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Despite the Hype, the US has no Allies against China

By Salman Rafi Sheikh – New Eastern Outlook – 03.08.2020

Since particularly the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, a sea change in the US policies vis-à-vis China has taken place. Its latest manifestation came on July 23 when the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, delivered what has been called the American “Iron curtain” speech. Pompeo’s “Communist China and the Free World’s Future” speech does provide a significant insight into how the US is trying to establish a ‘new cold war’ global politics whereby it can place itself once again as the leader of the ‘free world’ against China, the so-called epitome of “threat” to America—its unilateral supremacy, its hegemonic domination of the world politics since the disintegration of the Soviet Union and its increasing tilt towards sabotaging multilateral agreements, such as the Iran nuclear deal, to extend its own and those of its allies’ supremacy, even if it comes at the expense of peace. Pompeo’s speech does show that the US is projecting China as an ‘evil power’ that needs to be countered. To quote him:

“If we bend the knee now, our children’s children may be at the mercy of the Chinese Communist Party, whose actions are the primary challenge today in the free world. General Secretary Xi is not destined to tyrannise inside and outside of China forever, unless we allow it. Now, this isn’t about containment. Don’t buy that. It’s about a complex new challenge that we’ve never faced before. The USSR was closed off from the free world. Communist China is already within our borders. So we can’t face this challenge alone. The United Nations, NATO, the G7 countries, the G20, our combined economic, diplomatic, and military power is surely enough to meet this challenge if we direct it clearly and with great courage.”

However, while Pompeo refused to call it “containment”, the ‘new cold war’ strategy is more of a roll back of China from the US and Europe. Simply put, the US is selling the ‘decoupling’ mantra to its allies both in Europe and elsewhere. This is how the US aims to regain the leadership position it has lost in last few years. Accordingly, while ‘decoupling’ from China is important, it is only “America”, which “is perfectly positioned to lead” this endeavour, argued Pompeo.

But the question is: how well is the US’ ‘new cold war’ rhetoric being received? As Pompeo himself said, the US alone cannot achieve this objective. The US allies, however, seem to have an all together different mindset when it comes to defining their relations with China. To the US’ dismay, not many of the allies, even if their relations with China are not typically ‘friendly’, think that following the US in its footsteps is a good idea. Not many of them seem to believe that a ‘new cold war’ is required to first de-couple and then contain China.

This was particularly evident when the Australian foreign minister Marise Payne recently visited the US even as the pandemic is truly raging there. While the minister did say that they have differences with China, Australia, like the US, has a its own position vis-à-vis China. As the minister, standing alongside Pompeo, explained further, their position is far from a potential or even real decoupling. In fact, it is that of engagement. To quote her:

“But most importantly from our perspective, we make our own decisions, our own judgments in the Australian national interest and about upholding our security, our prosperity, and our values. “So we deal with China in the same way. We have a strong economic engagement, other engagement, and it works in the interests of both countries.”

Adding further, the minister said,

“As my prime minister put it recently, the relationship that we have with China is important, and we have no intention of injuring it.”

While the US would have obviously wanted to enlist Australian support to counter China in the Pacific, Europe, too, is not particularly enthusiastic about the US’ ‘new cold war.’ In fact, US-Europe relations are already becoming too fragile to tackle what Pompeo called ‘a new challenge.’

How integral fragility is to the US-Europe relations is evident from the US decision to cut the size of its troops from Germany, a country which is not only no longer on good terms with the US, but also is actively seeking to cultivate China as a reliable economic partner for Europe. Indeed, German and Chinese leadership have established a frequency of contact that even the US does not have with Europe.

Even the UK, despite its on-going tensions with China over Hong Kong and its decision to roll back Chinese 5G, is not in line with US thinking on a grand strategy and a grand alliance versus China. Indeed, when the UK’s foreign secretary recently framed China policy in his July 20 speech to the House of Commons, he emphasised cooperation over confrontation, saying “We want to work with China. There is enormous scope for positive, constructive, engagement. There are wide-ranging opportunities, from increasing trade, to cooperation in tackling climate change.”

The US effort, therefore, to create a new iron curtain is highly unlikely to attract any bidders, ready to jump on the bandwagon, from Europe or elsewhere. Significantly enough, if Europe continues to maintain a calculated distance with the US over its China policies, other US allies, such as Australia, too will feel encouraged to chart an independent course of action.

Salman Rafi Sheikh is a research-analyst of International Relations and Pakistan’s foreign and domestic affairs.

August 3, 2020 Posted by | Economics | , , , | 1 Comment

Why the US really accuses Russia & China of weaponizing space

By Finian Cunningham | RT | July 30, 2020

Washington has made startling accusations that Russia & China “have already turned space into a war-fighting domain,” but what’s really going on is the US is attempting to distract from its own controversial space militarization.

There is also a sequence of events reflecting Washington’s increasingly hysterical hostility towards Russia and China in which all events are perceived through an obsessive American lens of “hybrid warfare.”

An additional factor is the intensified US demand to include China in arms control talks with Russia, which resumed this week.

