RSS war on the Constitution and the secular democratic character of the Indian Republic is today being waged from the vantage position of state power. And Narendra Modi is spearheading this war with his brazenly dictatorial style of governance. The absolutely arbitrary way the government has imposed the disastrous demonetization decision on an unsuspecting citizenry has no parallels in the history of the Republic. Defying every tenet of economic rationality and established procedures of collective functioning and parliamentary accountability, the Prime Minister subjected the country to an unprecedented spell of economic disruption and devastation. NarendraModiis invoking the common people’s desire to punish the corrupt and check growing inequality, but the fact is in the first two years of his rule, the share of the top 1% has jumped from 49% to 58% of the total wealth in the country.

Nearly three months since the scrapping of 86% of currency in circulation, the cash crunch still continues to dog the people. And the chaos on the cash front has now triggered a serious economic slowdown. What is really galling is that instead of making any efforts to address the grave situation and mitigate the crisis, the government is coercing the predominantly cash-reliant unorganised sector and small and medium enterprises that account for the lion’s share of employment in India to go for digital transactions, thereby subjecting the entire economy to a severe squeeze. The coercive push for cashless transactions is exposing the cash-dependent and digitally ill-equipped Indian economy to increased financial uncertainty and unprecedented domination of global capital and big corporations.

The Modi government is also trying to redefine the Republic by amending the Citizenship Act of 1955. In keeping with the BJP’s well-known concept of ‘Hindu Rashtra’ the proposed Citizenship Amendment Bill seeks to introduce a distinction among refugees on the basis of their religious affiliation and identity. According to theAmendment Bill, non-Muslim refugees coming from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan without valid travel documents would not be treated as illegal migrants and would be allowed to apply for Indian Citizenship on easier terms than are currently prescribed for persons seeking the status of naturalised Indian citizens. This is a brazen attempt to define citizenship on a religious basis and sanctify the hounding of Muslim immigrants as infiltrators.

People with diverse religious affiliations may and do come to India to seek refuge and asylum. They are propelled by a variety of circumstances ranging from social and political persecution to economic misery, natural calamities and climate change. In a secular democratic republic, religious affiliation must not be made the basis to decide on either citizenship or the question of treating refugees with justice, dignity and humanitarian considerations. The Bill also seeks to cancel the registration of Overseas Citizens of India if they are found to violate any Indian law ‘for the time being in force’. While the government provides safe passage to economic offenders like Lalit Modi and Vijay Mallya, it evidently seeks to stifle dissent among NRIs and OCIs by threatening them with deregistration for opposing injustice and oppression in India which can easily invite prosecution under one of the many draconian laws currently in force.

Clearly, the Sangh brigade wants Indians to behave like docile subjects blindly obeying the rulers and not as free citizens equipped with fundamental rights including the right to dissent which is absolutely central to democracy. Their idea of citizenship is derived from the obnoxious Manuvadi order that justifies coercion and domination while incriminating every quest for justice, freedom and equality. The Sangh brigade champions the worst of India’s feudal traditions and colonial customs, albeit with the full backing of India’s crony capitalists and the masters of the imperialist world order. We can see this idea in action whether in the treatment meted out to Indian citizens in the name of demonetization or in every other coercive attempt to impose their parameters of pseudo-patriotism and communal nationalism.

Republic Day 2017 therefore calls upon us to uphold the dreams and rights of free citizens to develop modern India on the cardinal principles of liberty, equality and fraternity and defeat every dictatorial attempt to subject the Indian people to a renewed reign of social slavery and submission.

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India: BJP’s Poisonous Poll Campaign

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IN THE ONGOING ASSEMBLY ELECTION CAMPAIGN in various states, most notably the state of Uttar Pradesh, the BJP has once again unleashed a communal campaign aimed at consolidating Hindu voters against the imaginary Muslim enemy.

