Tag Archives: Iran

The Silver Lining of the Afghanistan Withdrawal: Afghanistan is No Longer Simply a US Problem, by Doug Bandow

Afghanistan is in a rough neighborhood. It might work out well for the US to let Afghanistan’s neighbors worry about it. From Doug Bandow at aeir.org:

Washington’s tragic misadventure in Afghanistan is over. Despite the botched ending, America’s withdrawal was long overdue. Central Asia never warranted so much U.S. attention.

Afghanistan first drew Washington in after the Soviets invaded. Few Americans knew where the country was. None expressed an interest in building a modern nation there. The idea was simple: arm Afghans to kill Moscow’s soldiers, thereby weakening what President Ronald Reagan accurately called the Evil Empire. Spread democracy and equal rights for women? Not so much.

A decade later the U.S.S.R.’s legions fled back into the Soviet Union. A couple years after that the Soviet-supported state collapsed, which was followed by a civil war among the victorious Mujahedeen. Washington had poured torrents of cash into Afghanistan, but foolishly allowed Pakistan to dole it out. This empowered radical jihadists, including Osama bin Laden, founder of al-Qaeda, Jalaluddin Haqqani, founder of the anti-Western Haqqani Network, and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, founder of the radical Islamist Hezb-e-Islami, theParty of Islam. Some Americans complained that Washington didn’t stick around to “help” the Afghans. Had it done so, Americans would have been treated like Russians—shot at on their way out.

In 1994 a group called the Taliban arose. It enforced a 7th century fundamentalist interpretation of Islam. By 1996, it won control of most of the country by suppressing the Mujahedeen, and ending the chaotic violence which enveloped the country. The Taliban looked inward.

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If We Fight a New Cold War, Who Are We Fighting It With? By Ted Snider

The US would have a tough time winning a Cold War against China. How does it fight against China and all its Eurasian friends, like Russia and Iran? From Ted Snider at antiwar.com:

President Biden’s words were hollow. The content had been cored because the words were empty of any real world content. On September 21, 2021, he told the UN General Assembly that the US is “not seeking a new Cold War or a world divided into rigid blocks.” UN Secretary-General Antonio Gueterres disagreed, warning against the new Cold War and referring to the US and China as “superpowers.”

With whom would a new Cold War be fought? Biden hinted at who the Cold War would be fought with right after saying that the Cold War wouldn’t be fought: “the United States turns our focus to the priorities and the regions of the world, like the Indo-Pacific, that are most consequential today and tomorrow.”

Biden denied that the war with China is a war of aggression. White House press secretary Jen Psaki clarified that “Our relationship with China is one not of conflict but of competition.” Biden referred to “a new era of relentless diplomacy.” Again, words cored of content. The diplomacy is a diplomacy of provocation in Taiwan punctuated by military provocation. And diplomacy is not characterized by the US enticing Australia to cancel its order of conventional submarines that, according to Frank von Hippel, senior research physicist at Princeton University and a specialist in nuclear power, nuclear energy and nuclear arms control and proliferation, are completely adequate if your purpose is defending your maritime property against invading navies, for nuclear-powered submarines that are only preferable if your purpose is offensive attack. That’s sending a message to China, but it’s not diplomacy.

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Escobar: A New World Order Takes Shape, Part 2 – Eurasian Consolidation Ends The US Unipolar Moment

The world, particularly the Eurasian land mass, is being reordered and there’s not much the US government can do about it. From Pepe Escobar at The Asia Times via zerohedge.com:

Authored by Pepe Escobar via The Asia Times,

Read Part 1: How The SCO Just Flipped The World Order here

Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s 20th-anniversary summit heralded the beginning of a new geopolitical and geo-economic order…

The 20th anniversary summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, enshrined no less than a new geopolitical paradigm.

Iran, now a full SCO member, was restored to its traditionally prominent Eurasian role, following the recent $400 billion-worth trade and development deal struck with China. Afghanistan was the main topic – with all players agreeing on the path ahead, as detailed in the Dushanbe Declaration. And all Eurasian integration paths are now converging, in unison, towards the new geopolitical – and geoeconomic – paradigm.

Call it a multipolar development dynamic in synergy with the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

The Dushanbe Declaration was quite explicit on what Eurasian players are aiming at: “a more representative, democratic, just and multipolar world order based on universally recognized principles of international law, cultural and civilizational diversity, mutually beneficial and equal cooperation of states under the central coordinating role of the UN.”