The claim made against Russia and China by Christophe Ford, a State Department arms control envoy, comes against the backdrop of President Trump announcing the establishment of a new Space Force Command earlier this year. That move by the Trump administration flies in the face of decades-long advocacy at the United Nations by Russia and China to keep weapons out of space.

The 1967 UN Outer Space Treaty forbids weaponization in the outer atmosphere. Thus, America’s renewed efforts through its Space Force Command are arguably illegal. Allegations from Washington that Moscow and Beijing have turned space into a war-fighting domain appear to turn reality on its head.

Karl Grossman, a professor at the State University of New York who has written extensively on the subject, says that Russia and China have consistently advocated for the expansion of the existing UN treaty to ban not only the placement of weapons of mass destruction but also for a prohibition on any weaponization in outer space.

“The United States has repeatedly voted against this effort, essentially casting a veto at the UN,” Grossman said.

It would seem therefore that America’s claims are motivated by a need to obscure its own controversial militarization of the “final frontier.”

On July 15, the US and Britain accused Russia of testing an anti-satellite weapon in space. Moscow denied this, saying it was carrying out an in-orbit satellite “inspection” by another one of its own satellites. The US Space Force Command acknowledges it was a “non-destructive event” but nevertheless alleged it was an attempt by Russia to deploy a “bullet” in space.

“Inspection of satellites” could of course be a euphemism for gaining the capacity to spy on other nations’ space vehicles. The US is reportedly involved in developing the same kind of surveillance activity against foreign satellites. But for the Americans to accuse Russia of testing a space-based “anti-satellite weapon” seems to be a provocative stretch.

Notably, the report of the alleged Russian weapon test was followed immediately by sonorous statements hailing the establishment last year of the US Space Force “to deter aggression and defend the nation.”

Grossman says: “The new US Space Force is, I’d say desperately, trying to justify itself and thus its announcement that Russia conducted an anti-satellite weapons test needs to be considered in this context.”

But there is more to the sequence of events. Last week, on July 23, China launched its first rover to explore Mars. If the mission succeeds in landing on the Red Planet in seven months, it will be seen as a breakthrough achievement by China, putting the country on par with the US in space exploration. The Chinese launch came a week before NASA blasted off its new rover to Mars which is due to reach the planet in February around the same time as China’s.

It seems significant that Christophe Ford, the US arms control envoy, first made his announcement accusing Russia and China of weaponizing space the day after China’s historic Mars mission launch. Given the closely overlapping engineering shared by space rocketry and ballistic missiles, it could, therefore, be loosely argued that a Mars mission by China has military dimensions. (As would all American missions, if using the same tenuous reasoning.)

However, in the present context of rampant accusations against Russia and China of waging “hybrid war,” including everything from “meddling in elections to subvert US democracy” to “unleashing a virus pandemic to destroy American capitalism,” it is not hard to see how in Washington’s mindset events in space could be construed as yet more hybrid warfare. American paranoia is simply going extraterrestrial.

Another important factor in the sequence is the resumption of arms control talks this week in Vienna between the US and Russia. These negotiations are aimed at extending the New START accord limiting strategic weapons. Washington is pushing the Russian side to lever China into joining a new trilateral arms control agreement. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo admitted in a recent keynote speech that Washington was seeking Russia’s help in curbing China’s nuclear arsenal. Moscow has indicated that such a trilateral accord with China, considering its relatively smaller arsenal, is not relevant at this stage in bilateral negotiations between the US and Russia over New START.

The US warned it would bring up the issue of Russia’s alleged anti-satellite weapon at the arms control talks this week in Vienna.

It seems the US is using claims about space weaponization not only to distract from its own illicit program, but also to undermine Russia in arms talks as a way to pressure Moscow into accommodating Washington’s overbearing demands regarding China.

That does not augur well for a successful arms control agreement or for global security. A foreboding case, so to speak, of ‘watch this space’.

Finian Cunningham is an award-winning journalist. For over 25 years, he worked as a sub-editor and writer for The Mirror, Irish Times, Irish Independent and Britain’s Independent, among others.

July 30, 2020 Posted by | Militarism | , , | 1 Comment

Neither Trump Nor Biden Really Matter to China or Russia

By Finian Cunningham | Strategic Culture Foundation | July 30, 2020

Well, according to the Trump campaign, Democrat rival Joe Biden is the candidate whom Chinese leaders are rooting for to win the presidential election in November. “Beijing Biden” or “Sleepy Joe” would be a gift to China, so it goes.

In turn, trying to out-hawk the Republican incumbent, the Biden campaign paints Trump as being “soft” on China and having been “played” by Chinese counterparts over trade, the corona pandemic and allegations about human rights.

Biden, the former vice president in the previous Obama administrations, has vowed to impose more sanctions on China over allegations of rights violations. He claims to be the one who will “stand up” to Beijing if he is elected to the White House in three months’ time.

Last week, Biden declared he was “giving notice to the Kremlin and others [China]” that if elected to the presidency he would impose “substantial and lasting costs” on those who allegedly interfere in U.S. politics. That’s war talk based on worthless intel propaganda.

