What’s behind restoration of the Cold War is a fall-off in the global armaments trade after the capitalist-versus-communist Cold War ended with the 9 November 1989 elimination of the Berlin Wall, and after the ideological excuse for buying and using nuclear weapons thus ended when the Soviet Union and its communism and its Warsaw Pact military alliance copy of America’s NATO military alliance all ended soon thereafter, in 1991. Weapons became less needed, because there was no longer an ideological excuse available for invading, and for perpetrating (and/or backing) coups in, foreign countries, such as Iran 1953, Guatemala 1954, etc. This reduction in the weapons-market harmed the major investors in arms-manufacturing international corporations. Their business was suffering.
Any nation’s armaments-industry is especially crucial to that given nation’s aristocracy (the controlling owners of their international corporations); and, so, the fall-off in the arms business was deeply problematic for international capitalists — especially for the people whose wealth depends largely upon America’s arms-manufacturers, the international corporations whose only markets are their own and allied governments (which governments America’s and its allied aristocracies control). Therefore, any capitalist nation’s aristocracy is heavily invested in and controls that given nation’s ‘defense’ (or, more typically, invasion) industry. Without allied governments to buy their arms, and ‘enemy’ governments for those weapons to be used against (i.e., countries which are targets instead of markets for those weapons), there is no business, no arms-sales, and no profits, from these companies. Furthermore, the weapons that any given nation has at its disposal and which are paid for by that nation’s entire taxpaying public (thus enabling that aristocracy to extract wealth from their nation’s public in order for the government to buy weapons from their firms), also provide a vital means of enforcing that nation’s aristocracy’s property-rights in all other countries — the guns and military to enforce their will against those countries. Soldiers are more important to international billionaires than police are. Aristocrats tend to be invested in many countries, and so to be very much in need of this international enforcement. Whereas police are more important to the general public, soldiers and spies are more important to billionaires, whose net worths are often extracted more from foreign lands than from their own. This international enforcement also advantages them in any international negotiations. Furthermore, the nation’s diplomatic service, such as America’s State Department, also boosts their international negotiations. Much of the U.S. federal Government serves America’s 607 billionaires more than it serves the remainder of America’s 330 million people — who pay taxes instead of secret their main wealth in places such as Barbados. So, while the public do the paying and the killing and the dying, the country’s owners do the profits. That’s the reality — not the myth, none of the myth — about international relations. It’s global gangland. Everything else is just PR.
For a while after the end of communism and end of the Soviet Union in 1991, the U.S. aristocracy and its allied aristocracies in Europe, Japan and elsewhere, experienced declining sales of armaments, and nothing seemed capable of turning that situation around: their investments became increasingly bad as the ‘post-Cold-War’ period (which “post” on the Russian side was real from 1991 on, but not on the U.S. side, where the Cold War was actually only temporarily suspended and never yet ended) proceeded throughout the 1990s. For America’s aristocracy (and its allied aristocracies abroad), this decline in weapons-income was tolerable so long as the U.S. group were able to siphon some wealth out of Russia, and also out of its allies such as Ukraine. But, by the time when George W. Bush became U.S. President in 2001, America’s aristocracy worked in conjunction with Saudi Arabia’s aristocracy — the Saudi royal family, the largest foreign purchaser of U.S. weapons — to replace the Soviet enemy, by a new jihadist enemy, “radical Islamic terrorism” or jihadists from fundamentalist-Sunni sects such as Saudi Arabia’s own Wahhabist sect, so as to have an ongoing excuse for invasions, to keep their arms-makers busy.
For example: during the latest reporting period, 2017 and 2018, Saudi Arabia imported from U.S. “6599” (millions of dollars worth, or $6.6 billion) of American-made weapons, and the second-largest, Australia, imported only “2007” — meaning that Saudi Arabia dwarfed every other importer, and consumed 29% of all “22993” (or $23 billion) of U.S. arms-exports, during that two-year period. That’s enormous clout over the U.S. Government, which means that the owner of Saudi Arabia, its King, who is by far the world’s wealthiest person and the only certain trillionaire, probably has even more control over U.S. foreign policies than does any single U.S. billionaire — even than does whomever actually controls Lockheed Martin.