For all the immense challenges inherent to the Afghan jigsaw puzzle, hopeful signs emerged this Tuesday, when Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah met in Kabul with the Russian presidential envoy Zamir Kabulov, China’s special envoy Yue Xiaoyong, and Pakistan’s special envoy Mohammad Sadiq Khan.

This troika – Russia, China, Pakistan – is at the diplomatic forefront. The SCO reached a consensus that Islamabad will be coordinating with the Taliban the formation of a government also including Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras.

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Eurasia Takes Shape: How the SCO Just Flipped the World Order, by Pepe Escobar

Lately Russia and China have been much more successful with their various initiatives across Eurasia and the Middle East than whatever the Western powers have been trying to do in those areas. From Pepe Escobar at unz.com:

As a rudderless West watched on, the 20th anniversary meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization was laser-focused on two key deliverables: shaping up Afghanistan and kicking off a full-spectrum Eurasian integration.

With Iran’s arrival, the SCO member-states now number nine, and they’re focused on fixing Afghanistan and consolidating Eurasia. Photo Credit: The Cradle

The two defining moments of the historic 20th anniversary Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Dushanbe, Tajikistan had to come from the keynote speeches of – who else – the leaders of the Russia-China strategic partnership.

Xi Jinping: “Today we will launch procedures to admit Iran as a full member of the SCO.”

Vladimir Putin: “I would like to highlight the Memorandum of Understanding that was signed today between the SCO Secretariat and the Eurasian Economic Commission. It is clearly designed to further Russia’s idea of establishing a Greater Eurasia Partnership covering the SCO, the EAEU (Eurasian Economic Union), ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and China’s Belt and Road initiative (BRI).”

In short, over the weekend, Iran was enshrined in its rightful, prime Eurasian role, and all Eurasian integration paths converged toward a new global geopolitical – and geoeconomic – paradigm, with a sonic boom bound to echo for the rest of the century.

That was the killer one-two punch immediately following the Atlantic alliance’s ignominious imperial retreat from Afghanistan. Right as the Taliban took control of Kabul on August 15, the redoubtable Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of Russia’s Security Council, told his Iranian colleague Admiral Ali Shamkhani that “the Islamic Republic will become a full member of the SCO.”

Dushanbe revealed itself as the ultimate diplomatic crossover. President Xi firmly rejected any “condescending lecturing” and emphasized development paths and governance models compatible with national conditions. Just like Putin, he stressed the complementary focus of BRI and the EAEU, and in fact summarized a true multilateralist Manifesto for the Global South.

Right on point, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev of Kazakhstan noted that the SCO should advance “the development of a regional macro-economy.” This is reflected in the SCO’s drive to start using local currencies for trade, bypassing the US dollar.

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That ‘Other’ Reset Unfolding Across West & Central Asia, by Alastair Crooke

Most of Asia and the Middle East, and much of Africa, are resetting towards Russia and China. From Alastair Crooke at strategic-culture.org:

All of Central Asia is re-setting towards the SCO, EAEU, Russia and China. The former is now ‘lost’ to the U.S., Alastair Crooke writes.

The shock of Afghanistan imploding – as if blown away in a puff of wind – plus the frantic U.S. scramble to get away, even as loyal local retainers, and billions of dollars’ worth of baggage were left abandoned on the tarmac, has triggered a political earthquake that is unfolding across Asia. The ‘ground zero’ (i.e. the U.S.) to a complex network structure has been pulled out on old and settled structures and relationships.

In a very real sense, Washington was the hub: and states – particularly Gulf States defined themselves more in relation to the hub – than to each other. Now those relationships, and associated policies, many of which were geared to pleasing and being favoured by the hub, are up for radical review.

Recently, the lately-returned Israeli Ambassador to Washington, Michael Oren (a Netanyahu appointment), warned a key Israeli commentator, Ben Caspit, in respect to Israel’s future options, to pause. Israel, of course, unlike others, is actually an integral part of the ‘hub’, and not a ‘spoke’, like other states that do have some modicum of space by which to re-order their network connections. Israel however, only has outwardly projecting vectors of external relations based on a strict calculus of Israeli interest. It has had no notion of any wider regional interest – only its own.

Ambassador Oren gave this advice to Caspit: Before settling on our Israeli options, we need to see where the Afghan withdrawal leaves the U.S., too. Where will it be? He noted that in the wake of the fall of Saigon, the U.S. had embarked on a series of diplomatic initiatives. Can it be this (such as reinvigorating regional normalisation with Israel), or will the U.S. sink into the mire of its divisions?