Trump meanwhile asserts that no-one is tougher than him when it comes to dealing with China (and Russia for that matter).

Given the Trump administration’s reckless policy of ramping up hostility towards China in recent months, that begs the question: how could a future Biden administration begin to be even more aggressive – short of going to war?

Relations between Washington and Beijing have plummeted to their worst levels since the historic detente initiated by President Richard Nixon in the early 1970s. The precipitous downward spiral has occurred under President Trump’s watch. So, how exactly could a prospective President Biden make the relationship more adversarial?

The truth is both Trump and Biden are equally vulnerable to domestic partisan criticism about their respective dealings with China. The belated high-handed approach that both are trying to project is pockmarked with risible hypocrisy.

The Trump campaign scores a valid point when it recalls how former Vice President Biden smooched and feted Chinese leaders with economic opportunities in the American economy.

Likewise, Trump stands accused of lavishing praise on Chinese President Xi Jinping while ignoring the impending coronavirus pandemic because Trump’s top priority was getting a trade deal with China.

The fact that both American politicians have U-turned with regard to China in such nasty terms must leave the authorities in Beijing with a deep sense of distrust in either of the would-be presidents.

Biden at one time waxed lyrical about his close relationship with Xi, but as his bid for the presidency heated up, Biden stuck the proverbial knife in the Chinese leader calling him a “thug”.

For his part, Trump previously referred to Xi as a “dear friend” while dining him with “beautiful chocolate cake” at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, but his administration has since slammed the Chinese leader as “authoritarian”. Trump’s racist slurs over the pandemic being “Kung Flu” and “Chinese plague” must give President Xi pause for disgust with the falseness.

At the end of day, can either of these presidential candidates be trusted to pursue principled U.S.-China relations going forward? The toxic anti-China campaigning by both indicates a level of puerile treachery which foreshadows no possible return to any kind of normalcy.

One distinction perhaps between Trump and Biden is the latter is promising to repair relations with Western allies to form a united front against China. To that end, a hawkish confrontational policy under Biden may have more impact on U.S.-China relations than under Trump. Trump has managed to alienate European allies with his broadsides over trade tariffs and NATO spending commitments. Although Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has recently urged “an alliance of democracies” to confront China, that rallying call is likely to fall on deaf ears with European allies irked by Trump’s brash style. Biden on the other hand could bring a more unified Western policy of hostility towards Beijing (and Moscow) by affecting a more appeasing attitude towards Europe. In that way, Biden would be more preferred by the Pentagon and foreign policy establishment than Trump, just as Hillary Clinton was in 2016.

However, it is doubtful that Beijing is paying too much attention to what either candidate is saying or posturing at. If both of them can flip so much from talking softly to shouting loud anti-China profanities then their individual characters may be deemed malleable and unscrupulous. Both have shown a shameless streak in stoking anti-China bashing for electioneering gain. Trump pulled that trick last time out in 2016 when he railed against China for “raping America” only for him to discover “deep friendship” with Xi following that election. Now he has reverted to hostility out of self-serving calculation to whip up anti-China sentiment among voters. And Biden is apt to do the very same.

Forget about such fickle personalities when it comes to reading U.S. policy towards China. Beijing will be looking at the longer trajectory of how U.S. policy turned towards a more militarized approach with the “Pivot to Asia” under the Obama-Biden administration in 2011. Indicating how Deep State continuity transcends Democrat or Republican occupants of the White House, the next major indicator was in the Pentagon planning documents of 2017 and 2018 under Trump which labelled China and Russia as “great power rivals”. The American “ship of state”, it may be concluded, is therefore set on a collision course with both Beijing and Moscow in terms of ramping up a confrontational agenda. Who sits in the White House scarcely matters.

For Trump and Biden to trade barbs about which one is “softer” on China or Russia is irrelevant in the bigger picture of U.S. imperialist ambitions for global dominance. The logic of a waning American empire and the concomitant inherent belligerence to compensate for the perceived loss of U.S. global power are the issues to follow, not whether Trump or Biden clinch the dog-and-pony race to the White House.

July 30, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , | 1 Comment

Iraq to begin construction work on railway link to Iran: Iraqi official

Press TV – July 23, 2020

A senior Iraqi official says that work for a key rail link connecting the country to the neighboring Iran will begin in the very near future.

“The railway between Iran and Iraq through the Shalamcheh link will get going soon,” said Qasim al-Araji, a national security adviser to the Iraqi government, in a tweet posted on Thursday.

The announcement comes just days after a high-ranking Iraqi delegation travelled to Iran to discuss key issues with officials in Tehran.

The announcement by Araji, a former interior minister of Iraq, could be a sign that Iran and Iraq have reached fresh arrangements on how they can finish a project that that has stalled on the Iraqi side of the border for almost eight years.

Iran’s Mostazafan Foundation (MFJ), a semi-governmental charity with years of experience in construction activities, is responsible for funding and execution of the entire project in Iran and Iraq.

