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Iran and China agree to counter ‘unilateralism’

Samizdat | April 27, 2022

Iran sees its relations with China as part of an effort by like-minded powers to confront US unilateralism and create stability and order, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi told the visiting Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe on Wednesday.

Raisi said that the successful implementation of the 25-year strategic cooperation agreement between China and Iran, signed in 2021, was a priority for Tehran, according to the state media.

“Confronting unilateralism and creating stability and order is possible through the cooperation of independent and like-minded powers,” Raisi was quoted as saying by the IRNA news agency. He added that the current “regional and global developments show more than ever the value of Iran-China strategic cooperation.”

Wei said his visit was aimed at “improving the strategic defense cooperation” between Tehran and Beijing, which would have a “remarkable” impact on fighting terrorism and defusing unilateralism, “particularly in the current critical and tense situation.”

Wei also met with Iranian Defense Minister General Mohammad Reza Ashtiani and reportedly invited him to visit China. In their meeting, Ashtiani stressed “the need to counter American hegemony in the world by strengthening multilateralism,” according to a statement by the Iranian Defense Ministry.

Ashtiani also criticized the US military presence in the Middle East and elsewhere, saying that “wherever the US has had military presence, it has created waves of insecurity, instability, rifts, pessimism, war, destruction and displacement,” according to IRNA.

Major General Mohammad Bagheri, the chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces, also met with the Chinese visitor, and offered some details on the shape of their cooperation going forward.

“We agreed to expand bilateral cooperation in joint military drills, exchange of strategies, training issues and other common fields between the two countries’ armed forces so that we can provide better security for the two countries,” Bagheri told reporters in Tehran on Wednesday.

The 2021 strategic cooperation treaty has paved the way to military cooperation between Iran and China, but also a variety of economic activities ranging from oil trade to transportation and agriculture.

Iran has been under unilateral US sanctions since 2018, when the Trump administration reneged on the 2015 nuclear deal. China is one of the signatories of the original pact, along with the UK, France, Germany, and Russia. The current US government has said it wants to restore the agreement, but the talks have gone nowhere due to Washington’s refusal to lift the sanctions against Tehran.

April 27, 2022 Posted by | Economics, Solidarity and Activism | , , , | 1 Comment

US Diplomacy Continues to be Invisible

BY PHILIP GIRALDI • UNZ REVIEW • APRIL 26, 2022

Remember the Beatles’ song that went like this: “I read the news today, oh boy!”? To be sure there has not been much good news to savor recently, though notably, under the cover provided by the war in Ukraine’s domination of the news cycle, the Israel Lobby in the United States has been working harder than ever to promote the interests of the country that is most dear to its heart. It’s associated media arm has been ignoring the regular killing of Palestinians by Israeli security forces while also dismissing the ultra-violent incursion by the Jewish state’s police at one of Islam’s holiest sites, the al-Aqsa Mosque complex, during Ramadan prayers.

Recently, the Zionist focus has been most intense on one area: to kill the stalled negotiations over the renewal of US participation in the currently ineffective multiparty Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreement with Iran to monitor its nuclear program and prevent its development of a weapon. Ironically, Israel, unlike Iran, already has an undeclared nuclear weapons arsenal that is even protected from exposure by US officials, who are not allowed to mention it in spite of the fact that its existence is widely acknowledged. Recently, Sam Husseini, a critic of the US pandering to Israeli interests, tweeted how “I recently contacted the offices of @IlhanMN, @AOC, @CoriBush, @RashidaTlaib, @SenSanders and 10 others asking if they would acknowledge that Israel has nuclear weapons. None would do so.” Not one of the fifteen, mostly describable as progressives, would even confirm that the Israelis possess such weapons, so terrified were they of even mentioning what the entire world knows to be true.

To be sure, the issue of what to do about Iran is certainly the number one foreign policy problem for Israel as it is the only regional opponent of the Jewish state that could reasonably be described as militarily formidable. For something like thirty years successive Israeli governments have been seeking to convince a number of gullible American presidents to treat the Islamic Republic as a serious international threat, which is ridiculous as Iran has neither the necessary resources nor a history of seeking to dominate even its own region. This Israeli persuasion has included manipulation of a bought and paid for Congress and media which support a steady flow of propaganda seeking to depict Iran in the most negative terms, intended to appeal to the American desire to frame its foreign policy in terms of “good versus evil” with the US/Israel always being good no matter what wartime atrocities they might commit.

One might reasonably observe that the pattern of “good versus evil” is also playing out with regard to Russia in Ukraine. Given such a faux ethically based worldview, the US rarely acts in terms of genuine national interests, witness the relationship with Jerusalem more generally speaking. Israel’s security service Mossad has as its motto “By Way of Deception Thou Shalt Do War.” With that in mind it has been hard at work fabricating “intelligence” that the Iranian leadership has initiated a secret nuclear proliferation program. A laptop that surfaced in 2004 through the dissident Iranian group MEK allegedly contained information regarding covert plans for an Iranian nuclear bomb. It was, however, revealed to be a clever Mossad forgery.

Israel has never quite convinced the White House to take the final step and make war directly against the Iranians, though it came close when a gullible Donald Trump ordered the assassination of senior Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, who was in Baghdad for peace talks in January 2020. But Israel has nevertheless managed to obtain what is apparently considerable covert CIA collaboration in its own semi-secret program to kill scientists and technicians that might be involved in nuclear research, while also hacking into and sabotaging Iranian computer systems and other infrastructure. Under Trump, CIA Director Mike Pompeo focused particularly on Iran, setting up a “special action group” to counter its presence and claimed “malign activities” in the Middle East. That task force presumably still exists under the current Director William Burns appointed by Joe Biden.

