Authors: Irina Tsukerman & Hos Loftus*
The presence of Islamist militant groups in Latin America has a long and dark history. The brutal terrorist attacks on the Israeli embassy in Argentina in 1992, and the bombing of the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA) in 1994, collectively left hundreds dead and injured. Argentina, as a country, is still dealing with the aftermath. The AMIA incident was the deadliest attack against a Jewish community anywhere in the world since WWII.
The Twin Revolutions: “Islamic” and “Bolivarian”
In the 1990s Islamist militants in Latin America lacked a base of operations. That began to change when democracy in Venezuela was replaced, first, by a strong man-led system, and subsequently, all-out dictatorship. That was the gift of the former socialist president Hugo Chavez for the country, one that he sold as his “Bolivarian Revolution”. In order to see how this played into the hands of unlikely beneficiaries—Islamic radicals from half a world away—we have to trace the story to its earliest preludes.
The sad story of the closing chapters of the democratic era in Venezuela’s history was chronicled shortly after Chavez came to power by Mario Vargas Llosa, the Peruvian author and future Nobel Laureate in literature. In a scathing piece, published in Spain’s El País in August 1998, Vargas Llosa used harsh, but prescient words to warn of dark days ahead. The title, “the Suicide of a Nation”, in itself, spoke volumes.
Vargas Llosa offered a perspective of what was a repeating pattern in much of Latin America: as democracy fails to live up to expectations and often leads to a decline in living standards, public opinion shifts in favor of “strong men”, who would then take advantage of their popularity to cement authoritarianism. (It has to be emphasized, though, that the new authoritarian need not have come to power through elections; leading a revolution against a despised tyrant would work just as well.) This had been tried successfully before Chavez by such luminaries as Alberto Fujimori in Peru, Juan Perón in Argentina, Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic, and, not least, Chavez’s own mentor, Fidel Castro in Cuba. Chavez came as a populist response to democratic claims, not as a violent usurper—at least, once he had learned his lesson.
In this sordid tale, the roots of dictatorship in Venezuela went back to the 1970s and 80s.
The early days of skyrocketing oil prices came during and after the Arab-Israeli Yom Kippur War of 1973. An unheard of influx of petrol-dollars inevitably led to massive corruption. “Inevitably”, according to Vargas Llosa, due to the economic policies that ruled Venezuela, long before Chavez. In Vargas Llosa’s view: the Venezuelan state was gigantic and interventionist. Economic success passed not through the market and winning over consumers, but nepotism, privileges, and monopolies handed out by the biggest player in the nation’s economic life: the politician in power. In other words, Venezuela was always a socialist-style, government-run command and control economy, never dynamic, property rights-based and free-market oriented.
What was left in the public coffers was spent on subsidizing everything, down to air and water. Gas was subsidized to the point that its cost didn’t even cover its transport to fueling stations! Few nations in the world epitomize the phrase “nanny state” so literally.
In this environment, an attempted coup in 1992 by a little-known Lieutenant Colonel named Hugo Chavez generated little enthusiasm, and was put down without much drama, its leader put in jail. Less than 2 years later, however, he was pardoned by the government. While this was supposed to be a conciliatory gesture, it was dismissed by Vargas Llosa in that piece as not only “suicidally irresponsible”, but also a betrayal to the nation, at that time still supportive of democracy (not to mention the majority of the military, who refused to side with the coup plotters, some losing their lives in the process). But the oil market collapse of the late 1990s lead to just as much anguish as the euphoria the price rallies had brought, and that ultimately paved the way for Chavez to successfully grab the power in the end—this time, at the ballot box. Not just that, but it gave him sufficient majorities in elected bodies to introduce and ratify a new constitution—all in the name of rooting out corruption—that conveniently also guaranteed his own permanence in power.
Which brings us to the events on the other side of the globe: Iran’s Islamist Revolution lead by Ayatollah Khomeini nearly two decades earlier. Iran and Venezuela are distant nations geographically with different languages and cultures. Still, there are important similarities between the two: oil exporting nations relying on petroleum almost exclusively as the source of hard currency. To be sure, revolutions in Iran and Venezuela were not exact replicas. Iran’s Islamist Revolution came with a violent uprising, unlike Venezuela. Nonetheless, there were numerous similarities. Both were explicitly ideological (“Islamic” in Iran and “Bolivarian” in Venezuela), rather than simply intending to establish democratic rule. They both prioritized short-sighted economic gains for the masses: the Ayatollah claimed explicitly that there would be free water and electricity for Iranians, while at the same time also promising, like Chavez, to root out the corruption that had been allowed to grow out of control in the system he wanted to overthrow. The inherent contradiction between these two goals, just discussed, apparently was missed on everyone.
As time would prove, there were yet more similarities to surface between the two revolutions. Enmity against US “imperialism” was among the founding principles of both. And they would go on trying to bolster governments and non-government players in neighboring countries that would help them put this hostility into action. As Iran founded Hezbollah in 1980s Lebanon and sought to colonize the country, Venezuela in the 2000s openly backed politicians it considered ideological allies in Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, and elsewhere to create a socialist bloc. Somehow the irony of such empire-building in the name of anti-“imperialism” was missed.
In time the shared goals and shared rhetoric would bring the two revolutionary governments closer together, which might seem counterintuitive. At first glance, the Shia-based Islamist revolutionary ideology had little in common with the Soviet-backed atheist revolution that had settled in Cuba and made its way through Latin America. In reality, the “red” left has made a comfortable alliance with the “green” revolutionaries on a number of political, security, and ideological levels. Khomeini, for instance, popularized Sunni Muslim Brotherhood texts, which themselves borrowed heavily from the Bolshevik ouevre from the 1920s and their historic predecessors, the Jacobins. The zenith of ties between the two regimes, without a doubt, came during the “presidency” of the Holocaust denier Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran, who found a brother in Chavez.
When They Failed to Deliver…
Of course none of the Ayatollah’s economic promises ever materialized. Mass arrests and summary executions that followed the establishment of the Islamist regime, the compulsory dress codes, and anti-Western xenophobia that culminated in “conquering” (to use the official language) the American embassy and hostage taking of US diplomats scared foreign and domestic investors, to say nothing of destroying diplomatic relations. Flight of capital, combined with a ruinous war with Iraq, transformed what was once one of the richest countries into a pauper nation. Undaunted, the Ayatollah shrugged off any mention of his forgotten promises in later years: “ask not what the revolution has done for you, ask what you have done for the revolution”. That this, too, was a paraphrase from an assassinated leader of the country he condemned as “the Great Satan” also passed with no sense of irony, and neither was he ever called out for his plagiarism.
Economic realities were no kinder to the revolutionary leaders in Venezuela than their counterparts in Iran. Venezuela has more crude oil than any other country in the world and it heavily depends on the commodity to power its economy. Crude oil makes up about 95% of Venezuela’s exports. Yet the government-owned oil company, PDVSA, has pumped less and less oil for the last few years because of corruption, crumbling infrastructure, and a massive debt crisis. According to its report to OPEC, Venezuela’s production was 1.62 million barrels per day (b/d) in December 2017, a decline of 649 thousand b/d (or 29%) in just one year, and more than 1.1 million b/d in five years. The current troubles of the oil industry are rooted in the oil policies implemented by Hugo Chavez (deceased in 2013, only to be replaced by the even more thuggish Nicolas Maduro). He fired about half of the workforce of the PDVSA during an oil strike in 2003, including the vast majority of top executives and technical staff, as retaliation for their participation in industrial action against him.