The BJP Manifesto for Uttar Pradesh promises to set up ‘anti-Romeo quads’ outside college campuses. While the BJP President Amit Shah claims these are aimed at curbing incidents of sexual harassment of women students, the BJP’s national co-convenor Sunil Bharala has made the communal and anti-women agenda of ‘anti-Romeo squads’ amply clear. Bharala declared that the squads are aimed at acting against Muslim men involved in “love jehad” – the BJP’s term for consensual relationships between Muslim men and Hindu women.

This is not the first time the BJP has invoked the bogey of “love jehad” in an election campaign. Bharala also recalled that danger of “love jehad” was the rallying cry for the communal violence of Muzaffarnagar in 2013 that had helped Modi win the 2014 polls. During the 2014 poll campaign, BJP President Amit Shah had invoked the Muzaffarnagar communal violence to ask the Jat community to vote BJP, saying “people are forced to riot” when “a community violates the honour of our daughters and sisters.” A recently leaked audio clip also revealed Amit Shah appealing to the Jat community not to desert the BJP in 2017, reminding them that their proximity to “BJP ideology” goes back several centuries, “farther back than riots.” Shah, in this appeal, reminded the Jats that Sanjeey Balyan (Modi Cabinet Minister accused in Muzaffarnagar riots) had “aged 7 years in the past 2 years helping to free riot-accused (Jat) boys.” In flagrant violation of EC rules against communal and casteist campaigns, the BJP is invoking imaginary rapes and real anti-Muslim riots to appeal to Jats and Hindus to vote for the BJP.

The BJP’s star campaigner in UP Yogi Adityanath has also repeatedly invoked the “dangers of love jehad” and campaigned for “anti-Romeo squads.” It may be remembered that the same Adityanath was among the BJP MPs who, in 2010, publicly declared their defiance against the party whip issued to vote for the Women’s Reservation Bill in Parliament. Adityanath’s attitude sums up the BJP’s ideology towards women: their posture of ‘protection’ only masks their hostility to women’s own autonomy and assertion.

Along with “love jehad”, Adityanath is leading BJP’s UP campaign with another mythical bogey: that of the “exodus of Hindus from Kairana.” Adityanath has compared Kairana in Western UP to Kashmir in 1990, claiming that Hindus are being forced to flee – in spite of the fact that Hindu residents of Kairana have declared such claims of a communal exodus to be bogus. Adityanath claims that Eastern UP is free from such eviction of Hindus and crimes against Hindu women, because of the countervailing presence of his own vigilante Hindutva brigade.

The BJP Manifesto and campaign in UP also promises to abolish the practice of triple talaq – declaration of divorce in one sitting – prevalent among Muslims. A whole gamut of personal laws – including but not confined to Muslim personal laws – require reform to ensure gender justice. By focusing on triple talaq alone, the BJP projects the Muslim community as uniquely opposed to gender justice and progress. The BJP Manifesto’s promises of ‘anti-Romeo squads’ (with the undertone of protecting Hindu women from Muslim men) and ‘abolition of triple talaq’ (to protect Muslim women from Muslim men) offers a platform for anti-Muslim consolidation in a progressive and pro-women guise.

Modi, addressing election rallies, taunted the former PM Manmohan Singh for his ability to ‘wear a raincoat while taking a shower’ – i.e maintain a clean image while being surrounded by scams. The metaphor applies much more aptly to Modi himself. Manmohan Singh could project an appearance for personal honesty in spite of his Government’s involvement in rampant scams and crony capitalism, but he and his Government did face the brunt of public anger for the same. Modi both as CM of Gujarat and as PM of the country has managed to evade scrutiny and accountability not only for cold-blooded encounter killings on his watch, but also for violations of civil liberties and witch-hunt of activists as well as for a series of scams and instances of crony capitalism benefiting corporations like Adani, the Ambani brothers, Raheja, Mallya and Lalit Modi.