Iran has finished its side of the railway, a 17-koilometer link between the cities of Khoramshahr and Shalamcheh. However, MFJ plans for continuing the project into Iraq hit a snag in 2014 when the Arab country became involved in an extensive war on terror.

The $150-million project, which spans 47 kilometers through the two territories to reach the Iraqi city of Basra, has also faced issues like mine clearance inside Iraq.

Once finished, the railway could have major economic and geopolitical implications for Iraq.

It will serve as a major link on Iraq’s transit access through Iran to landlocked countries as of Central Asia and further to India and East Asia.

China also views the link as a major component of its new Silk Road scheme which runs through various territories to reach gateways of Europe, including through Iran, Iraq and Syria to the Mediterranean.

July 23, 2020 Posted by | Economics | , , , | 1 Comment

‘US must stop slander and smearing’: China rebuffs allegations it stole Covid-19 vaccine data

RT | July 22, 2020

Beijing has accused the US of waging a global smear campaign, after Chinese nationals were accused of hacking foreign companies that conduct Covid-19 vaccine research.

The US must “immediately stop its slander and smearing of China on cyber security issues,” spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry Wang Wenbin told reporters. “The Chinese government is a staunch defender of cyber security, and has always opposed and cracked down on cyber attacks and cyber crime in all forms.”

Wang said that “cyberspace must not become a new battlefield,” because upholding “peace and stability” in cyberspace is in the common interest of all countries.

The US Justice Department earlier accused two Chinese nationals of targeting companies around the world, including biotech firms in Maryland, Massachusetts, and California that are conducting research related to vaccines for the coronavirus.

The Covid-19 pandemic remains one of the areas where the US is accusing Beijing of misconduct. American officials, including President Donald Trump, claimed that China accidentally released the coronavirus from a laboratory in the city of Wuhan, where the disease was first recorded, and initially tried to hide the scale of the outbreak.

Another line of attack involves allegations that Beijing is influencing the World Health Organization (WHO). British media reported that on Tuesday that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told MPs at a “private meeting” in London that China had “bought” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus by helping him to get elected.

“There was a deal-making election and when push came to shove, you get dead Britons, because of the deal that was made,” Pompeo was quoted by the media as saying.

The Trump administration has heavily criticized the WHO over its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. The US officially initiated its withdrawal from the organization this month.

Beijing has repeatedly denied having concealed any information about the outbreak and slammed suggestions that the virus came from one of its labs as false.

American-Chinese relations hit a new low on Wednesday, when the US demanded that China shut down its consulate in Houston, Texas. The US State Department explained that this decision will help to protect American intellectual property and the personal data of US citizens. Beijing blasted the move as “escalatory” and promised to retaliate.

July 22, 2020 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | 3 Comments

I Don’t Always Believe CIA Narratives. But When I Do, I Believe Them About China.

By Caitlin Johnstone | July 22, 2020

My social media notifications have been lighting up the last few days with virulent Chinagaters sharing a video which purports to show Uighur Muslims being loaded onto a train to be taken to concentration camps. It’s actually an old video that had already surfaced last year, but it is magically making the rounds again as a new and shocking revelation in 2020 now that western China hysteria has been officially kicked into high gear, at exactly the same time the US enacts one of the most dangerous and incendiary escalations of recent years in the South China Sea.

Everyone tagging me in this video presents it as a self-evident “gotcha” moment, in exactly the same way Russiagaters spent years tagging me in every HUGE BOMBSHELL WALLS ARE CLOSING IN item of thinly sourced narrative fluff in their debunked conspiracy theory that the Kremlin had infiltrated the highest levels of the US government.

They are one hundred percent certain that the video shows Uighurs being loaded onto a train to go to a concentration camp, solely because that is what the bit of text over the video tells them that that’s what they are seeing. They aren’t looking at the actual data and thinking critically about it, they’re looking at the narrative and believing it on blind faith. Which, in a post-Iraq invasion world, is an absolutely insane thing to do when presented with information about a nation that is targeted by the US-centralized empire.

In reality there’s nothing in the video which tells us that these are Uighur people being sent to a “re-education camp” and not merely a conventional prison transfer of convicted criminals, the likes of which take place in the far more populous US prison system all the time. It’s an unknown. We are told by the BBC’s Andrew Marr (the same Andrew Marr whose phony journalism Noam Chomsky derided years ago) that it has been “authenticated by western intelligence agencies and by Australian experts”, which in practice are the same thing, and that’s really the extent of the evidence. Again, this is an insane source to take on faith in a post-Iraq invasion world.

There are in fact an abundance of reasons to be highly skeptical of the establishment narrative about what is happening to Uighurs in Xinjiang. But that isn’t the point that I am trying to make here.

The point I am trying to make here is that the only sane response to any narrative that is being promoted by western intelligence agencies and their media stenographers about governments which have resisted absorption into the imperial blob is intense and unrelenting skepticism. These organizations have such an extensive and well-known history of lying about exactly this sort of thing that they have left us no choice but to withhold belief from anything they say absent a mountain of independently verifiable evidence if we want to have a fact-based relationship with reality.