After 9/11 (a joint U.S.-Saudi operation), military expenditures promptly quit declining and started rising and thus providing, yet again, good returns to international capitalists. Here, that increase, which was indicated in the above chart, is also shown by a graph in an article which extends decades farther back than merely to 1988, “Military Expenditure Trends for 1960–2014 and What They Reveal”, by Todd Sandler and Justin George, published on 7 March 2016:
As is clear from that, the Cold War was a booming business for investors throughout the U.S. and its allied aristocracies, during at least 1960 till around the time when the Berlin Wall ended on 9 November 1989; and, then, after the 1991 end of the Soviet Union, this thirty-plus years-long uptrend in those investments became instead a clear downtrend, until 11 September 2001, when military spending again soared, but this favorable trend for armaments-investors stopped when Barack Obama became the U.S. President in 2009, and military sales then declined till 2014, and flatlined thereafter. What caused it to stop declining further was especially Obama’s coup in Ukraine during February 2014, turning neutralist Ukraine rabidly against its adjoining nation Russia and seeking NATO membership and so becoming a potential staging-area for U.S. missiles against Russia. This seemed, at the time, to be a brilliant sales-promotion policy for American corporations such as Lockheed.
This flatlined military spending was unacceptable to the U.S. aristocracy, who control the U.S. government. Therefore, starting by no later than 2011, the Obama-Clinton U.S. State Department began preparations to overthrow the Russia-friendly democratically elected (in 2010) government of Ukraine, which is the European country that has the longest border with Russia and therefore the most opportunities for placing U.S. missiles on Russia’s border so as to be able to surprise-attack Russia faster than Russia will be able to launch its missiles in retaliation — in other words, to conquer Russia. That U.S. coup in Ukraine was carried out in February 2014; and, afterward, the international arms-trade boomed again.
The United States, which until the end of the Soviet Union, and of its communism, and of its Warsaw Pact copy of America’s own NATO, had had an excuse for high military spending, had lost that excuse when, on 9 November 1989, the last Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev “tore down that wall” separating East Berlin from West Berlin, and, in 1991 he ended the Cold War itself on the Soviet side and became instead the President of Russia — the leading state in the former Soviet federation. The U.S. secretly continued the Cold War, now against Russia alone, and tried to take Russia over by means of constructing a new Russian aristocracy that would be dependent upon the U.S. aristocracy and would provide America’s aristocrats with lucrative new opportunities for exploitation. But Russia’s new President Vladimir Putin in 2000 immediately turned against Boris Berezovsky and Russia’s other U.S.-allied new aristocrats or “oligarchs,” and drove them out of the country and so established Russian national sovereignty over Russia’s natural and other resources — the very things that America’s aristocrats had wanted to exploit.
Putin replaced the previous, U.S.-allied, oligarchs, by his own friends, who agreed to obey Russia’s leader as the representative of Russia’s national sovereignty, even if and when Putin would tell them to do things that are against their own pecuniary interests — he demanded this loyalty from them, loyalty to what he as the representative of the Russian people determined to be in Russia’s national interest. For forcing out and replacing the previous, U.S.-backed, oligarchs, Putin was called a brutal dictator, by the aristocrats who control the U.S. government and news media and weapons-producing firms.
The post-9/11 restoration of the sales-volumes of the U.S. aristocracy’s weapons-firms turned out to be insufficient, it ended within eight years, because only with a return of sales of nuclear-arms production, and the huge missile systems to deliver them, could the old glory days of America’s aristocracy return again. Or so they thought. And, so, the emphasis again went to making the U.S.-and-allied publics hate Russians instead of hate Muslims, and all of the major media turned to that. But look at the flatline after 2010 which is shown in the top visual here: the U.S. owners are desperate to restore their growth. Consequently, the first thing that the incoming U.S. President Donald Trump did when coming into power in 2017 was to go to Saudi Arabia and sell $350 billion of U.S. weapons to the Sauds over the coming 10-year period — the world’s all-time biggest arms-sale, if the Sauds fulfill on it. This is why Trump refuses to acknowledge that Crown Prince Salman al-Saud ordered the torture-murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Trump’s biggest success has been that sale, and he won’t allow it to fail.