Modi has mastered the art of wearing a raincoat not only in a scam-shower but in a bloodbath. His lieutenants are openly using communal mud and blood to tarnish the poll climate – even as Modi himself cloaks himself in the raincoat of ‘development.’ In fact, Modi, Amit Shah and the BJP hope that the communal hate-mongering will be able to deflect from widespread public resentment against the Note Ban diktat. The ongoing Assembly polls are an occasion to administer a firm rebuff to the communal propaganda of the BJP and assert the democratic concerns of the people.

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Dance of Fascism in Delhi University

NOVANEWS

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The events of Delhi University are ominous. ABVP, the stormtroopers of the RSS, rioted for two consecutive days in Delhi University, using bricks, stones and sticks to prevent a seminar from taking place. The Delhi Police colluded with this assault, with its men joining ABVP in assaulting women students and journalists. Three constables have now been suspended – but this gesture only begs the question about who was giving the orders to Delhi Police to permit a riot on the University campus?

Several facts are notable here. The Delhi Police refused to file an FIR against the ABVP cadre that were indulging in open, wanton violence and celebrating by dancing atop a Delhi Police bus. Instead the Delhi Police did a lathi charge on the students peacefully waiting outside the police station for an FIR to be lodged. Rights activists have pointed out that the Supreme Court judgement in Lalita Kumari vs State of UP (2013) has laid down mandatory guidelines for police to register an FIR in case of a cognizable offence. On whose orders did the Police refuse to file an FIR against the many instances of openly recorded violence by cadre of the ruling party’s student outfit?

It emerges that the DCP in charge of the Delhi University North Campus is the same Jatin Narwal who, as DCP in charge of Patiala Court last year, had allowed goons to rough up JNUSU President Kanhaiya as well as teachers, lawyers, journalists and activists inside the Court premises last year. Narwal still faces an ongoing case in the Supreme Court regarding his role on that occasion. There appears to be a clear pattern where the Police officer knowingly allows a pre-planned assault by an organised mob, as the police force stays away from acting to arrest or disperse the mob.

The remarks of Minister for State for Home Kiren Rijiju on the episode further reinforce the conviction that the ABVP riot had the sanction of the Home Ministry under which the Delhi Police operates. Mr Rijiju has declared that “No anti-India slogans will be allowed in the name of freedom of speech. Freedom of expression in the country does not give anyone the right to make college campuses hub of anti-national activity.” This statement begs many questions.

First, the ABVP violently attacked a seminar – on the pretext of the speakers it invited and not on the basis of any slogans. Second, is the Minister implying that the ABVP has the freedom to throw stones and bricks and assault teachers, journalists and students but students do not have the freedom to debate? Third, as a representative of the country’s Home Ministry Mr Rijiju should answer, whether he believes it is nationalist of the police in Bastar to rape and murder adivasi women – but anti-national of a JNU activist to speak about such rapes and murders? Is his Ministry approving of the police-approved vigilante groups that attacked Bela Bhatia or Soni Sori in Bastar, just as the police-approved ABVP attacked students and teachers in Delhi University?

Fourth, how can ABVP or the BJP have any right to brand Umar Khalid as ‘anti-national’? The Delhi Police is yet to chargesheet Khalid for his alleged acts of ‘sedition’ last year. Yet the ABVP is using Khalid’s presence at a Seminar to unleash a riot against thousands of students and teachers waiting to hear him speak. Fifth, a number of men accused of being ISI agents have been found linked to the BJP and VHP. Why do arrests of their men for ISI links not make BJP and VHP ‘anti-national,’ but Umar Khalid or Shehla Rashid are declared ‘anti-national’? Is it because of their outspoken views against Hindutva and the Modi Government?

Finally, what views are ‘anti-national’? ABVP leader, former Joint Secretary of JNUSU Saurabh Sharma declares on Twitter that JNU is anti-national because it is a hurdle to India’s becoming a Hindu Nation. Why is it not ‘anti-national’ for ABVP to call for turning secular India into a Hindu Nation, but ‘anti-national’ for students to support – or discuss and debate – Kashmir’s right to self-determination or Bastar’s right to democracy?