The Joe Biden Administration has long been dancing around re-joining the JCPOA, which was entered into under President Barack Obama in 2015. President Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement in 2018, convinced by his neocon and hardline advisers that it would only provide Iran cover to ramp up its secret program and produce a nuclear weapon. Trump’s associates argued that JCPOA would actually make eventual Iranian acquisition of a nuke inevitable.

As of right now, the discussions on JCPOA in Vienna are at a standstill and appear about to break down completely, though some reports alternatively claim that a new agreement is within reach. The Iranians believe that the US is not negotiating in good faith and is failing to take even relatively minor steps that could lead to a reasonable understanding without compromising the vital interests of any of the parties involved. Those steps could include removing the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Force from the US terrorist list and releasing some frozen Iranian assets, while also cutting back on sanctions. It appears that Biden would actually like to renew the agreement, but his own associates at the State Department, whose top three officials are Zionists, as well as the powerful Israel Lobby are pushing against such a course of action.

In reality the JCPOA is in the interest of the United States, pledged as it is to stop nuclear proliferation, since it permits unannounced inspection of virtually all Iranian research facilities by UN officials. It would make attempted proliferation by Iran extremely difficult, even if an elaborate deception operation were attempted. Nevertheless, a number of the usual journalists and self-proclaimed “experts” continue to push the Trumpean neocon derived argument that the agreement would actually accelerate an Iranian nuclear weapons program. Think tanks like the Foundation of Defense of Democracies (FDD) and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) have been lobbying Congress and the White House assiduously, as have some conventionally conservative groups like the Heritage Foundation, which argues that reviving JCPOA would be a “dangerous mistake.” In a recent paper it maintains that “Reviving the deeply flawed Iran nuclear deal would reward and empower a hostile dictatorship by lifting sanctions and squandering US bargaining leverage. Iran never fully complied with the JCPOA and is currently in violation of it on several accounts. A much more restrictive agreement is necessary. A new agreement should include Iran’s ballistic missile program, disclosure of its past nuclear weapons efforts, and better protection for Israel and Arab allies.”

The Heritage paper is, of course, more speculative than fact-based and false in several respects, particularly the claim that Iran never fully complied with the agreement. Iran opened up to UN inspectors and it was the United States that continued with sanctions contrary to the intent of the original deal. If Iran were to abandon its missile program and provide “better protection” for Israel and select Arab states it would be basically surrendering its sovereignty in the area of national defense.

Another recent effort to attack JCPOA comes from an article written by two Israelis featured in The Atlantic magazine entitled “A Case Against the Iran Deal: Reviving the JCPOA will ensure either the emergence of a nuclear Iran or a desperate war to stop it.” One of the two authors is Michael Oren, until recently the Israeli Ambassador to the United States. The article’s title is self-explanatory and the argument it makes, largely based on what passes for Israeli “intelligence,” is that Iran has a secret weapons program and already has enough of enriched uranium to begin construction of a weapon within a few months. If its clandestine activities are in a sense shielded by a revived JCPOA, they will no doubt do just that, according to the authors.

Against the Israeli argument which, by implication, calls for war to disarm the Iranians, a sustainable inspection routine run by the UN would seem to be a preferable option but a number of Democratic Party Congressmen apparently do not agree and are pressuring President Biden to rethink his acceptance of the desirability of something like a rapprochement with Iran. Eighteen Democratic Congressmen, led by Josh Gottheimer and Elaine Luria, both of whom are Jewish, are pushing back against the Biden efforts, arguing that the agreement is flawed. Gottheimer added that “We need a longer and stronger deal, not one that is shorter and weaker. It’s time to stand strong against terrorists, protect American values and our allies.” Note the emphasis on protecting “our allies,” though one need not point out that there is only one ally in the region that matters to Washington politicians, particularly to folks like Gottheimer.

Republicans are also on board. They are expressing particular concerned because Russia is a signatory to the agreement and would be a guarantor of it, or at least that is what they are arguing to block any Biden effort to reengage. Pennsylvania Representative Brian Fitzpatrick, who is on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, remarked that he was very concerned about a new deal because “Russia should not be at any table with us right now. They’re committing egregious acts of terrorism and murder in a free democracy in Ukraine, in Europe right now.” That Fitzpatrick, on the Foreign Affairs Committee, should be so ignorant of actual US interests as well as regarding the nuances of the Russia-Ukraine conflict illustrates better than anything the abysmal level of ignorance that prevails in the federal government, leading to a collapse of what used to be called Diplomacy 101.

Finally, nothing better illustrates the disarray in US foreign and national security policy than a brief exchange that took place more than three weeks ago in Israel, where US Secretary of State Tony Blinken was trying in part to sell the possibility that the Biden Administration might actually re-enter the JCPOA. Israel of, course, strongly opposes that option, particularly if it involves any concessions to Iran, while Blinken’s State Department persists in repeating the Israeli line that Iran is the “world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism” while also asserting that “this administration’s commitment to Israel’s security is sacrosanct.” So, what did an obviously between a rock and a hard place Blinken do? He asked Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett for suggestions of what might be arranged in lieu of an actual agreement. Naftali reportedly suggested harsher sanctions on Iran. When the US senior-most representative involved in crafting foreign policy feels compelled to ask the agenda-driven head of a rogue foreign government to tell him what to do, there is something very wrong in Washington.