He forcefully renegotiated joint-ventures and operational contracts with foreign companies and partially nationalized them in 2007; on his watch, ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips withdrew from the country as a result. Investment in oil development and production declined, even during the oil price boom. The nationalization backfired on Venezuela even more in April 2018 when the World Bank’s International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes ruled in a lawsuit filed by ConocoPhillips that this company was owed over $2 billion by Venezuela’s state-run PDVSA because of the 2007 nationalization. ConocoPhillips then moved to seize PDVSA’s assets in the Caribbean, considered logistically key to Venezuela’s ability to export oil, further disrupting the country’s oil sales.
This ruling set the stage for similar suits not just against PDVSA, but also its American subsidiary, CITGO. The future of these claims is not known as of this writing, but they could not have come at a worse time for Venezuela’s already devastated economy. The regime blames this all on US sanctions, but the timeline of events clearly shows that the decline in Venezuela’s oil production preceded US sanctions on the country’s oil sector by many years. Iran’s economy would similarly be a basket-case without sanctions due to the regime’s decades of prioritizing revolution over its people. As Ayatollah Khomeini said, the neaver-ending revolution’s death and destruction was not for “cheap melons.” Venezuela also followed the Islamic Republic’s lead in political hostage taking, by abducting Texas and Louisiana CITGO employees, who remain in Maduro’s custody after fourteen months.
The once wealthiest economy in South America, after decades of socialist rule, is now dominating the headlines as a paragon of tyranny, rampant crime, chaos, misery, and starvation. Millions of Venezuelans have fled to Colombia, Panama, and elsewhere in South America, threatening to destabilize the continent. But opening its doors to Islamic militancy means that Venezuela could be a destabilizing threat in more ways than one.
They Collaborated in the Use of Violence
Faced with mass popular discontent, the twin revolutions turned to violence against their people as the only way to guarantee their survival. In Iran, the Revolutionary Guard was established as a counterweight to the official army, which in the beginning was seen as still having elements loyal to the last regime. This military body subsequently gave birth to branches, one of which was Quds (Arabic for Jerusalem) Force, an expeditionary force acting beyond the country’s borders. The other was the Basij, or volunteer army, which played an important part during the Iran-Iraq War, and later turned against dissidents and protesters, showing its highest level of cruelty following the fraudulent presidential elections of 2009, when street protests followed the confirmation of Ahmadinejad.
Crackdowns on public discontent in Venezuela have followed a similar pattern. Cuba helped establish the loyalist groups called “colectivos” that act similar to the Basij militias in Iran, intimidating protesters and journalists, and at times acting no different than street gangs. Iran has also pitched-in. The Quds Force has worked with the Cuban intelligence (which had previously trained Chavez) to help Maduro consolidate power; and Hezbollah enjoys a comfortable presence in Venezuela at the highest levels.
Human rights violations in both states have made them largely unwelcome on the world stage; however, dependency on cheap, if poorly processed or poor quality, oil retained clientele for both states. Later, other autocratic states, such as China and Russia, took advantage of their outcast status to expand their own base of influence, strengthen economic partnerships, make cheap investments, and to create local problems for the United States.
These ties actually go back more than a decade. They include joint training between Iranian and Venezuelan operatives. Finding safe haven in Venezuela, Hezbollah’s presence across Latin America has increased. Both Iran and Hezbollah are known to have provided the Chavez and Maduro regimes with “strategic advice”. The person in Venezuela’s Bolivarian ruling class with the most personal ties to terror groups is Tareck El Aissami, a Venezuelan of Syrian/Lebanese ancestry, who was indicted in the US earlier this year. A 2015 report by the Obama Administration’s United States Department of State stated “[t]here were credible reports that Venezuela maintained a permissive environment that allowed for support of activities that benefited known terrorist groups”. New York County District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau stated that while El Aissami was head of ONIDEX, Venezuela’s passport and naturalization agency, he provided official documents to Hamas and Hezbollah members. He also stated that it was possible that El Aissami was recruiting Arab Venezuelans to train under Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. In February 2017, CNN reported (“Venezuelan Passports, in the Wrong Hands?”) on the sale of Venezuelan passports to individuals in the Middle East, specifically Syrians, Palestinians, Iraqis, and Pakistanis.
According to Misael López Soto, a former employee at the Venezuelan embassy in Iraq who was also a lawyer and CICPC officer, the Bolivarian government would sell authentic passports to individuals from the Middle East, with the Venezuelan passport (at the time) able to access 130 countries throughout the world without a visa requirement. López provided CNN documents showing how his superiors attempted to cover up the sale of passports, which were being sold for from $5,000 to $15,000 per passport. A confidential intelligence report obtained by CNN linked El Aissami to 173 passports and ID’s given between 2008 and 2015 to individuals from the Middle East, some of whom were purportedly associated with Hezbollah. The Venezuelan government did not investigate the allegations made by López and instead initiated an investigation against him for his act of leaking confidential documents and stated that he had abandoned his duty. Following the release of the CNN report, President Maduro demanded that CNN leave Venezuela, stating that the network had sought to “manipulate” Venezuelans.
AMIA: The Venezuelan connection
Argentina has had no closure as the actual plotters behind the AMIA bombing have never been brought to justice. Worse, the investigation itself has been plagued by accusations of incompetence, corruption, and nepotism. And that has been, in no small part, due to family relations and geopolitical interests of Argentinian presidents.
A Brazilian publication, Veja, first broke the story, in 2015, of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sending a message to Argentinian President Nestor Kirchner via a shared friend, Chavez of Venezuela. According to the publication, in 2007, Ahmadinejad proposed to Kirchner that in exchange for funding the presidential campaign of his wife, Cristina Frenandez de Kirchner, Kirchner’s Argentina would (among other things) drop its arrest warrant through the Interpol against Iranians implicated in the AMIA attack. This came about the time that arrest warrants were issued against 6 Iranian citizens for their involvement in the attack.
Kirchner would not, in the beginning, concede to the demands made through Chavez. Nonetheless, there was a debt to pay: since 2003, a lot of Argentinian sovereign debt had been underwritten by Venezuela, and by the end of 2008, Venezuela was in possession of 6 billion dollars of Argentinian bonds. Back in those days, the free flow of Venezuelan oil and prices of above $100 per barrel afforded Venezuela such extravagances. On top of this, for both Nestor Kirchner and his wife Cristina, who succeeded him as president, being among Chavez’s inner circle of friends was a high priority. To them, it would mean membership in the Leftist heads of state club chaired by none other than Fidel Castro. Which came with perks: they would be shielded against accusations of corruption, which would be dismissed, by club members in unison, as “slander by American imperialism and their local lackeys”. Other club members included Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, and even Brazil as it was led by president Lula da Silva (who would later be convicted of corruption). Chavez operated as a middleman between Ahmadinejad and much of Latin America.
Iran entered commercial agreements with many of these countries. For a country facing international isolation due to its human rights record, its denial of the Holocaust, and its nuclear weapons development activities, this was nothing short of a coup. Chavez traveled 9 times to Iran while Ahmadinejad traveled 5 times to Venezuela. When Chavez died, Ahmadinejad caused a mini-scandal among his country’s fundamentalist hardliners by stating Chavez would rise from the dead together with the divine prophet—which would be heretical according to Islamic orthodoxy—and by hugging his mother (those same hardliners would consider any physical contact between two unrelated individuals of opposite sex forbidden). None of this, of course, spoke of Ahmadinejad’s presumed “moderation”, but of deep, personal grief that came to dominate his own beliefs. There was no greater reward for Ahmadinejad in this friendship than getting Argentina to abandon the pursuit of justice for AMIA.