On campuses and in the country, the freedom to express dissent, and debate freely is the essence of democracy. For ruling party-backed goons to attack democracy with open violence in the capital city, is a sign of growing fascist forces in India. The students and teachers of Universities are at the forefront of the resistance to fascism however – as displayed by an inspiring march in Delhi University that defended the ‘right to debate and dialogue’ from the violence unleashed by goons.

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Walking a tightrope: China manoeuvres between Saudi Arabia and Iran

NOVANEWS

President Xi Jinping and King Salman

By James M. Dorsey

This week’s imposition of sanctions on one of China’s largest telecom equipment manufacturers, ZTE, by the US Commerce Department, and an investigation of Huawei, ZTE’s foremost Chinese competitor, could not have come at a more auspicious moment for Saudi King Salman as he visits China on the third leg of his month-long Asian tour.

Fishing in murky waters

King Salman’s visit aims to strengthen economic and military ties and persuade China that Saudi Arabia rather than Iran is its most useful regional ally. The penalties and investigation of the two Chinese companies related to violations of US sanctions on Iran and North Korea signal the Trump administration’s intent to adopt a tough stance toward the Islamic republic. ZTE pleaded guilty to the US accusation that it sold US-made electronics to Iran and agreed to pay a $1.19 billion fine.

“We are putting the world on notice: The games are over. Those who flout our economic sanctions and export control laws will not go unpunished – they will suffer the harshest of consequences,” said US Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross.

Speaking days before King Salman’s arrival in Beijing and immediately after the imposition of sanctions on ZTE, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi positioned his country as a friend of both Saudi Arabia and Iran. Mr Wang urged the countries to “resolve the problems that exist between them through friendly consultations” between equals and offered to play a mediating role.

There is little prospect for successful mediation with Saudi Arabia and Iran, given the zero-sum nature of their global rivalry and the kingdom’s hope that a tougher US policy towards Iran will extend its window of opportunity in what is fundamentally an uphill battle against the Islamic republic. The imposition of sanctions on ZTE sends China a message that the US does not endorse business as usual with Iran and that this could have consequences for future US-China trade negotiations.

King Salman’s quest is further enhanced by the fact that China, which has close, long-standing military ties to Iran, last year agreed to upgrade cooperation with the kingdom. “China is willing to push military relations with Saudi Arabia to a new level,” Chinese Defence Minister Chang Wanquan told his visiting Saudi counterpart, Deputy Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman last August. Special counter-terrorism forces from the two countries held the first ever joint exercise between the Chinese military and an Arab armed force two months later.

Closer military relations and Saudi hopes that US sanctions will complicate Chinese engagement with Iran counter perceptions that Chinese President Xi Jinping was tilting towards the Islamic republic when he visited the Middle East in early 2016.

Iran’s strategic advantage

King Salman hopes to exploit this window of opportunity while in Beijing in what is fundamentally an unequal battle with Iran that brings assets to the table that Saudi Arabia lacks. Those assets, no matter how degraded, include a large population, an industrial base, resources, a battle-hardened military, a deep-rooted culture, a history of empire and a geography that makes it a crossroads. Saudi custodianship of the Muslim holy cities, Mecca and Medina, and money will in the medium and long term not be able to compete.

Iran’s strategic advantage is nowhere more evident than in global competition to shape the future architecture of Eurasia’s energy landscape. Energy scholar Micha’el Tanchum argues that Iran is pivotal to the success of China’s trans-continental, infrastructure-focused One Belt, One Road initiative in ways that Saudi Arabia is not.

In a study published in 2015, Mr Tanchum suggested that it would be gas supplies from Iran and Turkmenistan, two Caspian Sea states, rather than Saudi oil that would determine which way the future Eurasian energy architecture tilts: China, the world’s third largest liquid natural gas (LNG) importer, or Europe. The ability of Iran to capitalise on the fact that it boasts the world’s second largest natural gas reserves and its fourth largest oil reserves was significantly enhanced with the lifting in 2015 of international sanctions.