Philip M. Giraldi, Ph.D., is Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest, a 501(c)3 tax deductible educational foundation (Federal ID Number #52-1739023) that seeks a more interests-based U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Website is councilforthenationalinterest.org, address is P.O. Box 2157, Purcellville VA 20134 and its email is inform@cnionline.org.

April 26, 2022 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Progressive Hypocrite, Wars for Israel | , , | 1 Comment

US resets the containment of Iran

BY M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | INDIAN PUNCHLINE | MARCH 28, 2022

The summit of Arab diplomats on March 27-28 hosted by Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid in the southern Negev Desert is doubtless a landmark event. The UAE’s Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Bahrain’s Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani, Morocco’s Nasser Bourita, and Egypt’s Sameh Shoukry are the Arab participants, while the visiting US Secretary of State Antony Blinken becomes the sole “extra-regional” participant.

The expectation that more West Asian countries would join the Abraham Accords failed to materialise, but the security and military ties between Israel, UAE, Bahrain — and Saudi Arabia behind the curtain — have deepened. Egypt also joins the nascent partnership.

There is much symbolism surrounding the venue of the Arab-Israeli summit: Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, lived at Sde Boker and he is buried there, overlooking the Zin wilderness. Lapid hopes to take his guests to visit the gravesite.

To be sure, wherever Blinken goes, the agenda would include Ukraine conflict and he is sure to make a pitch for isolating Russia and urge his Arab interlocutors to join Western efforts in support of Ukraine, but it has had limited success even with his Israeli hosts, much less so with the US’ Arab allies.

For a variety of reasons, Israel is wary of antagonising Russia (although under US pressure it set up a field hospital inside Ukrainian territory to treat those injured by Russian forces and has also sent several shipments of humanitarian supplies to the war zone.) Israel has refused repeated requests from Kiev for weapons.

Israel also opted out of imposing sanctions against Russian oligarchs. This rankles the Biden administration. The acerbic tongue of US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland lashed out during a Channel 12 interview, “You (Israel) don’t want to become the last haven for dirty money that’s fuelling Putin’s wars.”

Israel ignored her barb. Israel sought a mediatory role in the conflict initially but lately stepped back, and, at any rate , Russia does not really need mediators to bring this conflict to an end once its special operation is successfully concluded. On the whole, Israel tries to walk a tightrope to maintain good relations with both Ukraine and Russia. 

As for Gulf states, they do not even pretend to take a neutral stance. None of them has rallied to the western call to impose sanctions against Russia. The foreign ministers of Qatar and the UAE visited Moscow recently to discuss expansion of bilateral relations. 

The crux of the matter is that the major oil producing countries of the Gulf would have congruence of interests with Russia to preserve OPEC+ not only to maintain their present income level, but also are in anticipation of the lifting of US sanctions against Iran leading to full flow of Iranian crude back into the global oil markets.

The point is, Iran remains a great oil power, with an estimated 157 billion barrels of proven crude oil reserves, nearly 10 percent of the world’s total and 13 percent of those held by the OPEC. Its habitation within the OPEC+ is an absolute must for all oil producing countries. Now, Russia has a major role to play to leverage both short-term and longer-term bearish effects of Iran’s entry on global oil prices.

Experts estimate that Iran could see an 80 percent recovery of full oil production within six months and a 100 percent recovery within 12 months, and in the immediate terms, once sanctions are lifted, its overnight impact may already manifest as a 5-10 percent fall in the oil prices. 

Nonetheless, Ukraine conflict aside, the real significance of the Israel-Arab diplomatic summit in the Negev Desert should be sought somewhere else. Prima facie, it is a diplomatic coup for Israel, as its efforts to integrate into the Arab family are making progress. What lends enchantment to the view is that this bucks the overall trend of the US’ regional influence in West Asia.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s accent on diplomacy to win friends and influence neighbours is proving productive and Israel is no longer depending on the US to cut new paths for it to navigate as a regional state. This is a paradigm shift. 

Principally, Israel taps into the angst in the Arab world that Iran is poised to surge as a regional power very shortly and the future trajectory of Iranian policies remain unclear. In fact, this is the leitmotif of the diplomatic event in the Negev Desert. 

In immediate terms, Israel and the Arab states believe that the intensifying drone attacks by the Houthis lately is only possible with the help and even participation by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which provides missiles, rockets, drones, intelligence equipment and training. They apprehend that Iran’s resistance politics are signalling a new cutting edge, as the recent missile strike on alleged Israeli assets in Erbil in northern Iraq showed.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE have been depending on US-made anti-missile defences, mainly the Patriot systems, but their performance so far has been less than satisfactory. Thus, a stunning idea has taken shape lately in the nature of building an architecture of “joint air defences” between Israel, the UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. 

After all, Israel has the expertise in developing a multi-layered air defence system devolving upon the famous Iron Dome, David’s Sling systems (which can intercept missiles up to 200km away) and Arrow batteries, which are capable of intercepting and destroying long-range missiles at ranges of up to 2,000km, including ballistic missiles. The three layers of Israeli systems are integrated and assisted by advanced radars and other early warnings equipment. 

Interestingly, coincidence or not, the Israeli air defences are also linked to a powerful American radar, stationed in the Negev Desert which is where the Arab diplomats from Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE have gathered for the 2-day event.

Blinken’s mission at the summit is principally to get the regional allies accustomed to the imminent conclusion of the negotiations at Vienna leading to the removal of US sanctions against Iran. The Biden administration is yet to take the plunge on lifting the designation of the IRGC as a “Foreign Terrorist Organisation”. The US’s regional allies, especially Israel, have opposed such a move tooth and nail. 