In January 2013, on the watch of Presidents Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, respectively, Argentina and Iran signed a Memorandum of Understanding. Rather than extradition of AMIA suspects, the Memorandum would arrange for joint hearings in which the suspects would give evidence-facing no penalty regardless of what they said. Argentina’s Jewish community condemned the Memorandum and sued to stop it.
In May of that year, Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman accused the regime of Iran of plotting the AMIA attack. In January 2015, Nisman accused President Fernandez de Kirchner of “organizing impunity” for the suspects with the goal of whitewashing the Islamic Republic’s involvement in the attack. One day before Nisman was to officially present his findings to parliament, he died, having been shot by a handgun. The mystery of his death was never solved, further complicating Argentina’s unhealed 30 year old wound. Before his death, Nisman had put together an arrest warrant against President Fernandez de Kirchner. Despite lack of proof, Fernandez de Kirchner was never able to clear suspicions that she was behind Nisman’s death, given that, obviously, no one had a stronger motive to see Nisman dead. And all of this is part of Chavez’s legacy for Argentina. Fernandez de Kirchner was eventually put on trial for her attempted cover-up of the bombing.
While these charges against her were dismissed, she was later retried for treason. In her defense, Fernandez de Kirchner claimed that a former Obama officialhad asked her to supply Iran with nuclear fuel. Gary Samone visited Argentina in his capacity as White House Coordinator for Arms Control and Weapons of Mass destruction. Argentina had provided Iran with fuel for its “Teheran” reactor in 1987. However, this collaboration was over by the time the nuclear negotiations that would lead to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action began between Iran, the United States, and others. The Iranian nuclear negotiators would not move forward without getting fuel for the reactor.
The United States then turned to Argentina for help. Fernandez de Kirchner asked Samone to put his request in writing, but he was not heard from again. But by implicating the Obama administration in this scenario, de Kirchner was sending a message that the Obama administration was fully aware of historical ties between Argentina and Iran, and would not press Argentina on the cover-up of the bombing to ensure the smooth transition of the nuclear deal. The same pattern of letting bad actors off the hook was later admitted by Ben Rhodes with regards to the lack of follow through on the “Red Line in Syria”, and Obama’s tacit support for the Morsi regime in Egypt despite its open ties with the Iranian regime. The Obama administration needed Argentina’s help for the nuclear fuel issue, and thus stayed mum. Iranian terrorists also tried to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the United States at the time, while backing an attempted coup in Bahrain the same year, and likewise benefiting from the turmoil of the Arab Spring all over the Sunni Muslim world. Iran’s role in all of these calamities was ignored by the Obama administration in favor of proceeding with the deal.
But the Kirchners were not the only Argentinian presidents to be accused of sabotaging the investigation. The sitting president at the time of the attack, Carlos Menem, who was of Syrian descent, was accused of covering-up involvement by regime of Syria (the ayatollahs’ partner in sponsoring Hezbollah) in the attack, for the purpose of protecting his family connections. Allegedly, Menem’s family friend and fellow Syrian-Argentinian, Alberto Kanoore Edul, had been in contact before the attack with the person who lent the truck used in the AMIA attack to the Hezbollah-related suicide bomber, Ibrahim Hussein Berro (named by Nisman in 2005).
Iran and terrorism in Latin America
Edul was also a suspect because he owned an address book that included the phone number of Moshen Rabbani, at the time the cultural attaché at the Iranian Embassy in Buenos Aires; Rabbani was the accused mastermind of the attack and one of the indicted Iranians. This would not be the first nor the last time Iran would use diplomatic cover for planning terrorist attacks. In 2018, Morocco severed diplomatic relations with Iran over its use of its Algiers embassy to facilitate Hezbullah supply of the formerly Soviet-backed and Cuban-trained Polisario separatists with weapons and additional training. The same year, Iranian dissidents uncovered that the Vienna embassy was the center for pollting terrorist activity, which included a planned attack on the Iranian opposition in Paris. Other prospective attacks involving Iranian intelligence resulted in a foiled assassination against Ahwazi Arab opposition leaders in Denmark. Other “diplomats”, who were later expelled, planned attacks against the PMOI leaders in Albania. In 2019, a German intelligence report noted that the Berlin embassy was at the heart of a planned attack against the PMOI/MEK in Germany.
But the investigation of Edul had been halted on the orders of Menem due to their family ties, according to the charges. Carlos Menem would stand trial for the cover-up over 30 years after his alleged crime and ultimately be cleared of the charge, much to the dismay of victims’ families. By this time, of course, Edul was long dead. Would the outcome be different if there had not been so much delay in putting him to trial, before the main witness died? We likely will never know.
The attacker Hussein Berro slipped into Argentina through the “triple border” area between Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil, where Hezbollah sympathies are heavy among the Lebanese immigrant community. The main city in the area, Ciudad del Este (Paraguay’s second largest city after the capital Asunción), has long been (allegedly) a financing center for Hezbollah. While Ciudad del Este is home to criminals specializing in all the branches of the “profession” (from drug and human trafficking to money laundering and bootlegging of copyright material), the only activity in the area that has been disputed, unsurprisingly by Aljazeera, is funding Islamic terrorism, which it calls “hysteria against Muslims”. But there have been convictions for channeling of proceeds from illegal activities to Hezbollah.
And according to the US Drug Enforcement Administration, Hezbollah smuggles hundreds of tons of cocaine from the Andean Region of South America into Venezuela and from there onto ships destined for European markets via West and North Africa. The DEA had long planned a crackdown on this activity, code named Operation Cassandra, which was ultimately scuttled by the Obama Administration as part of the effort to keep nuclear negotiations with Iran on track. Aljazeera might point to the absence of Hezbollah training camps in Ciudad del Este, but it is hard to imagine such vast criminal activity in South America without having a local network of sympathizers.
Hence to say that the crime infested Ciudad del Este, also having the largest Lebanese population anywhere in South America, does not play an important part in Hezbollah’s illicit financing, is quite a stretch. The area was used as a base by Hezbollah to smuggle the AMIA attacker Hussein Berro into Argentina-what this act took was having a network of sympathizers in a lawless area. Absence of Hezbollah training camps or their paramilitary parades did nothing to hinder the plan. Belatedly in July 2019, Argentina would recognize Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. But the damage may have already been done. Realistically it is quite unlikely that victims families, or Argentina as a whole, will ever see justice served, and the wound will never heal.
Moreover, Iran-backed Hezbollah remains active in Venezuela, backing the Maduro regime and enriching itself through illegal gold mining. US Secretary of State Pompeo pointed to intelligence reports concerning the presence of active Hezbollah cells within Venezuela as additional evidence substantiating the allegations of the close links of the Maduro regime with the terrorist organization. There are concerns that with the help from Iran, Russia, and Cuba, Venezuela is not only a tacit supporter for Iranian terrorism, but is itself turning into a hub of international terrorism. Many of the terrorists benefited from the frozen funds released in cash pallets to Tehran by the Obama administration as part of the JCPOA. The gold mining is but a tip of the iceberg. Other evidence traces the roots of illegal gold smuggling from Venezuela through Morocco to Russia and Iran. Hezbollah’s gold smuggling activities in Africa are also well established; close collaboration between various corrupt regimes and Venezuela, on drug as well as gold trafficking should attract greater scrutiny.
Is the Opposition Any Better?
Meanwhile, back in Venezuela, the only opposition to Maduro’s brutal socialist autocracy has been another socialist, Juan Guiado, who has thus far failed to recruit away enough support from the military to provide a viable alternative to the regime. Guiado is being lauded as a savior of Venezuela, simply because he is not Maduro and is promising to respect the popular will and the democratic process. But would he be able to withstand scrutiny on his own merits?