Liquid Natural Gas importers

Liquid Natural Gas importers

According to Mr Tanchum:

Iran, within five years, will likely have 24.6 billion cubic metres of natural gas available for annual piped gas exports beyond its current supply commitments. Not enough to supply all major markets, Tehran will face a crucial geopolitical choice for the destination of its piped exports. Iran will be able to export piped gas to two of the following three markets: European Union (EU)/Turkey via the Southern Gas Corridor centring on the Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP), India via an Iran-Oman-India pipeline, or China via either Turkmenistan or Pakistan. The degree to which the system of energy relationships in Eurasia will be more oriented toward the European Union or China will depend on the extent to which each secures Caspian piped gas exports through pipeline infrastructure directed to its respective markets.

In other words, Mr Tanchum argued that to determine the balance of power in Eurasian energy and establish One Belt, One Road as the key determinant of Eurasia’s energy architecture, China would need to position itself as the main recipient of Iranian and Turkmen gas. That, in turn, would enhance China’s growing economic influence in Central Asia, and further extend it to the Caucasus and the eastern Mediterranean.

China has already many of the building blocks needed to make that a reality: close and long-standing relations with Iran, significant investment in Turkmen gas production and pipeline infrastructure, and the construction of Pakistan’s section of the Iran-Pakistan pipeline. Hooking the pipeline to One Belt, One Road would allow China to receive Iranian gas not only by sea on its eastern seaboard but also in its land-locked, troubled north-western province of Xinjiang.

Pakistan’s top military commander, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, appeared to acknowledge Iran’s pivotal role by noting that “enhanced Pakistan-Iran military-to-military cooperation will have a positive impact on regional peace and stability”. Pakistan, which hosts One Belt, One Road’s flagship project, the $51 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), has refrained from fully engaging with a 41-nation, Saudi-led military alliance perceived to be partly directed at Iran, while the Pakistani parliament rejected a Saudi request for military support in its war in Yemen.

Linking the Iran-Pakistan pipeline to CPEC would increase Iran’s importance for the success of China’s Eurasian infrastructure play. Iran’s geopolitical strengths are, however, not wholly dependent on aligning the Islamic republic with China. With the development of Iran’s Indian-built Chabahar port and the undersea Iran-Oman-India pipeline that would potentially create an alternative Asia-to-Europe energy corridor, Iran is, according to Mr Tanchum, well-positioned to play both ends against the middle as well as adopt a key role in the trans-Atlantic community’s effort to strengthen relations with India as an anti-dote to the rise of China.

Iranian bargaining power

Iran’s geopolitical significance is further enhanced by the fact that competition for Iranian gas favour occurs against the backdrop of expectations that Iranian cooperation with Russia in Syria and elsewhere is opportunistic and unlikely to prove sustainable. Iranian-Russian competition is already visible in the Caucasus and Central Asia that ironically mitigates in Europe’s rather than China’s favour. Iran is likely to deepen energy cooperation with Turkey in a bid to enhance its influence and curtail Russian inroads in the Islamic republic’s northern neighbours, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, China’s principle gas supplier, and Armenia where Russia’s state-owned Gazprom has invested in an Iran-Armenia gas pipeline.

For now, King Salman’s mission in Beijing is facilitated by the fact that Mr Trump is signalling that Iran’s return to the international fold based on the nuclear agreement is not a foregone conclusion. The Saudi king may also be banking on the fact that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani could be fighting an uphill battle in presidential elections in May because the lifting of international sanctions has been slow in benefiting Iran and Iranians economically. The king’s problem, however, is that Chinese strategists are likely to see obstacles to doing business with Iran as a short-term problem and that China recognizes that in the medium and long terms Iran has assets China cannot afford to ignore.