None of this means that China has a wonderful government. It doesn’t even mean that all the bad things we’re being told about what the Chinese government is doing are false. It’s entirely possible that that video shows exactly what we’re being urgently told to believe it shows. There’s simply no way to be sure one way or the other in an information ecosystem that is so severely tainted by propagandistic narrative manipulation.

Surely the Chinese government is far from sinless. It seems to be a constant that power structures which keep secrets and use propaganda will always wind up doing ugly things. But this doesn’t mean you go believing whatever cold war-facilitating story we are fed by western power structures about it. Not if we want to avoid being duped into serving as pro bono CIA propagandists, unwitting tools of a murderous war machine.

There is a slow-motion third world war underway between the US-centralized power alliance and the nations like China which have resisted being absorbed into it, and that war is being largely facilitated by propaganda. If one doesn’t wish to become a propagandist themselves, one ought to withhold belief from the stories they are told about the terrible, awful things the unabsorbed nations are doing which require extensive sanctions, subversion and interventionism in response.

This doesn’t mean you believe the opposite of what you’re told, it simply means you refrain from believing either way and remain agnostic until presented with hard verifiable proof. Believing damaging narratives about US-targeted governments is exactly as stupid as believing the words of a known compulsive liar about someone you know he hates.

China is such a curious anomaly in the narrative matrix. Many who are normally skeptical of claims by western governments immediately swallow anything they’re told about China. They not only believe all such claims, it never even occurs to them to seriously question them. Like they seem to be genuinely unaware that skepticism of establishment China narratives is even an option. The claims just slide right into the “believe” file in their mind, completely unchecked by anything resembling critical thought.

I argue with people all over the political spectrum about China online, and an astonishing percentage of them have clearly put exactly zero research into critically examining these claims, even if they’re people who are normally relatively critical of western foreign policy. They’re often completely unaware that whatever claims they’re advancing are not just disputed but have large amounts of evidence against them. This is because they’ve done no research whatsoever into finding out what they were told is even true. They’ll do that research on Iran, they’ll do it about Russia, they’ll do it about Syria, but with China all skepticism immediately goes right now the window. It’s the weirdest thing.

Always be intensely skeptical of claims made about governments targeted by the known liars who run the US-centralized empire. Always, always, always, always. If you advance imperialist propaganda, then you are just as culpable for the bloodshed and suffering they help facilitate as the people who are actually launching the missiles.

Stay skeptical, my friends.

July 22, 2020 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | 4 Comments

Iran, Russia to devise long-term strategic cooperation agreement: FM Zarif

Press TV – July 22, 2020

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says Tehran and Moscow have agreed to devise and conclude a long-term strategic cooperation agreement.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Zarif said the agreement was made during his Tuesday visit to Moscow, where he met with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, and talked with President Vladimir Putin on the phone for one hour due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Describing his talks with Russian officials as fruitful, Zarif said he held intensive negotiations with the authorities in Moscow for four and a half hours that resulted in the agreement.

He pointed to a 10-year agreement initially inked between Tehran and Moscow two decades ago, which has been extended twice for five years each time and is due to expire in eight months.

“If no one has any objection, the agreement will be extended automatically for another five years, but we decided it would be better to devise a long-term comprehensive strategic treaty and update it,” he added, noting the agreement will be sent to Iran’s Parliament for approval.

Zarif traveled to Moscow to hold talks with senior Russian officials on issues of bilateral and regional significance and to convey President Hassan Rouhani’s “important” message to Putin.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi also accompanied Zarif in his third visit to Russia in the past six months.

US concerned about emergence of new powers like Iran

Elsewhere in his remarks, the top Iranian diplomat commented on a recent article by US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook, in which the American official expressed skepticism at a recent strategic partnership announced by Iran and China.

In a joint opinion article published in the Wall Street Journal on Monday, Hook and the US Undersecretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Keith J. Krach took aim at a 25-year strategic partnership recently announced between China and Iran.

They noted in the article other parts of the partnership between Iran and China that they claimed could cause their alliance more harm than good and praised companies and countries that have sought to cut business ties with Iran and China.

In response to the article, Zarif described Hook as the “architect of the maximum pressure” campaign against Iran.

He has definitely never been benevolent towards the Iranian people or he would not have imposed economic terrorism against them under conditions that the people are grappling with the novel coronavirus pandemic, the minister said.

“The 25-year cooperation agreement between Iran and China is completely transparent. Nothing has been finalized yet, but we are very close to an agreement,” Zarif said.

He dismissed rumors about the agreement and noted that the US is making hue and cry as it is concerned about the emergence of new powers like Iran, China and India.

Due to COVID-19, face-to-face negotiations have not yet taken place, so no document is currently valid, Zarif said, but stressed that so far, all the steps taken have been transparently announced.

“There are no hidden points in the Iran-China cooperation document,” he concluded.

Zarif said earlier the agreement is at the “negotiation” stage, noting that the Foreign Ministry has obtained the required permission from the government to engage in the relevant talks.