The Venezuelan opposition to the Chavez and Maduro regimes and the country’s striking economic downturn after accelerating its progress on the socialist path has been leftist. In other words, oppositionists complain about personalities and policy, not necessarily ideology. Guiado’s promise lay largely in a return to the rule of law, a break with Iran, Russia, and Cuba, and restoration of positive relations with the United States as well as European Union and Organization of American States members. By backing somewhat more moderate leftist opposition to the current regime, Venezuelans are signaling that they have lost their trust in dictators, but not in the system that breeds them. Will the economic situation in Venezuela improve if a less corrupt and autocratic version of Maduro comes to power?
It remains to be seen, but as we saw, long before Chavez, Venezuela’s economy had been constrained by the trappings of socialism—and this ironically helped Chavez come to power. In the meantime, ordinary Venezuelans are living through a nightmare of starvation, corruption, and violent crime, which is forcing them to flee in their millions—the largest population displacement not related to war in decades. Inflation has reached the point that even criminal gangs do not see their activities as profitable due to high price of firearms on the black market (!). Maduro, of course, blames everything on the US, and now, he has allies inside the US government parroting his talking points.
Anti-Americanism Inside the American Government
That is because the Venezuelan calamity has become a golden opportunity for politicians and pundits to make political hay. The best example is Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota), who, echoing Maduro, claimed: “A lot of the policies that we have put in place has kind of helped lead the devastation in Venezuela, and we’ve sort of set the stage for where we’re arriving today”. When dismissed as “not knowing what she is talking about” by Vice President Pence, Omar responded: “Women of color have heard this before.”
But those following the crisis in Venezuela for some time remember clearly that it did not start as a racial issue; in fact, some of the earliest and most clear-headed warnings about where Venezuela was headed came from the so called “people of color,” such as world-renowned author Mario Vargas Llosa.
Omar in fact “doesn’t know what she is talking about” (charitably speaking), and hiding behind her gender and ethnicity doesn’t change that.
The so-called democratic socialist presidential candidate Bernie Sanders recently tried to distance himself from an editorial on his senatorial website praising the “American dream” in Chaez’s Venezuela. However, he still opposes all efforts to help liberate Venezuela from the Maduro regime, and more recently claimed that Soviet Union and Venezuela don’t count as examples of “failed socialism”.
Many of the same members of Congress and former Obama administration officials, who have now joined the foreign policy commentators for various publications, who have opposed intervention in Venezuela also prepared or delivered talking points that the only way to avoid war with Iran was to go forward with the deal. The reasons for not pressuring any of Iran’s proxies, fellow travelers, and allies in the Middle East and Latin America were couched in similar language. Iranian and Venezuelan propaganda machines have managed to create the impression that the regimes in these countries, despite rampant fraud and intimidation of the opposition, are legitimate and democratically elected, and therefore interventionism would be illegal and contrary to the popular will of their citizens.
U.S. policy towards Iran and Venezuela has been polarized and uneven, which sends mixed messages to allies and adversaries alike. Seeing the largely partisan split on whether to pressure the Iran regimes and whether to follow the Monroe Doctrine, which allows forceful intervention against foreign forces in Latin America, tells both Tehran and Caracas that these vulnerabilities can be exploited ad infinitum. While the President and Congress, or Republicans and Democrats, are fighting over what to do and how to do it, the regimes can continue implementing their agenda with the single-minded focus only authoritarian governments can enjoy.
Furthermore, the vacillations over policy within the same administration signals weakness. US allies, on the other hand, are getting the message that the US is not a stalwart or reliable “friend in need” and may in the future lean further on Russia and China—the two states looking to edge US influence out of the Middle East and Latin America—for partnership and assistance. The US has failed to follow through on many promises regarding “maximum pressure” against Iran, nor has it fully supported Guiado, leaving him out in the cold when he appeared to be on the verge of securing military support for the overthrow of Maduro. The resolve of the US in conducting effective foreign policy and securing its own interest, much less standing guard against exportation of revolutions and instability around the world, is currently very much in question.
Whether the Trump administration can redirect its energy to a focused effort or whether it will continue to be torn between keeping isolationist election promises and having to respond to real-time needs with serious long-term consequences remains to be seen. However, there are several commonsense ideas and principles they should adopt as a guide for figuring out the next steps to prevent further deterioration of the security situation that ultimately threatens US borders and the security of its bases and allies:
Acting from a Position of Strength
-Maduro’s regime is ultimately weak and hinges on the willingness of the military apparatus to support his claims. The military will hold out for its own interest in access to mines and so forth. Guiado, in negotiations, may need to cut temporary deals with the military to get their backing. It is up to the United States to ensure that if he does ultimately succeed in this endeavor, these deals do not become so entrenched as to lead to another crisis.
-Maduro is heavily dependent on foreign actors. Without infusions of bailout cash, credit, military, and intelligence support from Iran, Russia, Cuba, and China, he would hardly be expected to last. Interrupting the flow of this support should be the top priority for the administration, especially if it is reluctant to engage in direct military intervention. That also means cracking down on illegal schemes, but most importantly going after—and very personally—the individual actors within each state’s government involved in overseeing these infusions and schemes. Sanctions should be imposed against these individuals preventing them from traveling to the US and freezing their assets. Interpol “red notices” should be used to advance the possibility of arresting these officials, undoubtedly profiteering from the support for these actions. Avoiding sanctions and intervening with Venezuela or other countries should be made costly and unpleasant for the apparatchiks of the patron regimes.
-Hezbollah assets have been frozen in Argentina, but money is fungible and they can ultimately shift their activity to more friendly states, such as Bolivia. If Colombia is sufficiently destabilized by the flow of refugees from Venezuela, it can crack and end-up adopting a socialist system of governance. The exporters of revolution can take advantage of the refugee crisis to destabilize existing pro-American governments. Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, all corrupt states, with varying degrees of weakness, are ripe for exploitation. Cartel activity in Mexico makes it an ideal counterpart for Iran’s Hezbollah in particular. The US should take measures to prevent proliferation of terrorists and ideological outreach in these and other states. Iran has established numerous “cultural centers” to mask Hezbollah activity and indoctrination all over Latin America. How soon until the trainees there are responsible for more than just enrichment schemes and plot more terrorist attacks, perhaps eventually reaching the US or making travel and business in Latin America undesirable for anyone except Iranians, Russians, and Chinese?
-Bankrupting Iran, forcing out Russia, and providing a suitable and practical alternative to China’s self-serving and corrupt projects in Latin America should be the pillars of US policy. Iran, even with all its illicit activities, nor Russia afford costly technical development races and the type of investments that US can. Russia cannot afford systematic investment in anything but defense agreements. For this reason, most of Russia’s foreign policy is focused on destabilization at the expense of someone else.
-China’s economy, too, is weakening; even with its Confusius Institutes, the mission of which is to whitewash China’s image, it is coming to a reckoning with the fact that it has simply failed to deliver on many of its promises and investments, and that most of its projects benefit Beijing to the exclusion of client countries, their local labor forces, and general populations. This is where the US has an opportunity to reengage in building people to people relationships, and optimizing business, educational, and humanitarian opportunity in line with its own policies and interests, and as a contrast to China’s corrupt deals with local officials.