But the US has a sense of urgency about Iran’s increased oil output entering the world market. That said, however, Washington’s containment policy against Iran is not going to be mothballed. Rather, it will continue in a newer form. In fact, the lifting of sanctions without any reciprocal assurances from Tehran as regards its regional policies necessitates that the containment strategy will have to remain as the US’ geopolitical tool for the foreseeable future.  

The Arab-Israeli summit with Blinken’s participation underscores that the US-Iran entanglement is being reset. There is no question that the JCPOA is of vital importance to check Iran’s nuclear programme. Israel also tends to go along with that thinking lately. The Abraham Accords is providing the foundation for a new US-backed security architecture in West Asia to counter Iran.

March 28, 2022 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Wars for Israel | , , , | 2 Comments

Russian FM: We never betray friends, Iran very close to us

Press TV – March 20, 2022

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says his country, unlike the US, is not seeking “selfish interests” by the restoration of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

Lavrov made the remarks on Saturday when he was asked whether the revival of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was advantageous to Moscow, given that it could lead to the resumption of Iran’s oil supply to the global market.

“We never betray our friends in politics. Venezuela is our friend, and Iran is a state that is very close to us. Secondly, we do not pursue selfish interests, unlike the Americans,” he told reporters.

“You can see what they [the Americans] are actually doing, trying to spite Russia and teach it a lesson. Ah, well, let the regime in Caracas be. Let Iran be, let us reinstate the program as soon as we can just to punish Russians.”

Earlier this month, US President Joe Biden announced a ban on all Russian oil, gas and energy imports over the military operation in Ukraine.

The measure sent the already skyrocketing oil and gasoline prices ever higher, with reports saying that Washington is potentially looking at Iran and Venezuela for oil talks

Biden also tried to contact Persian Gulf Arab countries to seek help amid rising energy prices.

“So, the Americans have been contacting Saudi Arabia, the Emirates and Qatar regarding oil and gas. All of those countries, just like Venezuela and Iran, clearly said: when we discuss issues pertaining to the appearance of new actors in the oil market, all of us are committed to the OPEC+ format, where quotas for every actor are discussed and agreed upon by consensus,” Lavrov said.

“For now, I see no reason to believe that this mechanism may somehow be dismantled. No one is interested in that.”

Ireland says JCPOA revival can ease oil prices

In another development on Saturday, Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney said a revival of the JCPOA could help ease global oil prices by bringing a major producer back into the market.

“Certainly having a big new player in the market, if you like, Iranian crude oil coming back into the market with the removal of sanctions, would be a very attractive prospect in terms of reducing pressure on oil prices, because of sanctions on Russia, which are likely, I think, to remain for quite some time,” he said.

“I think that is an added incentive to try to get a deal done now.”

Earlier this month, the talks in Vienna, aimed at resurrecting the JCPOA, were paused for an undetermined period of time despite reports suggesting that they were in final stages.

Iranian officials have repeatedly said the United States should remove all illegal sanctions against the Islamic Republic in a verifiable manner and guarantee that a new US administration would not breach the JCPOA once again.

Former US president Donald Trump unilaterally left the JCPOA in May 2018 and re-imposed the anti-Iran sanctions that the deal had lifted. He also placed additional sanctions on Iran under other pretexts not related to the nuclear case as part of his “maximum pressure” campaign.

In May 2019, following a year of strategic patience, Iran decided to let go of some of the restrictions on its nuclear energy program, resorting to its legal rights under the JCPOA, which grants a party the right to suspend its contractual commitments in case of non-compliance by the other side.

The Biden administration says it is willing to compensate for Trump’s mistake and rejoin the deal, but it has retained the sanctions as leverage.

March 20, 2022 Posted by | Economics, Solidarity and Activism | , , , | Leave a comment

US to remove IRGC from terror blacklist

BY M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | INDIAN PUNCHLINE | MARCH 19, 2022

Axios reported earlier this week citing Israeli officials and US sources that the Biden administration is considering the removal of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps [IRGC] from its terror blacklist, in return for a ‘public commitment from Tehran to de-escalation in the region.’

It is improbable that Tehran will give any such ‘public commitment’. But, a ‘private commitment’? Well, that may be possible. Indeed, the Axios report acknowledged that ‘The IRGC designation is not directly related to the nuclear deal, and any decision would take the form of a separate bilateral understanding between the US and Iran.’

No doubt, the lifting of the US sanctions is incompatible with the ban on the IRGC. The IRGC is deeply incorporated into the country’s economy and business. According to some estimates, up to 60% of Iran’s economy — including both state and private companies — is controlled by individuals and entities linked to the IRGC.

And the IRGC is well represented in the organs of the state. Executing a nuclear deal at Vienna while excluding the IRGC elites from plucking its low-hanging fruits is simply unrealistic. Arguably, even Americans wouldn’t want that to happen.

It is entirely conceivable that they too are eagerly looking forward to doing business with the IRGC top brass. After all, it’s best to do business with those who matter most in Tehran.

On balance, therefore, the Biden administration will concede Iran’s demand to drop the designation of the IRGC as a terrorist organisation. The crux of the matter is that the US is desperate to normalise with Iran since they also see potential to erode Iran’s friendly ties with Russia. The immediate goal of the Biden administration is to release Iran’s oil reserves. The amount of Iranian oil that may enter the market once sanctions are lifted is estimated at over two million barrels a day!