Communism is gone. The Soviet Union is gone. Its Warsaw Pact is gone (and almost entirely absorbed now into America’s NATO military club — they’re aimed now against Russia, instead of against the U.S.). All of the pretext for the Cold War was gone; and therefore to call this new war against the lone and non-communist rump Russian government a ‘new cold war’ (at a time when Russia’s former Soviet partners have been switched to enemies, and the Warsaw Pact of allies has been switched to the NATO pact of enemies) is preposterous; it is nothing of a ‘new cold war’ sort. It is U.S. aggression, flat-out and recognized even by America’s top experts. And a pretext was thus needed in order to be able to call Putin’s Russia the world’s most aggressive country. One pretext was to call the two breaks-away from Ukraine, one by Crimea (which had voted 75% for the government that Obama overthrew) and the other by Donbass (which had voted 90% for that government), ‘aggressions’ on the part of Russia (and to ignore that Obama’s coup in Ukraine had caused both). The Obama regime denied the right of self-determination of peoples, when it pertained to those breakaway regions from Ukraine, even though Obama accepted the right of self-determination of peoples when it pertained to Scots in UK, and to Catalans in Spain.
The other pretext was that Russia backed the allegedly brutal secular leader of Syria, and not the actually brutal sectarian leader of Saudi Arabia who was determined to conquer secular Syria by infiltrating into Syria jihadist allies of Al Qaeda in order to create a Wahhabist dictatorship in Syria, which would be in debt to the Sauds and to the Americans.
For these reasons, nuclear war is now not only on the table, as it was during the Cold War, but, in the currently spreading now hot war using jihadists and other proxy fighters in order to overthrow and replace Russia’s allies, America is finally going for the nuclear jugular. Even if it’s not a sound thing to do if those weapons are ever used, it’s the only way America’s aristocrats know to boost the value of their investments, at least in the short term (which is the time-perspective that increasingly has come to dominate among America’s aristocrats and their allies).
America’s current President, Trump, will have to decide whether to culminate this, or whether instead to condemn and repudiate it. If he decides to do the latter, then he will be condemning and repudiating the entire U.S. aristocracy, which no U.S. President (except for Jimmy Carter in his retirement) has ever done. American Presidents have been assassinated for less than that. And, in any case, courage is not a trait that’s commonly attributed to Trump, even by his own most ardent admirers. However, unless he turns out to be a person of extraordinary courage, World War III now appears to be virtually inevitable, to occur rather soon, and the only real question would be: Which side will nuclear-blitz-attack the other the first?
Every well-informed person now knows what the full import was of U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower’s elliptical parting words as President, from his Farewell Address, on 17 January 1961:
“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes.”
What he was so vaguely warning against, has actually occurred, and is proceeding toward its ever-likelier climax: the end. This push is politically bipartisan. It is toward an end so horrific that no scientific estimate of its result to the planet has been allowed to be published. It would release at least the 3,176 already-deployed nuclear warheads (the 100-plus-kiloton bombs that would be used in a U.S.-Russia war: 1,765 on Russia’s side, plus 1,411 on America’s). However, a release of only 100 nuclear warheads (each only 15-kilotons) (thus, roughly 200 times smaller release in total, than a U.S.-Russia war would entail) was allowed to be published; and here that is. (The study itself says that: “Our results show that this period of no food production needs to be extended by many years, making the impacts of nuclear winter even worse than previously thought.” But, clearly, a U.S.-Russia war would simply end a livable planet.)
Trump’s Presidency was bought by the anti-Iran Adelson billionaires and other agents for Israel. Unlike Obama, who was hired by anti-Russia Democratic Party billionaire neoconservatives, the anti-Iran billionaires are the patrons of Trump’s Presidency. And, so, America’s target to destroy is Iran and its allies, instead of Russia and its allies. The only reason why Trump continues Obama’s aggressions (even increases his sanctions) against Russia is in order to be acceptable to the Democratic Party billionaires who control much of the news-media. He gets lots of pressure from them to ‘stop being Putin’s puppet’, and nobody can fight the mainstream news-media, who shape voters’ perceptions.
Author’s note: updated version from originally posted at strategic-culture.org
Iran in the SCO: a Forced “Look East” Strategy and an Alternative World Order
On September 17, a package of several dozen documents was signed in Dushanbe at the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). The highlight of the meeting was the decision taken by the Heads of State Council of the SCO on launching the procedure of granting SCO membership to the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Technically, this decision does not turn Tehran into a full-fledged SCO member, launching the accession process only. Granting full membership involves a number of agreements signed, which usually takes about two years. However, a proactive decision has de facto been made, and the Islamic Republic of Iran can already be considered a member of the Organization.