-The US, for its part, should not make promises it does not have the political will to keep. Its allies would rather see consistent, limited support than grandiose statements backed up by nothing at the moment they become dependent on expectations stemming from those promises. That said, if threats to bad actors are issued in public, there should be an immediate and well thought out follow through even if it is unpopular. That will ultimately do more to deter these actors than weeks of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
II. Beware of Limitations of Pragmatic “Reformism”
A faction of the “reformists” in Iran gained popularity as a political decoy by the regime to create an impression of a struggle between “hard-liners” and “moderates”. Iran used politicians who appeared willing to engage in diplomatic discussions with the West (always on their terms) in order to secure concessions, and ultimately, to push through the financially and politically beneficial nuclear deal with Western countries. Ultimately, the number of political arrests and executions soared under the “reformist” President Rouhani, showing that he was just as much of a puppet of the ayatollahs in charge as the tough-talking former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
These dichotomies—that if the West does not back the “moderates”, the scary “hard-liners’ will triumph—were ultimately a propaganda fiction dispersed by the regime itself. Elections in Iran are effectually meaningless given the supreme rule of the Ayatollah. Not to take any chances with the powerless parliament, all major elections in Iraq are fraught with fraud to ensure that no real reformist could ever be elected. The “reformist” narrative is deployed merely to fool willfully naïve Westerners or provide the less credulous with a public excuse for their lucrative political or business deal with Tehran. The “reformist” narrative may well have largely outlived itself, but similar such moves are likely to try to secure a new nuclear deal or other political concessions in the future. No doubt the regime will use this stick-and-carrot tactic of its own invention to push back against new sanctions, waiting to drag the US and Europeans back to the negotiating table until such time as the administrations change and those willing to go along with Iran’s agenda come to power.
Iran’s success in that regard may very well have carried over elsewhere. If Guiado is nothing more than a Venezuelan version of a “Reformist” who says just enough of the right things to the Western ear to manipulate the politicians and the public, he may be no less dangerous than the Maduro regime. If the Venezuelan government is a puppet of foreign powers, likely so is the opposition, at least one that is well known and has an open following. In Russia, opposition leaders who openly ran against Vladimir Putin, such as Boris Nemtsov, met an untimely end, or like Alexey Navalny, spend half their time behind bars in “temporary” custody.
The fact that Guiado is so openly out and about and was even able to engage with the military in power negotiations shows that the Maduro regime is fairly secure in itself and can afford to use one known opposition leader as propaganda for its alleged limitations or willingness to cater to the popular will and provide the appearance of democracy on some limited level. The West should not look on Guiado as a savior, but rather as a tool serving a particular purpose at the moment while working to educate the population about the fallacies of following anything even remotely associated with the current system, as well as seeking to build up future leaders who have not been produced by the same circumstances as Maduro. Tempting as it may seem to consider Guiado as a “pragmatic choice” at the moment, because he is the lesser of two evils, it is not in fact clear that because he is willing to pander to Western democracies today, he will not become an equal or even greater evil when in power.
III. Don’t let Iran, Cuba, Russia, China, and Venezuela get away with political hostage taking
All of these countries have engaged in taking Americans and other Westerns, as well as dual nationals, as hostages for the purpose of gaining political legitimacy through negotiations over their release, securing concessions, or in some case, as during the nuclear deal with Iran, receiving financial ransoms in a hidden form. The US has been able to secure the release of some but not all through high costs to its own credibility; many others remain imprisoned, charged with espionage, treason, and other national security crimes as a way to pressure the US and other Western governments.
So far, all of these countries have been able to get away with these actions with impunity, and have even been rewarded with attention, money, and other benefits. They should be severely punished instead. In 2018, Senators Rubio, then-Senator Nelson, Menendez, and Cornyn introduced a bill that would hold Iran accountable for hostage taking and other human rights abuses. Similar measure passed in the House in 2018, with the idea of criminal and civil penalties for foreign officials, not just sanctions. The penalties would include denying access to American education to their families, confiscation of assets, and possible imprisonment for those responsible traveling to the United States. The bill never reached the vote in the Senate, but should be reconsidered in light of recent developments and Iran’s rising aggression and persistent continuation of this policy.
Similar versions of the bill should be individually crafted to apply to other countries that have engaged in these unlawful practices. Without feeling the pain for engaging in such abuses, there is no reason for these policies to stop.
IV. Responding to Gold Smuggling and Money Laundering
Senator Ted Cruz recently reintroduced a measure designed to stop Iranian and Venezuelan smuggling of gold and other precious metals. This is but one of a host of illegal activities which keep both regimes financially afloat. Congress should bring this measure to a vote as soon as possible; there is no reason to let two illegitimate regimes unjustly enrich themselves while stealing natural resources. The VERDAD actresponding to Venezuelan money laundering and gold passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in May 2018. It is important to expedite the passage for this bill into law, and to work on securing consistent implementation afterwards. The same applies for similar measures against the Iranian regime.
V. Accountability for the AMIA bombing
US senators are pushing for a resolution that would assist Argentina in its probe to uncover the full truth behind the 1994 Jewish Center bombing. The resolution should receive not only full support from Congress, but also the backing of the White House. Furthermore, the Venezuelan angle should be explored and exposed, and the role the Obama administration played in any assistance or silence in the cover-up by the Kirchners should likewise be aired. The White House can play an important role in directing its intelligence agencies to release and share any relevant information, and perhaps to be further involved in an investigative capacity. However, that role should not be relegated to the security apparatus: any investigative journalists or other experts who have leads or information that could be of assistance to this issue should likewise be involved.
VI. Securing US borders
The history of Hezbollah drug smuggling and presence in the United States shows that further measures need to be taken to secure borders from infiltration by criminals, contrabandists, terrorists, and spies. The security involved is a complex combination of border fencing or walls, better human security implementation, satellite overwatch of human movements, immigration reform, and electronic measures of control. At the end of the day, however, spies and saboteurs can also enter legally under various covers, so better training and close cooperation with other intelligence agencies is paramount to preventing fraudulent entries into the US.
The spread of destabilizing activity in the US can also spread through existing Iranian communities, mosques, “cultural centers”, existing regime propagandists imbedded in universities and think tanks, as well as assorted businessmen and women who travel back and forth. Being vigilant and training community members and institutions to be aware of common activities that can be harmful to US security should play an important role in the national defense.
VII. Chaos and instability help export revolutions
The Arab Spring movements did not bring real liberalism nor create Jeffersonian democracies. Instead, they created a chaotic cycle of upheavals, crackdowns, and the formation of unstable and unsecured democracies in such places as Tunisia. The biggest beneficiary was Iran, who exploited the power vacuums or friendly regimes (as in Morsi’s Egypt) to further its influence and subversion campaigns.
Western states were openly backing these movements even as Iran exploited them aggressively on the ground. The best way to guard against Iran’s exportation of revolutionary, violent, and anti-Western ideas to the Arab world and elsewhere is by working with governments across the region to implement reforms needed to educate and empower the young people to build and strengthen local communities to address local needs rather than turning to meddling foreign powers for ideological engagement and the kind of “help” that has brought nothing but misery for all involved.
The same principle applies to Latin America, where Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Bolivia are seeking to spread their repressive revolutions and socialist systems by various means to more prosperous and stable countries. The outcome of the “resistance” culture, of those who use populism to create upheavals to real or imaginary grievances, is societal wreckage of Iran, Cuba, and Venezuela. America and the West needs to assert its leadership based on principles and proactive policies that promote peace and prosperity.
*Hos Loftus, MD, formerly Seyed Hossein Lotfizadeh, was born in Iran. He lived through the Islamic Revolution at a young age. He is a neurologist living on Long Island with his family. He offers an Iranian-American’s perspective on Middle East politics
How terrible the consequences of the Cold War can be
After World War II, the conflict over superiority between the United States and the Soviet Union began. The US-led NATO and the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact were formed. Apart from this, of course, NAM is also formed. As a result, the world is divided into three parts. NATO and Warsaw Pact are in competition with each other. It caused widespread conflict and violence around the world. In many countries there is a change of power. Most countries increase military power. In this situation, the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. As a result, America became the sole superpower and imposed arbitrary capitalism, free trade and domination in the world. With China’s unimaginable economic and military progress these days, it has inevitably come to dominate the United States. As a result, the United States considers China as its main rival.