Speaking to ICANA News Agency, the Iranian Parliament’s news outlet, last Thursday, he dismissed rumors and anti-Iran reports that the 25-year agreement with Beijing entails cession of some parts of the Iranian territory to Chinese contractors.

“These allegations are not true. There is not even a particle of truth to these allegations, which have been put forth,” he added.

July 22, 2020 Posted by | Economics | , , , | 2 Comments

‘It’s high time we created club of countries hit by US sanctions’ – Iranian envoy to Russia

RT | July 21, 2020

The states that have been targeted by Washington’s sanctions could unite to jointly counter the US policy, Iranian Ambassador to Russia Kazem Jalali has said.

“I believe it’s high time we created a club of countries hit by sanctions,” the envoy said in an interview with Kommersant newspaper, published on Tuesday. “Among its members will be many strong powers with developed economies: Russia, China and Iran.”

Such states should help each other in order to offset the negative influence of US moves, Jalali said, adding that Washington does not want to see any rivals, whose positions in any region would be stronger than those of the US. “They want Russia to be weak, China to be economically subordinated to them, and Iran to become their colony,” the diplomat claimed.

Jalali said on May 21 that partnership between Russia and Iran impedes the influence of external factors on their relations, TASS reported.

July 21, 2020 Posted by | Economics | , , , | 1 Comment

Iran to launch special trade office in China: Businessman

Press TV – July 21, 2020

Iran is to set up a special office in China to streamline trade activities with the East Asian country.

A senior businessman says major Iranian companies are teaming up to create a trade office in China amid growing economic relations between the two countries.

Gholamhossein Jamili, a board member at Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture (ICCIMA), said on Tuesday that the trade office in China would play a major role in protecting Iranian businesses and firms working in the East Asian country against growing restrictions caused by US sanctions.

“We are working to launch this office before the end of the current Christian calendar year,” Jamili was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency.

The announcement comes amid reports of booming economic relations between Iran and China as the two countries move to finalize a 25-year comprehensive partnership agreement that would massively boost bilateral cooperation in areas like energy, infrastructure, tourism and trade.

China was the top buyer of Iranian oil before the United States introduced its unilateral sanctions on Iran two years ago. However, Beijing is still a top economic partner for Iran and the balance of trade between the two countries hit $20 billion in the year ending March, according to Iranian government data.

Other senior Iranian figures involved in trade with China said that the planned trade office would seek to resolve problems facing Iranian businesses and companies in China.

Majid Hariri, who chairs the Iran-China Joint Chamber of Commerce, said that the office in Beijing would serve as Iran’s economic embassy in the East Asian country.

The official IRNA news agency said the ICCIMA plans similar offices in India, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and Iraq, adding that two such offices are being set up in Russia’s Astrakhan and Syria’s Damascus.

July 21, 2020 Posted by | Economics | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

On Australia’s Potential Participation in the Malabar Exercise

By Vladimir Terehov – New Eastern Outlook – 20.07.2020

On July 10, a number of news agencies reported that India’s leadership is considering inviting Australia to participate in the international naval exercise Malabar, scheduled later this year. The report is noteworthy for a number of reasons, mainly from the perspective of assessing the state of affairs in the Indo-Pacific region. The changes that have taken place in this region are directly linked to the history of the Malabar exercises.

This was the name given to the first joint Indian-US Navy exercise to be conducted in decades, which took place in the Gulf of Bengal in 1992. This was a notable sign of the burgeoning transformation of the entire geopolitical map after the end Cold War. India, for one, was in a state of strategic solitude (because of the disappearance of its former ally, the USSR) in the face of the same foreign policy challenges from China and Pakistan.

Naturally, India’s leadership began to seek a new external “balancing force,” and Washington was willing to fill this role. The very fact that the Malabar 1992 exercise had taken place marked the start of a US-India rapprochement—something that had seemed unbelievable just a few years before. This process has been neither smooth nor easy and continues to this day.

The first sticking point on this path was India testing its own nuclear weapons in 1998. The termination of the Malabar exercise was just one amongst other “sanctions” against Delhi.

However, compared to the Cold War, Washington stayed displeased with India for quite a long time. The prospect of a new geopolitical opponent in the face of China, which was already obvious then, forced Washington to turn a blind eye to Delhi’s recent “nuclear debacles” and to resume developing relations with India. Since then, India itself sees the US as the potential balancing force for the rapidly developing China.

The starting point of the process was President Bill Clinton’s visit to India in March 2000. A year later, Washington made it clear that it was willing to recognize India as a de facto nuclear power and generally cooperate in the field of peaceful nuclear energy. This led to the US-India nuclear deal, signed in 2006 by President George W. Bush. In 2002, the annual Malabar exercise was resumed.

At the same time the idea of forming an “Asian NATO” (evidently based on anti-Chinese sentiments) was put on the table in Washington’s political circles. The core of the new NATO was to consist of the US, India, Japan and Australia. In 2007, at the ASEAN Regional Forum, US Defense Secretary R. Gates formulated a concept to create a so-called Quad comprising the above-mentioned countries.