That said, even a US-Iran ‘bilateral understanding’ over the activities of the IRGC is not easy to achieve. The IRGC functions directly under the Supreme Leader’s supervision. Clearly, while from the American side, it is rather a formality requiring an executive order by the state department to legitimise IRGC, from the Iranian part, there is an ‘operational angle’ to it — namely, a commitment to end Iran’s expansion in the so-called Shiite Crescent of Syria, Lebanon and Iraq.

That involves the jettisoning of Quds Force’s ‘resistance’ and settling for peaceful co-existence with Israel. Does that look simple? 

But then, when it comes to Iran, nothing is simple, because nothing is iron-cast. Didn’t Iran help in the US invasion of Afghanistan and the creation of a puppet government in Kabul? Resistance politics too was the child of difficult times when the country was besieged. With the lifting of sanctions, Iran is unbound for the first time after the 1979 revolution.

To be sure, there is a growing uneasiness among regional states — and, possibly, even in Moscow — about Iran’s future trajectory. The Raisi government now proclaims a ‘balanced foreign policy’ — ‘neither with the West nor the East.’ The framing of the paradigm in this suggests that Tehran anticipates the world community to queue up on the road to Tehran.

Iran’s few steadfast friends in the region may begin to wonder what lies in the womb of time. Syrian President Assad’s visit to the UAE on Friday hints at realignments. Assad hopes to create more space for himself by rejoining the Arab family. Now, he has never been an acolyte of ‘resistance’ and is well aware that the UAE is Israel’s closest regional ally in West Asia.

The bottom line is that Iran will certainly seek integration with the industrial world, which will help it get the best that money can buy in technology or goods and services. But Iran also harbours ambitions that it will not be a junior partner of the West.

This is going to be a trapeze act. Integration into the world economy will require the freeing of market forces, which, in turn, carries attendant risks, as the pent-up social and economic discontent within the country seeks political expression and the genie gets out of the bottle. Colour revolution can take many forms, as current history shows. When George Soros and company move in, nothing is impossible!

Iran, of course, will be in doubts about the US’ intentions, too. Presently, Washington needs an accommodation with Iran devolving upon its capacity to pump more oil. But the US’ male-fide intentions are yet to be exorcised. And the crimes it has committed to the Iranian nation are no secret, either.

Above all, there is never any consistency in the US policies. Its self-interests come first and last. Iran doesn’t have to look far to see in the next-door Gulf region the debris of the US’ discarded Arab alliances once their purpose was served.

March 19, 2022 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Moscow reveals whether US sanctions would harm Iran deal

RT | March 15, 2022

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Tuesday that Moscow has received written assurances from the US that Ukraine-related sanctions won’t hinder its ability to trade with Iran under the terms of a new nuclear agreement. “We received written guarantees. They are included in the text of the agreement itself on the resumption of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on the Iranian nuclear program,” Lavrov told reporters in Moscow.

The ‘Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action’, or JCPOA, is the official title of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Signed by Iran and the US, UK, Russia, France, Germany, China and the EU the deal promised Iran sanctions relief in exchange for a halt to its nuclear program. Former US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the deal in 2018, claiming that Iran was breaching its obligations, and negotiators have been meeting in Vienna, Austria and attempting to hammer out a new deal for nearly a year now.

An unnamed US official told the Wall Street Journal on Sunday that the US was not prepared to ease any Ukraine-related sanctions to save the deal, and would be open to negotiating a “replica of the JCPOA” without Russian involvement if Moscow insisted on exemptions being made.

Commenting on the reports, Lavrov suggested that Washington itself is still not ready to support the deal, and pointed out that, according to his Iranian counterpart, the problem with the agreement is in the US’ “exorbitant demands.”

Appearing beside Lavrov on Tuesday, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said that there is no link between the conflict in Ukraine and the talks in Vienna.

The Iranians have repeatedly insisted that Russia remain a part of any deal.

The Vienna negotiations have been paused since last week, but an Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Monday that they should resume shortly, when they will enter their “final, crucial steps.” Lavrov told reporters on Tuesday that he believes these talks are on the home stretch, and called on the US to “return to the legal framework of this nuclear deal” and lift “the illegal sanctions the US has imposed to hurt not only Iran and its people, but a number of other countries.”

March 15, 2022 Posted by | Economics, Wars for Israel | , , , | Leave a comment

‘US will scrap Iran deal before agreeing with Russia on sanctions’

RT | March 13, 2022

The US will not negotiate the easing of any Ukraine-related sanctions on Russia to ensure that Moscow can trade with Tehran under a new iteration of the Iran nuclear deal, a US official told the Wall Street Journal on Sunday. Despite a deal being reportedly close at hand, the official said that Washington would pursue an alternate agreement before granting Russia any exemptions.

“I don’t see the scope for going beyond what is within the confines of the JCPOA,” the official said, referring to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which guaranteed Iran limited sanctions relief in exchange for a halt to its nuclear program. “I think it’s pretty safe to say that there is no room for making exemptions beyond those.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has demanded written assurances that sanctions imposed on Russia since the start of its military offensive in Ukraine won’t impact any trade between Russia and Iran under a successor deal to the JCPOA, which is currently being negotiated.

Despite US Secretary of State Tony Blinken describing the Ukraine-related sanctions as “irrelevant” to the deal last week, the Iranians are apparently siding with Russia. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh stated last week that “Iran’s peaceful nuclear cooperation should not be affected or restricted by any sanctions, including Iran’s peaceful nuclear cooperation with Russia.”