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Always Another War, by Philip Giraldi

With Afghanistan done, a lot of people are worried about where members of the military-industrial-intelligence complex are going to get their next meal. Not to worry, the complex will undoubtedly gin up another war. From Philip Giraldi at unz.com:

Afghanistan is not exactly history quite yet as there still will be a lot final adjustments on the ground as well as the usual Vietnam-syndrome war of words that inevitably follows on yet another American-engineered foreign catastrophe. But the recriminations will go nowhere as there is certainly enough mud to stick on both major political parties that make Washington their home, and neither wants to be embarrassed to such an extent that anyone will actually demand change.

Regarding Afghanistan itself, I often recall hearing from a CIA friend of mine who served as the last Chief of Station in Kabul in the 1970s before the start of the Mujaheddin insurgency against the Marxist-Leninist government that was then in place eventually forced the US Embassy to close. He remarked how liberated the city was, full of smartly dressed attractive women and well-turned-out men going about their business. Though there was considerable repression in rural areas, education was highly prized by the people in the cities while many aspects of fundamental Islam were made illegal.

All of that came to a crashing halt when the United States and Saudi Arabia supported the Mujaheddin and eventually created al-Qaeda in a bid to damage the Soviets, who had intervened in the country and were backers of the Kabul regime headed by Babrak Karmal. Zbigniew Brzezinski was the “brain” behind the plan, in part to do payback for the Soviet role in Vietnam and in part because Zbig apparently had difficultly in separating his attachment for Poland, at the time part of the Soviet empire, from his role as national security adviser for Jimmy Carter, President of the United States of America.

To be sure, wars that are unsuccessful, like Vietnam and Afghanistan, do generate a certain blowback. It was regularly observed that the 1990-1 US-led Desert Storm operation followed by a victory parade down Fifth Avenue in New York City helped the United States recover from Vietnam fatigue. That meant that it would not hesitate to again use armed force to enforce its often touted “rules based international order,” best translated as US global hegemony.

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All Roads Lead To The Battle For Kabul, by Pepe Escobar

Afghanistan is going to be a mess, but the Taliban will probably end up running the country under cover of some sort of fig-leaf coalition. In other words, pretty much the situation before the US invaded 20 years ago. From Pepe Escobar at The Asia Times via zerohedge.com:\

City after city have fallen from government to Taliban control but Afghanistan’s end-game is still unclear…

Afghan militia fighters keep watch at an outpost against Taliban insurgents at Charkint district in Balkh Province in June. Photo: AFP / Farshad Usyan

The ever-elusive Afghan “peace” process negotiations re-start this Wednesday in Doha via the extended troika – the US, Russia, China and Pakistan. The contrast with the accumulated facts on the ground could not be starker.

In a coordinated blitzkrieg, the Taliban have subdued no less than six Afghan provincial capitals in only four days. The central administration in Kabul will have a hard time defending its stability in Doha.

It gets worse. Ominously, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has all but buried the Doha process. He’s already betting on civil war – from the weaponization of civilians in the main cities to widespread bribing of regional warlords, with the intent of building a “coalition of the willing” to fight the Taliban.

The capture of Zaranj, the capital of Nimruz province, was a major Taliban coup. Zaranj is the gateway for India’s access to Afghanistan and further on to Central Asia via the International North-South Transportation Corridor (INSTC).

India paid for the construction of the highway linking the port of Chabahar in Iran – the key hub of India’s faltering version of the New Silk Roads – to Zaranj.

At stake here is a vital Iran-Afghanistan border crossing cum Southwest/Central Asia transportation corridor. Yet now the Taliban control trade on the Afghan side. And Tehran has just closed the Iranian side. No one knows what happens next.

The Taliban are meticulously implementing a strategic master plan. There’s no smoking gun, yet – but highly informed outside help – Pakistani ISI intel? – is plausible.

First, they conquer the countryside – a virtually done deal in at least 85% of the territory. Then they control the key border checkpoints, as with Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Iran and Spin Boldak with Balochistan in Pakistan. Finally, it’s all about encircling and methodically taking provincial capitals – that’s where we are now.

The final act will be the Battle for Kabul. This may plausibly happen as early as September, in a warped “celebration” of the 20 years of 9/11 and the American bombing of 1996-2001 Talibanistan.