It has already taken steps to suppress China by declaring its main enemy, the main tool of which is sanctions. China is also responding to America’s every move. Yet America did not give up. New President Biden has formed an anti-China military alliance – QUAD and AUKUS. The QUAD formed on March 12 with the United States, Australia, India and Japan. On September 15, the top leaders of the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia signed the AUKUS Agreement. As a result, Australia will be able to build a nuclear-powered submarine for the first time, much faster than conventional submarines, harder to identify, submerged for months, and capable of launching long-range missiles.
Earlier, the United States gave this technology only to the United Kingdom in 1958. Currently, only six countries have nuclear submarines. Namely: 70 from USA, 40 from Russia, 19 from China, 10 from UK, 9 from France and 3 from India. Australia is going to be associated with it. In addition, there are nuclear bombs in the United States, China, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, India, Pakistan and Israel.
However, many countries, including Russia and China, have strongly opposed AUKUS. Russia says AUKUS is basically a hostile move against China and Russia. The alliance’s infrastructure puts the whole of Asia at risk. China says the deal poses a serious risk of nuclear proliferation. It will also threaten regional peace and stability. This is contrary to the spirit of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Earlier, the two countries had strongly opposed the two QUAD’s. Malaysia has said it will cause tensions in the Indo-Pacific region.
Pakistan says the establishment of AUKUS reflects the mentality of the Cold War. This alliance could bring a cold war to Asia. However, Indonesia has backed AUKUS. Extreme tensions have arisen between China and Australia since the establishment of AUKUS. France is also extremely angry. That’s because France and Australia signed a 90 billion deal in 2016 to build 12 submarines, which Australia scrapped after the establishment of AUKUS. So France is extremely angry with Australia. In this regard, the Foreign Ministers of the European Union have expressed their support and solidarity with France. France is also furious with the United States.
French Foreign Minister says President Biden is pursuing former President Trump’s one-sided policy, short-sightedness, brutality and disrespect for partners. America is trying to resolve this anger of France. After the establishment of AUKUS, it seemed that the QUAD was over. But no it didn’t. The top leaders of the QUAD met at the White House on September 24. In addition to these two alliances, the United States is creating a military zone in the Middle East. The US Fifth Fleet in the Middle East announced on September 8 that the United States was forming a joint naval drone task force in the Persian Gulf with Israel and several Arab countries in the Persian Gulf. It will include airborne, naval ships and underwater drones. Apart from this, America has good relations with some other countries. Notable among them are South Korea and Taiwan.
European countries have been members of NATO since its inception. But due to the unilateral policy of the United States, the EU is now talking about leaving NATO and building its own security system. The president of France said on September 28 that the EU must build its own security system. In addition, the EU countries have good relations with China. Speaking at the 11th China-Europe Strategic Dialogue on September 28, Borel, the EU’s chief security officer, said developing relations with China was an important EU agenda. Maintaining close and smooth communication between Europe and China is very important. In this situation, the EU will not be easily involved in anti-China activities at the instigation of the US. So is Turkey, a NATO member and longtime ally of the United States. Relations between the two countries have recently deteriorated over Russia’s S-400 air defense system. Turkey is importing these weapons from Russia despite US objections.
According to the Turkish president, if the United States had sold the Patriot missile system to Ankara, Turkey would not have bought the S-400 from Russia. In this situation, the presidents of Russia and Turkey met in Russia on September 30. During the meeting, Putin said that Russia-Turkey cooperation is running smoothly. Pakistan has become closer to China by severing its long-standing friendship with the United States. The United States has withdrawn all troops from Afghanistan after losing the war to the Taliban.
In addition, it has decided to withdraw all troops from Iraq this month. The country’s foreign minister has called for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Syria. There are many American troops there. Iran’s Supreme Leader Khamenei has called for an end to foreign military intervention in the region. On the other hand, the United States is talking about a return to Iran’s nuclear deal. Even so, Iran-US relations will not be good. Because America has done the most damage to Iran. Meanwhile, America’s relations with most countries in South America, North America and Africa are not good. Many countries, including many Muslim countries, are unhappy with the United States for its blind support for Israel’s aggression. Many countries have been hit hard by America’s war on terror since the infernal events of 9/11. Muslim countries have suffered the most.
These countries will not easily forget that. The United States has stockpiled the Coronavirus vaccine. As a result, poor countries have been deprived. So they are extremely angry with America. In terms of global relations, the opposition is heavier than the United States. Second, the war on terror has cost the United States nearly 9 trillion over the past 20 years, in addition to killing and injuring many soldiers. But the result of this war is zero. As a result, the Americans have become extremely angry. That’s why President Biden told the United Nations on September 21, “The US military should not be used as a solution to every problem in the world.” Above all, there is NATO. In fact, President Biden’s comments seem to be deceptive. In fact, America is still pursuing a belligerent policy.
Iran, Russia, China, Syria, Palestine, North Korea, Venezuela, Cuba, Algeria, Angola, Belarus, Bolivia, Cambodia, Eritrea, Laos, Nicaragua, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Islands have formed an alliance with these 16 countries. The motto of this alliance is equality, peace and prosperity. This alliance is basically anti-US. On the other hand, after the defeat of America by the Taliban, an undeclared alliance has been formed between China, Russia, Pakistan, Iran, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan. Apart from China and Russia, other countries are also anti-US. These two anti-US alliances could become one in the future. Other anti-US countries may also be involved. It is pertinent to note that in recent times, China’s activities in the field of relations, investment and trade have increased tremendously in the world. According to a BBC report, China is paying twice as much as the United States and other major world powers for development assistance.
Extremely hostile two-polar military alliances have intensified lobbying to strengthen their sphere of influence. At the same time, the military power is increasing. According to a report by the Stockholm International Pitch Research Institute, ‘global military spending increased by 2.6% to 1,981 billion in 2020, even in the wake of the Corona epidemic. Military spending continues to rise this year. Above all, the military powers are constantly testing new modern weapons. For example, last month the United States conducted a successful test of a hypersonic missile, which is five times faster than sound. That is 6,200 km per hour.
Earlier in July, Russia said it had successfully tested a Zircon hypersonic cruise missile, which has no rival in the world, the country’s president said. China last month unveiled its state-of-the-art air defense technology, the CH-6 drone, which is used in intelligence and military operations. In addition, WZ-7 drones and J-16D fighter jets used in border surveillance and sea patrol have been flown. The J-16 aircraft is capable of creating jams in enemy electronic equipment. China has already prepared its troops to lead the global cyber war. North Korea, Iran and Turkey have occasionally conducted successful tests of sophisticated missiles.
North Korea recently conducted four successful missile tests in a week, which is a hypersonic. Greece signed a 5.8 billion arms deal with France on October 2. Turkey says the deal will pose a threat to regional stability. The Iranian military conducted a military exercise in Sanandaj province on October 1. The lawmakers called it an “extreme warning” against the presence of Zionist Israel in neighboring Azerbaijan. Recently, China has been increasing the number of troops on the Line of Control (LoC) in Ladakh. Indian Army Chief Naravane said the matter was a matter of concern.