According to the Wall Street Journal, Russian negotiators are likely to specify their precise demands in writing in the coming days, and the Americans will “know within a week whether or not Russia is prepared to back down,” the US official added.

Should Russia remain firm on its demands, the US would be open to negotiating a “replica of the JCPOA” without Russian involvement, the official said, noting that “we…at this point wouldn’t rule anything out.”

However, it is far from clear whether the other parties to the 2015 deal would agree to a new accord without Russia. The original agreement was signed by Iran and the US, UK, Russia, France, Germany, China and the EU. While the Wall Street Journal claimed that European diplomats are exploring “options for pursuing a deal without Russia,” China is a major nuclear power and generally a diplomatic ally of Russia, and may balk at any deal that excludes Moscow.

Negotiators have been attempting to hammer out a replacement for the JCPOA for nearly a year, meeting regularly in Austria’s capital Vienna for negotiations. The French Foreign Ministry said last week that the parties are “very close to a deal,” but admitted that disagreements between the US and Russia could scupper any potential accord. The anonymous US official echoed these concerns on Sunday, describing Russia’s demands as “the most serious stumbling block and obstacle to reaching a deal.”

March 13, 2022 Posted by | Economics, Wars for Israel | , , , | 1 Comment

Russia hits back on “sanctions from hell”

BY M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | INDIAN PUNCHLINE | MARCH 5, 2022 

An innocuous tweet from Russia’s Permanent Representative to International Organisations in Vienna Mikhail Ulyanov earlier today in the afternoon said that he met with the EU Coordinator at the Vienna talks on Iran nuclear issue Enrique Mora and “raised a number of questions which need to be duly addressed now in order to ensure smooth civil nuclear cooperation with Iran.” 

A couple of hours later, he again tweeted, “The #ViennaTalks continue. I had today a useful meeting with Deputy Foreign Minister of Iran for Economic Diplomacy Mr. Mehdi Safari.” 

Other reports suggest that Russia has put forth a new demand at Vienna that its trade, investment and military cooperation with Iran would not be hindered by US sanctions. Russia seeks written guarantees in this regard at the highest level from the Biden administration. Apparently, Russia put forth this demand a couple of days back. 

A few hours ago in the evening, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov confirmed this development. Disclosing this at a press conference in Moscow, Lavrov explained that against the backdrop of the latest western sanctions, Russia wants to have a “very clear answer” from the US in the context of bilateral Moscow-Tehran relations and the Iranian nuclear deal. 

In Lavrov’s words, “We need guarantees these sanctions will in no way affect the trading, economic and investment relations contained in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action for the Iranian nuclear program. We have asked the American counterparts, who rule the roost here, to provide us with guarantees at least at the level of the secretary of state [that] the current process launched by the United States will by no means affect our right to free and full-fledged trading, economic, investment, military and technical cooperation with Iran.” [Emphasis added.] 

Furthermore, Lavrov also openly backed Iran’s remaining demands, saying that Tehran’s expectations are “quite fair.” Whether Lavrov spoke in consultation with Tehran, we don’t know. 

The development comes as the 8th round of negotiations on the restoration of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and the United States’ return to the fold of that multilateral agreement is nearing completion. The negotiators are working on a draft final document. Iran and the IAEA also agreed today on a roadmap with the UN nuclear watchdog to resolve all outstanding questions about the country’s nuclear program by late June, which removes one big stumbling block. 

Lavrov calmly pointed out that the sanctions on Russia create a “problem” from Moscow’s perspective. He noted sarcastically, “It would have all been fine, but that avalanche of aggressive sanctions that have erupted from the West — and which I understand has not yet stopped — demand additional understanding by lawyers, above all.” 

So, Lavrov insisted: “We want an answer — a very clear answer — we need a guarantee that these [US] sanctions will not in any way touch the regime of trade-economic and investment relations which is laid down in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.” 

On Iran’s part, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian had told EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell only yesterday, “I am ready to fly to Vienna when the Western sides accept our remaining red lines… We are ready to finalise a good and immediate agreement. Most of Iran’s requests have been considered.” 

But today, the most anxious person to clinch the deal at Vienna is none other than President Joe Biden himself. After derailing the Russia-Europe energy relationship, Biden is witnessing that the prices for gas are skyrocketing in Europe, and Washington has no solutions to the grave situation that is developing. The spot market price for gas has zoomed to 8 times the price at which Russia had been supplying Germany. (Russia has announced that w.e.f Thursday, it has shut down the Yamal-Europe gas pipeline which is the trunk route transporting gas to German market.) 

On the whole, the situation in the energy market is becoming very complicated, as western oil companies which had invested in Russia are forced to quit due to the sanctions. These include big players such as BP which has a 20-percent stake in Russian giant Rosneft, Shell with 27.5 percent stake in the Sakhalin-II LNG facility and a 50 percent stake in the Salym Petroleum Development, ExxonMobil (Sakhalin-1) and so on. 

Apart from the impairment these companies will suffer running into tens of billions of dollars, their exit will also strain Russia’s ability to maintain such high production levels and continue to meet its commitments under the OPEC+ agreement. Now, the already-tight global market for crude – which saw Brent crude top $115 per barrel in early Thursday trading – can ill-afford these downstream hits from the sanctions against Russia. Evidently, crude prices still have nowhere to go but up from here. Expert opinion is that if oil price touches $125 per barrel, US economy slides into recession. 

Russia has not so far made any direct indications that it will restrict energy exports, though the rhetoric is heating up. Deputy Prime Minister Andrey Belousov warned on Friday that western companies, including energy firms, that are ditching Russia will be considered pushing their Russian subsidiaries to “deliberate bankruptcy,” which under Russian law draws criminal prosecution. 