The evidence of the potential participants of the proposed project taking this seriously was the participation of Japan and Australia (joined by Singapore) in the Malabar exercise held that year.

This was, however, the first and, for many years to come, the last of these exercises to be conducted in a quadrilateral format. However, the very idea of the Quad seemed to have been forgotten. Among other reasons, we note the internal unrest that struck Japan at that time, as well as a sharp change in the domestic political situation in Australia.

As for Japan, with the early (and rather scandalous) end of Shinzo Abe’s first term as prime minister in 2007, the country entered a period of annual changes of government. At such times, it is difficult to conduct any significant foreign policy actions. Japan’s partners (including the US) also had doubts about doing serious business with a country whose leaders were replacing each other so quickly.

The domestic political situation in Japan only stabilized after Abe’s triumphant return to the Prime Minister’s seat at the end of 2012. This dramatically boosted the country’s foreign policy activity. In the summer of 2014, the Japanese Navy took part in another Malabar exercise after a seven-year hiatus. For the first time, it was held not in the Bay of Bengal, but on the eastern coast of Japan.

Since then, the exercise has adopted a trilateral format, and Japanese ships head to the Indian Ocean to participate in it. However, this wasn’t the only occasion for the Japanese Navy to frequent the Indian Ocean.

Australia paused its participation in the Malabar exercise due to a bloc of left-centrist parties coming to power in 2007. Their foreign policy (along with certain ideological considerations) considered economic wellbeing its main priority. China had already begun to occupy the position of Australia’s leading trade and economic partner, and it seemed absolutely unnecessary for the latter to spoil relations with it because of some “solidarity with the democratic countries of the region.”

Its foreign policy preferences underwent dramatic changes again in 2013 with the return of the bloc of center-right parties, who then won again twice (in 2016 and 2019) in the parliamentary elections. For the center-right government, the aforementioned factor of solidarity, which Canberra still tires to demonstrate on various occasions, was quite significant. One of the examples of this solidarity, recently discussed in the New Eastern Outlook, was the question of the “culprit” of the SARS COV-2 pandemic, as well as Australia joining a Western propaganda campaign connected to events in Hong Kong.

From the moment it came to power, the center-right government renewed its interest in the Malabar exercise and repeatedly asked the Indian leadership to allow Australia’s participation. The latest such request took place in late April 2018. For quite understandable reasons, Delhi refused every time.

A positive answer would obviously indicate the Indian leadership’s departure from the strategy of keeping the country in a neutral position (which over time grows more and more relative) in the aggravating confrontation between the two leading world powers.

Despite all the difficulties in China-India relations, the leaders of both countries, Xi Jinping and Narendra Modi, have made efforts to keep their development in a positive and constructive direction in recent years. Two informal meetings between them were of particular importance in this regard. The first took place in Wuhan at the end of April 2018, and the second in the Indian resort town of Mamallapuram a year and a half later.

Something negative had to happen recently between China and India in order for the latter to start considering the possibility of Australia joining the Malabar exercise in Delhi, which is tied to the prospect of forming an anti-Chinese Quad. And there is no doubt about what this “something” was. It is connected with another escalation of the situation on one of the China-India (quasi) borders in the highlands of Ladakh. This happened on the night of June 16 and resulted in the largest collision between the border patrol units of both countries over the past 40 years.

There was another noteworthy event taking place between early May and June 16, namely the Australian-Indian virtual summit, attended by Prime Ministers Scott Morrison and Narendra Modi. The parties focused on cooperation defense and security in general.

Perhaps the June 16 incident in Ladakh was intended to serve as a warning to India in response to the outcome of this summit. This summit, in turn, could also be seen as a response to the aggravation of the situation in Ladakh that began back in May. Thus, a possible invitation extended to Australia to join the upcoming Malabar exercise could well be an answer to the “response” of June 16.

This raises the question of how far the spiral of mutual “responses” can reach. The fact that this question has been raised at all leads to some upsetting conclusions.

Hopefully, however, the “spirit of Wuhan” has not yet been completely eroded from the relationship between the two Asian powers, and even with the (possible) quadrilateral Malabar exercise, the idea of building an “Asian NATO” with India’s participation won’t develop further.

July 20, 2020 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , | Leave a comment

Report: Lebanon turns to China to end financial crisis

MEMO | July 16, 2020

Lebanon has turned east, seeking to secure investments from China in a bid to overcome its financial crisis, the Associated Press reported.

The agency said in a report published yesterday that Lebanon which has long been a site where rivalries between Iran and Saudi Arabia have played out, is now becoming a focus of escalating tensions between China and the West.

According to the report, the government of Prime Minister Hassan Diab is currently seeking help from China after talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a bailout have faltered, and international donors have refused to pay $11 billion pledged in 2018, pending major economic reforms and anti-corruption measures.

The agency quoted an unnamed ministerial official as saying that China has offered to help end Lebanon’s decades-long electricity crisis through its state companies, an offer the government is considering.