So far, however, four US-led military alliances and one Sino-Russian-Iranian military alliance have emerged. In addition, an alliance initiated by the EU could be a peace alliance. Countries that are reluctant to join a military alliance can join it. After all, NAM is still there. The current trade and regional alliances may be broken by the push of these alliances. The current Cold War could turn into a world war in the future. It is difficult to say who will win then. However, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that no one will survive to see the consequences of a future world war. That is why the UN Secretary-General has warned the United States and China about the “Cold War” and called on the two countries to rebuild their relations.
Whether it is the Cold War or the World War, it is necessary to abandon that path and focus on the solution of the current global crisis such as the rise of the atmosphere, the Corona epidemic, the global recession and the increase in poverty, and peace and prosperity. Last year, a global conference was held at the initiative of the United Nations, involving more than one million people from 193 countries. In it, 90 percent of the negotiators called for resolving the current common crises in the world through multilateralism. In the interest of world peace and security, world leaders need to pay attention to this.
The U.S. Might Finally Be Ready to Back Down, to Avoid WW III
Recently, tensions have been rising between, on the one hand, America, and on the other, both Russia and China. A nuclear war that includes the United States would destroy the entire world, because it would be not only nuclear, but major-power nuclear, which would entail so many nuclear explosions (perhaps all within less than an hour), so that nuclear winter would extend over not only all of the northern hemisphere, but probably also over all of the southern hemisphere (though more slowly there). Unfortunately, no scientific study has been published analyzing what the result would be of such a war, but studies have been published of likely outcomes from minor-power nuclear wars, and the results have indicated nearly as catastrophic outcomes as I’ve summarily indicated here for a major-power nuclear war.
The culminating public event displaying that a U.S. backdown has occurred would be Biden’s granting Putin’s bottom-line red line (which, if not granted but instead crossed, would precipitate a Russian attack against the U.S.), committing the U.S. to never crossing that line, and this back-down would consist of a mutually accepted and implemented agreement regarding Ukraine and its two break-away regions (the currently independent Donbas, and Russian Crimea). In the case of China, Biden would also need to grant Xi’s bottom-line red line, which would be for Biden publicly to accept the 28 February 1972 U.S.-China agreement called the “Shanghai Communique”, in which the U.S. Government agreed with China to the promise and commitment that “The United States acknowledges that all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China. The United States Government does not challenge that position. It reaffirms its interest in a peaceful settlement of the Taiwan question by the Chinese themselves.” However, there would also need to be an addendum made to the Shanghai Communique, to the effect that if the Government of Taiwan refuses to publicly and officially acknowledge that it is part of China — no longer a colony of Japan, such as it had been during 1895-1945 (and it had been a province of China during 1683-1895), and also not a separate (i.e., independent) nation — then the United States will not oppose a militarily imposed restoration of Taiwan as being a Chinese province.
The Shanghai Communique goes considerably further than that, however, to commit the U.S. Government to never doing some other things that, during the past decade, the U.S. Government has increasingly blatantly violated (done); and, so, the three most crucial Shanghai Communique commitments regarding Taiwan will be specifically quoted here (and one of them has just been quoted but will be quoted again, in the context of the other two, so that readers may more clearly recognize the blatancy with which the U.S. Government has recently been violating the Shanghai Communique):
“the two sides agreed that countries, regardless of their social systems, should conduct their relations on the principles of respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states, nonaggression against other states, noninterference in the internal affairs of other states, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence.”
“Both sides are of the view that it would be against the interests of the peoples of the world for any major country to collude with another against other countries, or for major countries to divide up the world into spheres of interest.”
“The U.S. side declared: The United States acknowledges that all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China. The United States Government does not challenge that position. It reaffirms its interest in a peaceful settlement of the Taiwan question by the Chinese themselves. With this prospect in mind, it affirms the ultimate objective of the withdrawal of all U.S. forces and military installations from Taiwan.”
For the United States to accept either of those two red lines — Russia’s and/or China’s — (i.e., to agree that the U.S. accepts it, and will not oppose it), would be for the U.S. to back down in order to avoid a WW III. In other words: it would display the U.S. Government’s current decision that its #1 national-security goal isn’t to expand its current empire, but to avoid any WW III (avoid any U.S. war against either Russia or China).
This now seems likely to happen regarding Russia’s red line, as was indicated by Russia’s RT News on October 13th, under the headline “Kremlin says US & Russia agree Ukraine must give Donbass special autonomous status”. That would be Biden’s granting compliance with Putin’s bottom-line red line regarding Donbass. The next day, RT headlined “Strained relations between US & Russia could soon be on mend, Moscow says”. It stated that, after meeting with Kremlin officials in Moscow, “Victoria [Nuland] took with her to Washington a rather long list of those issues that were identified by the Russian side for the need to resolve them as soon as possible.” Nuland is the queen of the neoconservatives (or U.S. imperialists, or “super-hawks,” or “MIC darlings”), and had been sent to Moscow in order to push as hard as possible to get concessions from Russia. She was previously instrumental in the 2014 U.S. coup against Ukraine that captured Ukraine for military training and aid, and potential inclusion in the EU and in NATO — which coup (that she principally organized) actually sparked the current active restoration of the U.S.-Russia Cold War. This is probably why Biden chose her for that assignment. (It’s like sending a victim’s torturerer to find out what what the victim needs.) Whether Biden will decide in accord with her recommendations is unknown. If he does, then he will be continuing with President Obama’s plan (that she had designed) to ultimately place U.S. missiles on Ukraine’s border with Russia, so as to achieve “Nuclear Primacy”: the ability for the U.S. to destroy Moscow within less than ten minutes — too short a time for Russia to launch any retaliation. This would also indicate that China likewise is in severe jeopardy; it would warn China that it needs to presume the worst about the U.S. Government’s intentions.
If the United States will not comply, then one possible result would be that Russia and China will, then, jointly, and publicly, announce that any invasion against either, will be dealt with as constituting an invasion against both.
On the other hand, if Biden caves regarding Russia, then China, too, would likewise be much safer. For him to cave would be for him to accept not only that Ukraine must comply with the Minsk accords regarding Donbass, and that Crimea (which the Soviet Union’s dictator had arbitrarily transferred from Russia to Ukraine in 1954) is a province of Russia, but also that Taiwan is a province of China. (If Biden were to comply with Russia’s demand but not with China’s, then his subsequently invading China would almost certainly be met by Russian forces, and not only by Chinese ones, and thus America will likely experience yet another defeat — or else the entire world will, by means of a nuclear war between superpowers.) If he won’t agree with at least those three requirements (red lines), then avoiding WW III will be unlikely, if not impossible. That refusal would indicate the U.S. Government’s placing higher priority upon expanding yet further its empire, than upon avoiding a global nuclear war.
Neither Russia nor China will accept being a part of the U.S. empire. The question now is whether or not the U.S. Government will finally accept that fact. For it to do so would violate all U.S. international policy since FDR died on 12 April 1945. This would be a turning-point in world history — the apogee of the American empire, which was first imposed by Truman and Eisenhower (mainly via coups). But, so, too, would Biden’s continuing forward with the Nuland-led Obama policy on Ukraine produce the apogee, which then would mean WW III (effectively, the end of human history). The American empire might end by the U.S. Government’s accepting that it’s downhill from here on, and the empire’s gradually fading away. Or else, it will end with WW III. This is the choice that now faces Biden. That decision will probably come under this President — and maybe very soon.