To solve Europe’s problem of high prices, Biden recently swallowed pride and mentioned buying cheap Iranian oil as a response. Western analysts opine that Biden is in a mood to appease the “Iranian hawks” at Vienna. That is to say, US desperately needs both a lucrative energy deal and Iranian cooperation in Vienna. Israeli observers are apprehensive that the Biden administration might go ahead with easing or lifting restrictions on Iranian oil exports even without signing the Vienna agreements! 

One big reason behind this panic is that the Biden administration is profoundly concerned about the strong growth of motor fuel prices in the US lately. But on the other hand, any visible US appeasement of Iran at this critical stage will be a sign of weakness, and, surely, Biden will come up for trenchant criticism in the domestic opinion. 

Indeed, Lavrov has factored in all these developments while demanding that “at least” Antony Blinken should give a written guarantee. Moscow is paying back for Blinken’s boorishness. Of course, it will be a devastating loss of face for Biden to cave in publicly. Of course, the most awful thing will be that it is not only precedent setting  but makes a complete mockery of America’s weaponisation of the dollar! 

Europeans too must be wondering what is going on. They have passively sacrificed self-interests vis-a-vis Russia on the basis of Biden’s demands! Nord Stream 2 stands abandoned!

This is going to be a catch-22 situation. For, Russia’s green signal is an imperative for the JCPOA deal to be approved within the framework the joint commission of Iran and the international quintet (Russia, Britain, Germany, China and France.) Besides, Iran will surely expect a formal approval for any deal from the UN Security Council. 

On the other hand, if the negotiations at Vienna get prolonged, Iran’s enrichment activities at the accelerated pace will continue and a point of no return may be reached very soon, in a matter of weeks at the most, which will put the Biden administration in an even bigger bind, as the spectre of a nuclear Iran haunts West Asia and Europe. 

To be sure, the blowback to the US sanctions has begun. This is of course only the beginning. Trust Russia to go further and further up on the escalation ladder. Russia would have no conceivable reason to cooperate with the US from now onward. (See my blog Ukraine sparks EU, US rush to  Iran deal, March 1, 2022)

However, if the chronicle of Russian-American relations is anything to go by, trust Biden to start making entreaties using back channels to Moscow.

Actually, in response to a question at a press briefing in Moscow today evening about the current state of Russia-US relations in view of the developments in Ukraine and the pressure of sanctions, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov remarked cryptically that “We are maintaining certain channels of a dialogue with the United States.” He didn’t elaborate. 

March 5, 2022 Posted by | Economics | , , | 2 Comments

The Evil of Sanctions

By Jacob G. Hornberger | FFF | February 23, 2022

After maneuvering Russia into choosing either (1) to permit the U.S. to install its missiles, bases, troops, tanks, and weaponry along Russia’s border in Ukraine or (2) to invade Ukraine to prevent that from happening, President Biden, the Pentagon, and the CIA are now responding to Russia’s choice of (2) by imposing brutal sanctions on the Russian people.

Oh sure, they are making out like the sanctions are targeting Russian President Putin and the Russian “elites” in the government that are supporting the invasion. But that’s just another lie. In fact, the sanctions are designed to do the same thing as the sanctions against Iran, Cuba (i.e., the embargo), North Korea, China, Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. They are designed to squeeze the Russian people with impoverishment and even death in the hope that they will protest and cause Russian President Vladimir Putin to change course or even violently revolt against Putin’s regime.

Of course, never mind that some protestors are likely to get killed or that a revolution would mean thousands of deaths. That never matters to U.S. officials. What matters is the political goal they are striving to achieve with their sanctions. Any number of foreigners who get killed in the process of trying to achieve that goal is entirely acceptable. That’s why, for example, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright exclaimed that the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi children from the sanctions on Iraq were “worth it.”

The first thing that must be recognized is the fundamental evil of targeting innocent people with death and impoverishment as a way to achieve a political goal. Isn’t that why we condemn terrorism? Where is the moral justification for targeting the Russian people with death and impoverishment simply because their government is doing something that is illegal or unjustifiable?

The problem is that the American people have become so accustomed to sanctions and embargoes as a foreign policy tool that they unable to recognize the evil on which they are based. But the fact is that sanctions and embargoes are no different in principle from terrorism, in that they both target innocent people with death and suffering as a way to achieve a political goal.

The second thing that must be recognized: Sanctions don’t achieve their political goal, which means that the death and suffering they inflict is useless.

Consider the 60-year embargo on Cuba. It was intended to oust Fidel Castro from power and, after he died, to oust Cuba’s communist regime from power and replace it with another pro-U.S. dictatorship. It still hasn’t achieved its goal, notwithstanding the death and suffering it has inflicted on the Cuban people for six decades.

Consider the brutal system of sanctions on Iraq. It contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of children — yes, children! — and it still did not succeed in ousting the Pentagon’s longtime partner and ally, Saddam Hussein, from power.

Consider the brutal sanctions against Iran. U.S. officials have targeted the Iranian people with death and suffering in the hope that they will rise up and oust Iran’s anti-U.S. regime and replace it with with another pro-U.S. dictatorship, similar to that of the Shah of Iran, who the CIA installed into power with a coup in 1953. Despite the death and suffering among the Iranian people, Iran’s theoretic ‘dictatorship’ remains in power.