Moscow played a key role in granting SCO membership to Iran. It was after a telephone talk on August 11 with Nikolai Patrushev, Secretary of Russia’s Security Council, that Ali Shamkhani, Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran, announced that the political obstacles to Iran’s membership in the SCO had been removed so that Iran’s SCO membership could be finalized. Besides, throughout this year, Russia has repeatedly urged to endorse Iran’s bid for SCO membership.
Endorsing Tehran’s bid for SCO membership was the first significant victory for the new ultra-conservative Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi’s foreign policy. One of the key tasks for the Islamic Republic’s new head of government is to demonstrate his own achievements as opposed to the failures of his predecessor, the reformist Hassan Rouhani. The latter has repeatedly advocated for expanding cooperation with the SCO; however, Tehran did not manage to join the Organization during his presidency.
One of the reasons for this was Rouhani’s team pursuing the Western vector of Iran’s foreign policy. The nuclear deal with the leading world powers, including the United States, as well as the subsequent prospects of large-scale investments from Europe, clearly exceeded what other international projects could offer. Therefore, other integration initiatives were temporarily set aside. While this looked rather reasonable at that point, the subsequent failure of this plan because of the inconsistencies in the U.S. foreign policy raised the burning issue of exploring the alternatives.
Yet, Hassan Rouhani never completely abandoned the non-Western vector. There have been at least two remarkable achievements here during his tenure. On May 17, 2018, the Eurasian Economic Union and Iran signed a provisional free trade zone agreement, which entered into force on October 27, 2019, for a period of three years. Then, late into Rouhani’s presidency, China and Iran signed a 25-year cooperation agreement on March 27, 2021, to comprehensively enhance the bilateral relations.
Ebrahim Raisi is largely trying to prove himself as polar opposite to Hassan Rouhani, whose recent years have been one of the most proving times for Iran’s economy. First and foremost, Ebrahim Raisi needs to live up to the confidence placed in him, while the new president’s decisive victory in June 2021 was overshadowed by the extreme political apathy demonstrated by large segments of the country’s population, resulting in a record low voter turnout in Iran’s history.
Domestically, the fight against COVID-19 is still serving this purpose. Lockdown restrictions are consistently lifted in Iran amid reports of high vaccination rates. This stands in sharp contrast with Rouhani’s administration, when the epidemic was only growing, with the authorities resorting to closures of businesses and public institutions as well as to movement restrictions, and with Tehran constantly having problems with vaccines import.
Iran’s accession into the SCO demonstrates another good start for Raisi—this time, in terms of foreign policy. This is especially important amid stalled negotiations on restoring the nuclear deal. Technically, reviving the JCPOA remains valuable for Tehran and Washington, which both sides confirm every now and then. However, trust between the parties is so low after Donald Trump’s demarche that the prospects for new agreements are increasingly elusive.
All the more so since Iran is demanding security guarantees from the U.S. so that the incident does not recur and that the new U.S. elections do not destroy any previous agreements. However, Washington cannot guarantee this due to the very nature of the American political system. At the same time, Joe Biden, in fearing domestic criticism, has not yet made any concessions that could give Tehran at least some confidence in the intentions of the U.S. president. Washington could well have announced its unilateral return to the JCPOA without the sanctions lifted. However, the White House did not do this, which means a U.S. delegation cannot sit at the negotiating table on the nuclear deal in Vienna, with the JCPOA dialogue with the U.S. held separately.
There are still chances for the JCPOA to be revived and the sanctions against Tehran to be lifted. Even if this is case, however, there is no quick positive outcome for Raisi—which is why the SCO membership has gained momentum for his image within the country. It is no coincidence that his participation in the SCO Summit in Dushanbe was the first international trip made by the Iranian president in the wake of the elections.