On October 15th, the highly informed and extraordinarily honest analyst of geostrategic diplomatic affairs, Alexander Mercouris, headlined “Nuland’s Moscow Trip Ends with Disagreement on All issues, Russia Considers Freezing Relations with US”, and he provided an extensive description of the results from Nuland’s negotiations this past week in Moscow with the Kremlin (and of the U.S. news-media’s virtual blacking-out of even the fact that she was there — and the little U.S. coverage that there was, was mocking Russia, and presented nothing of what the Russian negotiators had said, but only what Russia’s enemies were saying, such as “Apparently, Moscow’s misogynists would rather not deal with a woman at all”). Mercouris’s take on the matter was that Biden will likely continue doing what Nuland and other extreme neoconservatives against Russia want to be done. If Mercouris is correct, then we’re now at the brink of WW III. But whether that war would start against Russia, or against China, one can only guess.
If this sounds crazy, WW I also started as being crazy, and the publics in the respective combatting countries were kept in the dark about everything except the propaganda. The publics overwhelmingly believe the propaganda, no matter how consistently it has subsequently become documented to have been based on lies. For example: this news-report is being simultaneously submitted to virtually all news-media in the U.S. and allied countries. Let’s see how many of them publish it. After all: it’s definitely not propaganda. Everything in it is documented via the links, all of which are to extraordinarily relevant and reliable sources. Propaganda does not do that. But few people even notice this. That’s how imperialists routinely get away with mass-murders, such as in Iraq, Syria, and Ukraine.
How The West Subdue Us: An Approach of Colonial and Development Discourse
Talking about development and colonial discourse, I am reminded the story of John Perkins in his book “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man”. This book was written in 1982 when the tension between the west and east blocks is heating up. Two blocks are vigorously fighting to get influence over third world countries. The book contains a dramatic confession. He told how the financial donors institutions together with America conspired, regulated, and designed in order to control the resource in third world countries. John Perkins himself worked at one of these institutions. He was tasked with seducing leaders to accept debt loans through the World Bank, USAID, and other foreign aid organizations. This mission was carried out with a group called as the Economic Hit Man.
Further, the Economic Hit Man (EHM) have to ensure the targeted countries fall into the debt trap. After they owed were no longer able to pay the debts, it were obliged to surrender the concession of their natural resources. The trap which EHM uses to capture prey include: by making misleading financial reports through economic calculations and predictions, manipulating fraudulent elections by supporting candidates Pro-American interests, bribery, extortion, sex, and even murder. The last case happened to Jaime Roldos, the former President of Ecuador who was nicknamed “Castro” in his country. He was killed in a helicopter accident that he was riding. The helicopter crashed and caught fire on May 24, 1981. Many media at that time accused the CIA behind the murder.
Besides Ecuador, other countries that finally entered America’s debt trap were Indonesia. After the crisis hit Indonesia’s finances between 1997-1998, inevitably it signed a new IMF debt pact with various provisions and conditions were detrimental to the country. The pact which reflected on the Washington Consensus is an American strategy to subjugate troubled economic countries.
Ecuador and Indonesia case is only a small example of how the world condition after colonialism ended. It does not mean they reached independence as a whole since the occupation is no longer focused on exploitation and physical violence rather through structural hegemony and various infiltration. To understand how hegemony works comprehensively, there are two discourses framing the history of subjection namely colonial and development discourse.
Discourse is a term created by Foucault. Foucault defines it as a way and means to uncover what is not visible with the naked eye. In the discourse, there are knowledge and strength which form a shared power. The hidden power in it was unconscious to hegemony the subject for how they act as expected. Discourse itself does not come from a vacuum, it exists and is produced, organized, deliberately controlled by the authorities and disseminated as an instrument of subjugation (Arturo Escobar, 1984). It was spread by the west to the third world countries through forced civilization. Western try to place the third world as a slave over their prevails values and knowledge imposed since the colonialism period. So that many countries in the third world fall into the western grip. Then its image becomes an elegant illustration in the mind people of the third world. From here, discourse appears as a tool for hegemony and it was intensively launched along with the colonial and post-colonial period.
How Do Colonial and Developmet Discourse Run
Gradually, discourse topic was inspired many scholars to examine and uncover the hidden interests of such submission processes. One of them is Edwar Said. Edwar Said wrote about what he called in the colonial discourse as Orientalism. For him, Orientalism is a study about eastern world carried out by western people (Europe) with a focus not only on their history and culture but also to a phenomenon political epistemology that contains broader historical consequences ( Eiman Osman, Postcoloniality and Development: Development as a Colonial Discourse). In short, colonial discourse is an extension of the narrow meaning of oppression. Colonial is not just physical exploitation rather attacks and deprivation of the cultural, political, economic and institutional values towards the colonized countries where local values are replaced by the new one brought and instilled by western. They lose their identity. Then they were born with a new “western” identity. It was considered as a strategy to perpetuate the power relations of western state over third world countries. This is clearly illustrated for example in the process of institutionalizing English language education in India and South Africa and it was a part of colonial government politics, as examined by Gauri Viswanathan (1990) and David Johnson (1996).
While colonial discourse emphasizes aspects of attack on culture, ideas, value systems in society – which go hand and become an inseparable part of physical violence, development discourse is a prolongation of new style of occupation beyond physical coercion. It was a new form of conquest. The expansion of this kind of discourse is rife after the cold war in which the West turned to focus on providing economic stimulus to third world countries, as well as a counter to communism.
Explicitly, development discourse is a western manipulation strategy that frames their good intentions by pretending to participate and help the third world in post-colonialism. The debt bondage which occurred in Ecuador and Indonesia that described above is a simple model of how development discourse works. It is a new imperialism under development guise.
Therefore, to understand a whole about development discourse is the best way to realize how western perceives the third world or vice versa. In fact, the perception as most civilized country had encouraged western to be a patron to control economic, political, social, and cultural systems within these countries. Its aim is not only to degrade the progress of development but also to shape the reality and self-image of the third world according to western will. Escobar neatly defines development discourse as follows: “In this way, development will be seen, not as a matter of scientific knowledge, a body of theories and programs concerned with the achievement of true progress, but rather as a series of political technologies intended to manage and give shape to the reality of the Third World” (Arturo Escobar, 1984).
Dismantling Development Discourse
According to Escobar, there are three important factors to analyze and dismantle development discourse in third world countries. First, through historical conditions, second, restructure of discourse, and third, the deployment of development.
Historical conditions lead us to the portrait of the world at the end of the cold war where capitalism holds control of the course of the global economy. The third countries which are now adopting the same political system (imposed by the west) were initially given the hope that they would be assisted by international institutions that would deal with development issues in their country. Economic studies in newly independent countries are actively carried out. This is the initial phase of transition control in a more subtle direction. In this stage, many of them volunteered to receive program and debt assistance offered by international financial institutions before finally entering the trap of their power.
While restructure of discourse is operated not only to change the old structure that applies in third world countries as well as to focus on the economic structure but to touch all aspects, including social and politics so that these aspects will become institutionalized which perpetuate and sustain western domination over the lives of third world. This happens at all levels, from rural to urban, local-regional, national-international.
In the deployment of development, there are several main strategies. First, through a variety of labeling. Initially by perceiving that the third world is backward, uneducated, abnormal, and embedding other negative terms. Second, through the formation of professional fields. Here various types of specialization are formed which are directed at their respective fields. Specialization in the field of science, including economics, politics, is intended to make science look neutral so the course of development which is much assisted by elements of science is not deemed politically. The third is through the institutionalization of development. As Escobar calls it “This process took place at various levels, ranging from the international organizations and national planning bodies to local level development agencies. These institutions became the agents of the deployment of development, the network of new sites of power which, taken as a whole, constituted the apparatus of development “(Arturo Escobar, 1984).
In short, everything that we believe so far is the fruit of our past and the cultivation of western values. So do not be surprised if some of us still consider the west as the center of civilization orientation.
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