Posted in China, Iran, Saudi Arabia0 Comments

The Korean Crisis and the THAAD Missile Deployment: A Growing Tinderbox in the South

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As the first military hardware associated with the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, commonly called THAAD, arrives in the southern region of the Korean Peninsula, the tensions around and within the  region seem to be escalating. A number of ongoing crises in South Korea are starting to take their toll, and could have regional and global implications.

The most prominent source of tension is the new missile system being erected in cooperation with the United States. The narrative in US media surrounding THAAD is that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, smeared as “the crazy North Koreans,” are threatening to destroy the Republic of Korea located in the south. The new missile system is said to simply be a mechanism for protecting a vulnerable, democratic US ally, that faces being wiped out. Mark Toner of the US State Department described the erection of THAAD as “frankly a response to a threat.”

Who is mad about THAAD? And Why?

Objections to THAAD are not only coming from Pyongyang. Moscow and Beijing have both spoken up against the new missile system for reasons that are routinely ignored in US media discourse.

South Korea is hardly unprotected and alone. The United States already has 28,500 troops in South Korea. It also has F-16 fighter aircraft and A-10 bomber jets. South Korea’s military is also very well stocked, with F-35 Fighter Jets, Aegis Destroyers, and all kinds of military hardware purchased from the United States.

The THAAD missile system being erected in a contract with Lockheed-Martin, in cold war terms, is a “strike enabling system.” Once the system is completed, the US and South Korean forces that are already in the Peninsula are free to launch an attack on North Korea, China, or Russia. The THAAD system, modeled after Israel’s Iron Dome, would prevent retaliation strikes aimed at disabling the attackers. THAAD enables the US and South Korea to begin striking countries in the region, while shielding themselves from any response. Furthermore, THAAD includes a radar system that will closely monitor regional activity, not only in North Korea, but also in northern China.

Its not hard to tell why Russia and China are loudly objecting to this multi-billion dollar military project. Strike enabling systems with penetrating radars are not a mechanism of defusing tension, in an already tense region. THAAD is the latest development in the Pentagon’s ongoing “Asian Pivot,” moving forces into the Pacific. Similar moves have already escalated tensions in the South China Sea.

US media’s justification for the project depends on a false, racist and cartoonish caricature of the DPRK. Fictional Hollywood movies, disproven news items about executions by wild dogs, and endless rumor mongering have all painted a picture of DPRK’s leadership as a group of people hell bent on nuclear war. In reality, the government in the north has frequently stated that its goal is peaceful, democratic re-unification of the peninsula, not war, death, and destruction.

Dissent, Repression & Democracy

At the same time this controversial and provocative missile system is being erected, the President of the Republic of Korea is facing impeachment. Park Geun-hye has had her power suspended as the country prepares for an impeachment trial. Park has been caught taking bribes, and giving favors to members of the corporate elite. Lee Jae-yong, described as the de-facto leader of the multinational electronics conglomerate known as Samsung is facing criminal charges for his illicit dealings with President Park.

Lee Jae-myung, a left-wing populist, is growing in popularity. Lee’s political career has been closely identified with expanding the social safety net and workplace protections. Lee is also a loud opponent of THAAD. Lee’s voice joins a chorus of Korean activists who have filled the streets protesting against the ongoing presence of US troops and the installation of the new missile system. The large anti-US, left-wing activist movement among Koreans, which made global headlines in prior decades has not gone away. It persists among young and old Koreans, despite the heavy restrictions on its activity and constant repression.

Global media has dubbed Lee Jae-myung as “the Bernie Sanders” of South Korea. However, there is one key difference between Lee and Sanders. Sanders identifies himself as a “Democratic Socialist.” Lee does not use such terms to describe himself, as doing so is illegal under the National Security Laws. While millions of Koreans living in the south identify with organized labor, anti-capitalism, socialism, and other radical left-wing ideas, their ability to express themselves is tightly restricted.