At the turn of the 2010s, the demand for better relations with the West grew so strong in Iran that both the legislative and the executive were taken over by Westerners amid the struggle for power, with President Rouhani becoming the epitome of the process. This turn may seem paradoxical to the casual observer since the ideology of the Islamic Republic of Iran is anti-Western at its core. However, pro-Western forces were rather strong in Iran of the 1990s. President Hashemi Rafsanjani (1989–1997) was the first who cautiously spoke out for the normalization of relations with the United States and Europe to be then succeeded by Mohammad Khatami (1997–2005), an open advocate for dialogue.
Therefore, of the last four presidents in Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (2005–2013) was the only who proved a consistent opponent of the West. Hassan Rouhani seemed right for establishing the dialogue. The United States under Obama’s administration and the European countries seemed to have weighed all the possibilities in embarking on the path of normalizing the relations with Tehran. However, the Collective West found itself hostage to the twists and turns of the U.S. domestic policy.
Donald Trump’s hasty withdrawal from the JCPOA was carried out in spite of no violations of the deal’s terms on the Iranian side, the position of the UN Security Council, or the opinion of U.S. allies in Europe. This became a critical point for the Iran’s “pivot West.” The political elite of the Islamic Republic of Iran saw once again that treaties with the U.S. and assurances from the U.S. are not worth anything. However, this does not mean that the West has lost Iran forever. In theory, there might be a new chance in the long run—for the foreseeable future, this is out of the question, though.
For Iran, joining the SCO symbolizes a consolidation of its foreign policy’s Eastern dimension. Even a prospective return to the nuclear deal under Raisi will not change this trend. This may look like a victory for the “Look East” strategy promoted earlier on by Ahmadinejad as the basic tenet of his foreign policy. Moreover, it was right during his presidential term that Iran attained observer status with the SCO in 2005 and made two failed attempts to become a full member.
While this was a deliberate choice made by Iranian conservatives under President Ahmadinejad who sought to hinder relations with the West with their own hands, today’s Iran is taking such a step as a desperate measure. The West has closed off the path to normalization, doing so for no good reason, whose rationale would be shared by the majority of the players, but because one of them is in the grip of political instability domestically.
Reassessing the Image
The nuclear deal, coupled with the desire to cooperate with the outside world and the attempts to break the isolation, have borne some fruit for Iran. Iran’s image as a collective threat has consistently been blurred by Tehran’s efforts. The Islamic Republic is increasingly perceived as a rational actor on the international arena, if in pursuit of its specific goals.
Thus, Iran’s failed attempt to attain SCO membership was largely due to the fact that the Central Asian nations had been rather wary of Iranian Islamism and its proneness to ideological expansion. However, the following years have shown that Tehran is ready for constructive cooperation with secular forces. Realistic considerations increasingly prevail over Islamic motivation, while the expansionism is limited to certain regions in the Middle East. Moreover, Iran’s anti-terrorist aspirations tend to overlap with the vision of other countries. Iran’s fight against the Islamic State (ISIS, a terrorist group banned in Russia) and its meaningful interaction with Russia and Turkey in Syria are another important indicator.
Another obstacle to Iran’s membership in the SCO was its pronounced and unrelenting anti-Americanism, especially characteristic of Ahmadinejad’s years in power. China, remaining one of the key economic partners of the United States in the 2000s and 2010s, did not want the SCO to become a platform for anti-American rhetoric. Russia, too, had expectations to normalize relations with Washington at that time.
However, Tehran showed again that pragmatism, rather than ideology, is the highlight of its foreign policy, proving that Iran can even negotiate the nuclear deal with the “Great Satan”. The failure of the JCPOA framework should be attributed to the inconsistency of the United States rather than to the stance professed by Iran. Besides, anti-Americanism no longer seems to be an issue today. The relations between Moscow and Washington have progressively been degrading all this time, while China has turned from a stable partner of the U.S. into the main threat to it as a leading world power. In other words, Iranian anti-Americanism now looks much more acceptable to the founding members of the SCO than was the case 10 or 15 years ago.
Tehran’s general vector, pursuing an end to the isolation and aiming to legitimize the state around the world, has yielded certain results, and the SCO membership is one of them. At the same time, this was facilitated by the broader shifts in the international situation as much as by ideology having lesser sway in the foreign policy of the Islamic Republic.
An Alternative World Order
Iran’s accession into the SCO is taking place amidst the growing demand from the organization’s member states for new mechanisms of interaction. For a significant part of its history, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization looked like a showcase alternative to the Western order—today, in a number of dimensions, this “alternativeness” is not just an option but a need.