AP reported: “In addition, Beijing has offered to build power stations, a tunnel that cuts through the mountains to shorten the trip between Beirut and the eastern Bekaa Valley, and a railway along Lebanon’s coast, according to the official and an economist.”

Economist Hasan Moukalled said the projects that China has offered to work on are worth $12.5 billion.

July 16, 2020 Posted by | Economics | , | 1 Comment

China-Iran deal is a major blow to U.S. aspirations in Central Asia

By Paul Antonopoulos | July 16, 2020

“Two ancient Asian cultures, two partners in the sectors of trade, economy, politics, culture and security with a similar outlook and many mutual bilateral and multilateral interests will consider one another strategic partners” – these were the opening words of an 18-page document that confirmed a multi-billion dollar deal between China and Iran that blatantly defies U.S. imposed sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

According to The New York Times, the agreement that Iran and China drafted is an economic and security partnership that would allow China to invest in Iran’s banking, telecommunications, ports, railways and dozens of other projects, “undercutting the Trump administration’s efforts to isolate the Iranian government because of its nuclear and military ambitions.”

In Tehran’s view, China and Iran are long-standing strategic partners who are now reinforcing their strategies on the international stage to oppose U.S. unilateralism. Both countries had already agreed on a strategic partnership in 2016, but this latest agreement allows Iran’s economy to have a semblance of normalcy with this flurry of desperately needed investments.

The New York Times claims that the military ties include “joint training and exercises, joint research and weapons development and intelligence sharing” to fight “the lopsided battle with terrorism, drug and human trafficking and cross-border crimes.”

Effectively, the agreement between the two countries “represents a major blow to the Trump administration’s aggressive policy toward Iran.” The agreement is expected to guarantee the supply of Iranian oil to China for the next 25 years, which undoubtedly benefits both parties as the U.S. intends to completely block Iranian crude exports to starve the country of foreign money.

The deal is a major win for China’s Belt and Road Initiative as Iran’s major new investments in transportation, rail, ports, energy, industry, commerce and services will improve China’s network in the region. Iran serves as a meeting point between South Asia, Central Asia, the Caucasus and the Middle East, making it one of the most important countries for the Belt and Road Initiative. The agreement secures the supply of oil and gas to China with an overland route that gives another option away from Southeast Asian waterways, especially at a time when hostilities between China and the U.S. in the South China Sea are increasing.

The deal will see $400 billion worth of Chinese investments into Iran’s infrastructure, including upgrades in the oil industry and the construction of a 900-kilometer railway between Tehran and Mashhad, the second city of Iran and a center of pilgrimage near the borders with Afghanistan and Turkmenistan. Not only will this railway line connect two of Iran’s most important cities, but as its on the doorstep of Central Asia, it will give both China and Iran greater access into Eurasia.

Zbigniew Brzezinski argued in his book The Grand Chessboard that Central Asia was the center of global power and that it was imperative that no power, indirectly referring to Russia and China, should arise that could challenge U.S. dominance in the region. If something like this happened, the global power of the U.S. would erode. Halford John Mackinder argued in his 1904 article, The Geographical Pivot of History, that whoever ruled the “Heartland,” ruled the world. He defined the Heartland as the great Eurasian expanse of Siberia and Central Asia.

Iran is certainly a major gateway into Central Asia, and China’s enormous investment into the Islamic Republic shows that it is making a strong push to control the region. In accordance to Brzezinski’s and Mackinder’s theories, by China being the major influencer in Central Asia, it is making a strong push to control the entire region and/or world. Although Russia is another major power with vast influence in Central Asia, their relationship with China in the region can be considered cooperative at best or friendly rivals at worst. However, both are making strong efforts to limit U.S. influence in the region.

Russia simply cannot economically challenge China in the region, but due to the long history of the Russian Empire and Soviet Union controlling the region, it still has large influence for historical reasons that also includes a significant Russian minority and Russian being the second language of Central Asia. Although Russia deals with Iran, it does not have the capabilities of investing hundreds of billions into the country, meaning that the Islamic Republic will certainly come under much stronger Chinese influence, and there is not much the U.S. can do to stop it.

“The United States will continue to impose costs on Chinese companies that aid Iran, the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism,” a State Department spokeswoman wrote in response to questions about the draft agreement. “By allowing or encouraging Chinese companies to conduct sanctionable activities with the Iranian regime, the Chinese government is undermining its own stated goal of promoting stability and peace.”

It appears the U.S. will penalize Chinese companies dealing with Iran, but China would have anticipated this. How Beijing plans to deal with such penalizations that can unravel a worsening of already tense relations with the U.S. remains to be seen, but China certainly would have prepared for such a scenario. Despite some harsh words from the State Department, it is highly unlikely that Washington can respond to this immense deal that will give the beleaguered Iranian economy and currency a major lifeline. The deal will also encourage other states wary of U.S. sanctions to begin dealing with Iran again knowing that they can have Chinese support and backing.

Paul Antonopoulos is an independent geopolitical analyst.

July 16, 2020 Posted by | Economics | , , , | 8 Comments