The slightest criticism of capitalism, discussions of the history of the Korean War, or statements in any way perceived as being supportive of their northern countryfolk can land citizens of South Korea in prison. The National Security Laws of South Korea are condemned by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and many international bodies. A 24 year old photographer and activist named Park Jung-geun was convicted and given a 10-month suspended sentence simply for sarcastically tweeting the phrase “Long Live Kim Jong-Il” in 2012.

The Unified Progressive Party, a dissident voice in Korean politics, has been outlawed. The leaders of the party were imprisoned after an audio recording surfaced. The crime for which party leaders were sentenced to decades in prison was a hypothetical conversation about what to do in the context all out war between the North and South.

While the US media’s narrative ignores it, for the majority of the years following the country’s division in 1945, the southern half of the Korean peninsula has hardly been democratic. Military dictators like Sygman Rhee ruled with an iron fist. The scandal ridden President who faces a pending impeachment trial is herself the daughter of Park Chung-Hee, the military dictator who ruled the country until his assassination in 1979.

The current President’s father not only brutally repressed labor unions and dissident students, but also slaughtered thousands of Koreans simply for being homeless. In 1975, Hee issued an order for the police to remove all homeless people from the capital city of Seoul. Koreans determined by the police to be vagrants were placed in a network of 36 different prison camps throughout the country, and forced to work long hours. Torture was routinely utilized in these camps, and an unknown number died. While US media endlessly hypes up unsubstantiated claims about “labor camps” in the North, often coming from defectors with clear incentives to exaggerate, the reality of labor camps under the US backed regime in the south, and the thousands who died after being worked to death in them, has been largely glossed over.

What Role Will South Korea Play?

China hasn’t simply objected to THAAD with words. Chinese corporations are tightly controlled by the Communist Party, and their activities fit in with the country’s five year development plan. International observers have often commented on the Chinese governments ability to cooperate with the private sector in order to serve geopolitical goals. An undeclared boycott of South Korea is now being carried out by Chinese businesses.

China’s tourism websites have stopped booking packages in South Korea, which has been a popular destination for Chinese tourists in recent years. The Japanese-Korean conglomerate known as Lotte has also faced a sudden loss of Chinese business. 23 Lotte owned stores in China have been closed own. South Korean music and TV programs have been blocked from web-streaming services on the Chinese mainland. As China cuts off a large amount of its business dealings with South Korea, critics of Beijing are calling these measures “unofficial sanctions” in retaliation for THAAD.

During his Presidential campaign, Donald Trump questioned the US relationship with South Korea, saying “We are better off frankly if South Korea is going to start protecting itself … they have to protect themselves or they have to pay us.”

Though Lee Jae-myung is a leftist, and Trump is identified with the extreme right wing in the United States, on this issue, they seem to agree. Lee is quoted as saying “Americans impeached their establishment by electing Trump… Our elections will do the same.”

Lee Jae-myung, who wants to US military presence scaled back, is one of the “big three” expected to run in the upcoming Presidential election. More and more Koreans agree with his argument that allying with the United States against the north, China, and Russia, is not in the people’s best interest. Furthermore, less than 4% of the population stands behind the disgraced President. South Korea could soon be moving in the same direction as the Philippines, where the long standing neoliberal, pro-American status quo was shaken up by the election of Rodrigo Duterte.

With the THAAD controversy boiling, amid bribery scandals, impeachment proceedings, discontent with the status quo, and renewed tensions with the North, the southern half of the Korean peninsula is gradually becoming more and more of a global hotspot. The point of disagreement seems to be about the role southern Korean will play in the world. Will it remain an extension of US influence in Asia, or will the southern half of the Korean peninsula follow in the footsteps of its powerful Chinese neighbors and northern countryfolk? Will Koreans in the south declare their economic, political, and military independence from the United States and Japan?

These questions, which have driven so many uprisings, protests, military coups, and strikes since 1945 are not going away any time soon.

Posted in North Korea, South Korea0 Comments

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