The most striking example is Afghanistan. In resolving security threats emanating from Afghanistan, including terrorism and drugs, the SCO member states have no one else to rely on, except for themselves, following the withdrawal of the U.S. forces. Against this background, Iran’s accession at this moment seems to be of significance, as an effective Afghan settlement seems hardly possible without Tehran.
Establishing alternative (to the Western) financial mechanisms and looking for new ways of handling economic activity is another challenge. And Iran’s example confirms the need for such an alternative. The U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal, all other participants being against it, threatened the very existence of the Agreement. First of all, this happened due to the dominant influence of Washington on the global economy. Despite all attempts, Europe, China and Russia have failed to neutralize the consequences of U.S. secondary sanctions against Tehran.
At the same time, the sanctions policy has become a very popular instrument in international relations. Restrictions imposed by Western governments are becoming less and less predictable each year, since the internal political situation is the key factor. In the future, China, Russia and other countries may face similar pressure measures that are now used against Iran.
In this regard, Tehran is in the “vanguard”, exploring new pilot approaches. So far, circumventing sanctions has proved difficult and time-consuming, although there has been some progress in this area.
Finally, the key prospect for the SCO is its transformation into a dialogue platform for politically diverse states in order to agree on new approaches. The Organization’s extremely broad mandate allows it to tackle a huge range of issues and unlock the potential to coordinate efforts of different international actors.
In this vein, Iran turns out to be a unique test case for the entire structure. A country with a completely different worldview and specific goals will be forced to talk and negotiate on a regular basis with the largest states of the macro-region. From now on, Tehran as a full member cannot simply observe the course of meetings, it will have to adopt a position on the SCO agenda issues.
As far as the interest of Iran goes, the Organization is quite in line with its political objectives in the short term. Promoting trade ties is mostly based on bilateral agreements between the countries, while the role of the SCO as an economic driver is still at its early stage. This institution will primarily contribute to Tehran’s cooperation in the field of security and political rapprochement; however, closer economic cooperation may come as a by-product of this.
In any case, Iran’s membership in the SCO can be called an important stage in the SCO’s maturing into a solid international institution. Until now, the Organization has focused on combating terrorism, separatism and extremism, although its mandate allows it to tackle a much broader range of issues. The expansion of the membership increases the legitimacy of the SCO—but, at the same time, expectations from the organization as a global powerbroker are growing. To justify them, the SCO must take on greater responsibility, looking beyond security issues.
From our partner RIAC
US military presence in the Middle East: The less the better
It may not have been planned or coordinated but efforts by Middle Eastern states to dial down tensions serve as an example of what happens when big power interests coincide.
It also provides evidence of the potentially positive fallout of a lower US profile in the region.
Afghanistan, the United States’ chaotic withdrawal notwithstanding, could emerge as another example of the positive impact when global interests coincide. That is if the Taliban prove willing and capable of policing militant groups to ensure that they don’t strike beyond the Central Asian nation’s borders or at embassies and other foreign targets in the country.
Analysts credit the coming to office of US President Joe Biden with a focus on Asia rather than the Middle East and growing uncertainty about his commitment to the security of the Gulf for efforts to reduce tensions by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirate and Egypt on the one hand and on the other, Turkey, Iran, and Qatar. Those efforts resulted in the lifting, early this year, of the Saudi-UAE-Egyptian-led economic and diplomatic boycott of Qatar.
Doubts about the United States’ commitment also played an important role in efforts to shore up or formalise alliances like the establishment of diplomatic relations with Israel by the UAE and Bahrain.
For its part, Saudi Arabia has de facto acknowledged its ties with the Jewish state even if Riyadh is not about to formally establish relations. In a sign of the times, that did not stop then Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu from last year visiting the kingdom.
To be sure, changes in Washington’s priorities impact regional defence strategies and postures given that the United States has a significant military presence in the Middle East and serves as its sole security guarantor.
Yet, what rings alarm bells in Gulf capitals also sparks concerns in Beijing, which depends to a significant degree on the flow of its trade and energy from and through Middle Eastern waters, and Moscow with its own security concerns and geopolitical aspirations.
Little surprise that Russia and China, each in their own way and independent of the United States, over the last year echoed the United States’ message that the Middle East needs to get its act together.