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Afghanistan Is Going To Be a Mess: Let China, Russia, Iran, and Others Handle It, by Doug Bandow

The Chinese and Russians watched the US pour blood and treasure into Afghanistan and get less than nothing for it. Now, if the US is really getting out of Afghanistan, it’s somebody else’s turn. From Doug Bandow at antiwar.com:

The U.S. is leaving Afghanistan – finally, after two decades. The result is not likely to be pretty. Government soldiers are surrendering. Taliban forces are advancing. Kabul officials are panicking. The Biden administration is desperately trying to slow the regime’s incipient collapse with resumed airstrikes.

It is a tragic situation, but, looking back, at least, appears inevitable. The Afghan civil war is in its 40th year. The US has been involved for almost 20 years. The US quickly achieved its initial objectives, disrupting al-Qaeda for conducting the 9/11 terrorist attacks and punishing the Taliban for hosting a-Qaeda.

However, expanding the mission to nation-building proved to be a bust. Despite the expenditure of thousands of lives and trillions of dollars, the result was essentially a Potemkin state. The Kabul authorities always were less than ideal: when I visited Afghanistan, I found no Afghan with anything good to say about his or her government who did not work for it.

Even the regime’s decidedly limited authority began evaporating the moment President Joe Biden announced his intention to withdraw. America’s effort had neither created a real country nor convinced the Afghan people to fight for their government. Although the special forces, along with some regular units, continue to fight bravely, there likely are too few loyalists to sustain government control of major urban areas, let alone the entire country.

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New ‘Great Game’ Gets Back To Basics, by Pepe Escobar

The US quasi-withdrawal in Afghanistan will certainly complicate the Eurasian political situation. From Pepe Escobar at zerohedge.com:

Russia-China-Iran alliance is taking Afghanistan’s bull by the horns…

The Great Game: This lithograph by British Lieutenant James Rattray shows Shah Shuja in 1839 after his enthronement as Emir of Afghanistan in the Bala Hissar (fort) of Kabul. Rattray wrote: ‘A year later the sanctity of the scene was bloodily violated: Shah Shuja was murdered.’ Photo: Wikipedia

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is on a Central Asian loop all through the week. He’s visiting Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. The last two are full members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, founded 20 years ago.

The SCO heavyweights are of course China and Russia. They are joined by four Central Asian “stans” (all but Turkmenistan), India and Pakistan. Crucially, Afghanistan and Iran are observers, alongside Belarus and Mongolia.

And that leads us to what’s happening this Wednesday in Dushanbe, the Tajik capital. The SCO will hold a 3 in 1: meetings of the Council of Foreign Ministers, the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group, and a conference titled “Central and South Asia: Regional Connectivity, Challenges and Opportunities.”

At the same table, then, we will have Wang Yi, his very close strategic partner Sergey Lavrov and, most importantly, Afghan Foreign Minister Mohammad Haneef Atmar. They’ll be debating trials and tribulations after the hegemon’s withdrawal and the miserable collapse of the myth of NATO “stabilizing” Afghanistan.

Let’s game a possible scenario: Wang Yi and Lavrov tell Atmar, in no uncertain terms, that there’s got to be a national reconciliation deal with the Taliban, brokered by Russia-China, with no American interference, including the end of the opium-heroin ratline.

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China Mega Investment Deal With Iran Blows U.S. Out of the Picture, by Martin Jay

Believe or not, Iran is proving to be another one of those weird countries that prefers cash and trade to bullets, bombs, and sanctions, and once again the US finds itself losing out to China. From Martin Jay at strategic-culture.org:

A new world in the East is amalgamating as a direct result of American’s delusional views about where it thinks it is in the world, Martin Jay writes.

China has just announced that it will invest 400 bn dollars in Iran over a period of 25 years in exchange for a great deal on Iran’s oil – in the latest move of absolute defiance against the U.S. and its secondary sanctions. Where’s this all heading?

400 bn dollars is a considerable amount of money to invest in Iran, which, since Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the JCPOA (otherwise called the ‘Iran Deal’) we can certainly say is a poor country. In exchange, China gets rock bottom prices on oil, while both sides enjoy the double-whammy of sending a vociferous message to Washington: your days are up as a super power who can bully countries with sanctions.

The deal was really the last thing that Joe Biden needed in barely his six month in office, where he has been weak on Russia and China and arguably pathetic in the Middle East when it comes to delivering on the ‘America is back’ rhetoric. ‘America is back’ to what, we might all wonder, given that Iran is commissioning drone strikes against U.S. forces, Afghanistan is rapidly heading towards a Taliban takeover and the Iran talks in Vienna have more or less ended with a draft of what the Guardian euphemistically calls a ‘roadmap’.

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