Eager to change rather than reform the world order, Russia proposed an all-new regional security architecture modelled on the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) adding not only Russia but also China, India, and Europe to the mix.
China, determined to secure its proper place in the new world order rather than fundamentally altering it, sent smoke signals through its academics and analysts that conveyed a double-barrelled message. On the one hand, China suggested that the Middle East did not rank high on its agenda. In other words, the Middle East would have to act to climb Beijing’s totem pole.
“For China, the Middle East is always on the very distant back burner of China’s strategic global strategies,” Niu Xinchun, director of Middle East Studies at China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR), China’s most prestigious think tank, told a webinar last year.
Prominent Chinese scholars Sun Degang and Wu Sike provided months later a carrot to accompany Mr. Niu’s stick. Taking the opposite tack, they argued that the Middle East was a “key region in big power diplomacy with Chinese characteristics in a new era.”
Chinese characteristics, they said, would involve “seeking common ground while reserving differences,” a formula that implies conflict management rather than conflict resolution.
On that basis, the two scholars suggest, Chinese engagement in Middle Eastern security would seek to build an inclusive and shared regional collective security mechanism based on fairness, justice, multilateralism, comprehensive governance, and the containment of differences.
In the final analysis, Chinese and Russian signalling that there was an unspoken big power consensus likely reinforced American messaging and gave Middle Eastern states a further nudge to change course and demonstrate a willingness to control tensions and differences.
Implicit in the unspoken big power consensus was not only the need to dial down tensions but also the projection of a reduced, not an eliminated, US presence in the Middle East.
While there has been little real on-the-ground reduction of US forces, just talking about it seemingly opened pathways. It altered the US’ weighting in the equation.
“The U.S. has a habit of seeing itself as indispensable to regional stability around the world, when in fact its intervention can be very destabilizing because it becomes part of the local equation rather than sitting above it,” noted Raad Alkadiri, an international risk consultant.
While important, the United States’ willingness to get out of the way is no guarantee that talks will do anything more than at best avert conflicts spinning out of control.
Saudi and Iranian leaders and officials have sought to put a positive spin on several rounds of direct and indirect talks between the two rivals.
Yet, more important than the talk of progress, expressions of willingness to bury hatchets, and toning down of rhetoric is Saudi King Salman’s insistence in remarks last month to the United Nations General Assembly on the need to build trust.
The monarch suggested that could be achieved by Iran ceasing “all types of support” for armed groups in the region, including the Houthis in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and pro-Iranian militias in Iraq.
The potential monkey wrench is not just the improbability of Iran making meaningful concessions to improve relations but also the fact that the chances are fading for a revival of the 2015 international agreement that curbed Iran’s nuclear program.
“We have to prepare for a world where Iran doesn’t have constraints on its nuclear program and we have to consider options for dealing with that. This is what we are doing while we hope they do go back to the deal,” said US negotiator Rob Malley.
Already, Israeli politicians, unhappy with the original nuclear deal and the Biden administration’s effort to revive it, are taking a more alarmist view than may be prevalent in their intelligence services.
In Washington this week, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid told US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan that Iran was “becoming a nuclear threshold state.” Back home Yossi Cohen, a close confidante of Mr. Netanyahu, who stepped down in June as head of the Mossad, asserted at the same time that Iran was “no closer than before” to obtaining a nuclear weapon.
There is no doubt, however that both men agree that Israel retains the option of a military strike against Iran. “Israel reserves the right to act at any moment in any way,” Mr. Lapid told his American interlocutors as they sought to resolve differences of how to deal with Iran if a revival of the agreement proves elusive.
Meanwhile, a foreplay of the fallout of a potential failure to put a nuclear deal in place is playing out on multiple fronts. Tension have been rising along the border between Iran and Azerbaijan.
Iran sees closer Azerbaijani-Israeli relations as part of an effort to encircle it and fears that the Caucasian state would be a staging ground for Israeli operations against the Islamic republic. Iran and Azerbaijan agreed this week to hold talks to reduce the friction.
At the same time, Iran, Turkey and Israel have been engaged in a shadow boxing match in predominantly Kurdish northern Iraq while a poll showed half of Israeli Jews believe that attacking Iran early on rather than negotiating a deal would have been a better approach.
Taken together, these factors cast a shadow over optimism that the Middle East is pulling back from the brink. They suggest that coordinated big power leadership is what could make the difference as the Middle East balances between forging a path towards stability and waging a continuous covert war and potentially an overt one.
A Johns Hopkins University Iran research program suggested that a US return to the nuclear deal may be the catalyst for cooperation with Europe, China, and Russia.
“Should the United States refuse to re-join the agreement following sufficient attempts by Iran to demonstrate flexibility in their negotiating posture, Russia and China will ramp up their economic and security cooperation with Iran in a manner fundamentally opposed to US interests,” the program warned.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh announced this week that Russia and Iran were finalizing a ‘Global Agreement for Cooperation between Iran and Russia’ along the lines of a similar 25-year agreement between China and the Islamic republic last year that has yet to get legs.
Even so, Iran scored an important victory when the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in which China and Russia loom large last month agreed to process Iran’s application for membership.
The U.S. may not involve military confrontation in the South China Sea
Although the US with its highest military budget, and maintaining the largest number of military bases around the globe, and the largest number of troops in foreign countries, and keeping the largest number of alliances, yet may avoid a direct military confrontation in the South China Sea. It does not mean that the US will give up, but, may exert political and diplomatic pressure, or opt for cold war strategies. The US is very well aware of the consequences and scared of spreading the conflict into other parts of the world, initiating the third world war (WWIII). It might be a nuclear war and disaster for the whole world.
Today, the piles of lethal weapons, especially nuclear weapons, are enough to destroy the whole world. If the escalation starts, it might not be limited to a small region, or continent, it might get out of control and spread to other parts of the world, and engulf the whole world. The highly hostile geopolitics are heading toward more volatility and entering dangerous limits.
As a part of the US cold war strategy, they are pushing the region toward war. On one hand creation of AUKUS, instigating Taiwan, and supporting India, pressurizing China, leaving no option except war, is extremely dangerous. The US may be once again miscalculating that, push the regional countries into war, while keeping the US away from the war zone will benefit Americans. In the recent past, all US dreams turn against their expectations, and such a dream to push China into war and enjoy the destruction of the region, keeping itself away, may not realize.
As a result of undue support to Taiwan, may instigate Taiwan for war. Chinese President Xi Jinping, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, delivered an important speech at a commemorative meeting marking the 110th anniversary of the Revolution of 1911 at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China, Oct. 9, 2021. He said that the Taiwan question arose out of the weakness and chaos of the Chinese nation, and it will be resolved as national rejuvenation becomes a reality. “This is determined by the general trend of Chinese history, but more importantly, it is the common will of all Chinese people,” he noted.
National reunification by peaceful means best serves the interests of the Chinese nation as a whole, including compatriots in Taiwan, said Xi, while calling on compatriots on both sides of the Taiwan Strait to stand on the right side of history. Xi described secession aimed at “Taiwan independence” as the greatest obstacle to national reunification and a grave danger to national rejuvenation. “Those who forget their heritage, betray their motherland, and seek to split the country will come to no good end,” he said, adding that they will be disdained by the people and condemned by history. The Taiwan question is purely an internal matter for China, one which brooks no external interference, Xi noted. “The complete reunification of our country will be and can be realized,” he stressed.
By nature, the Chinese are peace-loving and never like aggression or wars. China has been observing patience for a long, and expects, that the people of Taiwan may opt for peaceful reunification. Although China has the capacity to take over Taiwan by force, yet, China preferred reunification through dialogue and negotiation peacefully. China understands the consequences too and will observe patience to the last moment. If the people of Taiwan are smart and wise they must take the right decision, and a timely decision will be in their interest. A unified China will make them proud too. They may also be beneficiaries of Chinese economic developments. Reunification, will definitely, raise the economy of Taiwanese and improve individuals’ standard of life. There are many incentives for Taiwan and unlimited opportunities.
However, in case of war, no foreign country will come to help Taiwan, especially the US will not rescue them. In fact, the role of the US is to instigate others and push them into war and keep themselves aside, watching only, they may join the winner side later on. The US is not sincere with Taiwan, but playing dirty politics only and selling expensive weapons to gain economic benefits to save its ailing economy. The US will not proactively involve in any war in the South China sea.
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