Third is a point that Biden’s, the Pentagon’s, and the CIA’s Operation Mockingbird assets in the mainstream press just don’t get or don’t care about: U.S. sanctions imposed on Russia and other countries constitute a direct infringement on the liberty of the American people.

Under principles of liberty, people have the right to trade with whomever they want and to travel wherever they want. Those are fundamental, natural, God-given rights that no government, not even the U.S. government, can legitimately infringe.

Yet, that is precisely what U.S. sanctions do. They contribute to the destruction of our own rights and liberties at the hands of our own government.

Thus, we have the spectacle of the U.S. national-security establishment, through its NATO machinations, making Russia one of its official enemies, then cornering Russia into invading Ukraine (versus permitting U.S. missiles, bases, tanks, and troops to be established on Russia’s border), and then using this manufactured crisis to further destroy the rights and liberties of the American citizenry.

Our ancestors warned us about this type of thing. That’s why they called into existence a limited-government republic and rejected the national-security state form of governmental structure under which we now live. That’s why there was no Pentagon, military-industrial complex, CIA, or NSA for the first 150 years of American history. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson warned us against “entangling alliances,” such as NATO. John Quincy Adams, in his 1821 speech “In Search of Monsters to Destroy,” explained the reasons for America’s founding foreign policy of non-interventionism into the affairs and crises of foreign nations.

An updated warning came in President Eisenhower’s Farewell Address where he pointed out that the “military-industrial complex” posed a grave threat to the freedom and democratic processes of the American people. His warning was followed by that of President Kennedy, the last president who was wiling to stand up against the overwhelming power of the national-security establishment. Kennedy’s warning was followed by that of former President Truman, who, thirty days after JFK was killed, pointed out that the CIA had become a sinister force in American life.

It’s time for Americans to do some serious soul-searching. The question should not be what to do about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The big question to be discussed and debated shoud instead be: Should America restore its founding systems of a limited-government republic and a non-interventionist foreign policy and get America back on the road toward liberty, peace, prosperity, and harmony with the people of the world?

February 23, 2022 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , | 1 Comment

Iran discloses conditions for nuclear deal revival

RT | February 20, 2022

Iran’s parliament has laid out six conditions for the country to return to the landmark 2015 nuclear deal in an open letter to President Ebrahim Raisi, published in Iranian media on Sunday. An overwhelming majority of MPs supported the statement, with 250 out of 290 parliamentarians signing the letter.

The US, as well as the European signatories of the deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), must provide guarantees that they will not abandon the agreement again should it be revived, the MPs said. They must also guarantee that no “snapback mechanisms,” which can re-enable sanctions immediately, will be activated.

“We have to learn a lesson from past experiences and put a red line on the national interest by not committing to any agreement without obtaining necessary guarantees first,” the parliamentarians said.

Other conditions include the lifting of all sanctions on Iran in full, including restrictions related to the JCPOA directly, as well as what the letter described as those imposed under “false pretexts” of terrorism, human rights abuses, and in relation to the country’s missile program. Tehran itself should also make sure it receives the economic benefits it is promised under the deal, and actually begins to receive profits from exports before returning to compliance with the restrictions outlined in the agreement, the lawmakers added.

The statement comes as the multinational talks, which have been underway in the Austrian capital, Vienna since April last year, seem to be coming to fruition. The painstaking negotiations have been interrupted multiple times by long pauses, with participants repeatedly expressing frustration over the lack of progress. Earlier this week, Tehran’s top negotiator, Ali Bagheri, said the deal was “closer than ever” – warning, however, against celebrating too soon, since “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.”

The JCPOA, under which Tehran agreed to drastically curb its nuclear program (while it maintains that it never sought to obtain atomic weaponry) in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions, has been in limbo since 2018, when then-US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from the deal. Describing the agreement as the “the worst deal ever,” Trump accused Tehran of violating “the spirit” of the JCPOA, while international observers had repeatedly confirmed Iran’s compliance.

Following the withdrawal, Washington revived old sanctions and imposed new restrictions on Tehran. In retaliation, Iran has gradually suspended its JCPOA commitments, installing new uranium-enriching equipment and ramping up its nuclear program. Earlier this month, the US lifted some of its sanctions against Tehran, enabling foreign companies to partake in certain civilian projects at Iran’s Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant and other facilities. The move was widely perceived as an attempt to show goodwill and revitalize the stalled Vienna talks.

February 20, 2022 Posted by | Wars for Israel | , | Leave a comment

Israel offers Arab state the opportunity to tackle Iran together

RT | February 15, 2022

Since Israel and Bahrain both view Iran as a threat, they could team up and counter Tehran together, Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett said on his landmark visit to the Gulf monarchy.

“We will fight Iran and its followers in the region night and day. We will aid our friends in strengthening peace, security, and stability, whenever we are asked to do so,” Bennett pledged in an interview with the Bahraini state-linked Al-Ayyam outlet on Tuesday.

The PM blamed Tehran of striving to “destroy moderate states” in the Gulf region in order to replace them with “bloodthirsty terrorist groups.”

When asked about the possibility of creating an alliance to resist Iranian influence, which could include Israel, Bahrain, and some other Arab nations, he gave a positive response: “We all understand that we face the same challenges, so why not work together to tackle them?”

Bennet, who became the first Israeli prime minister ever to visit Bahrain, assured the journalists that “Israel is a strong and reliable country.”

The idea of such a block was first floated by Israeli general Tal Kelman last year. According to Kelman, who heads the IDF’s Strategy and Third Circle Directorate, “the moderate axis” of Israel, Bahrain, the UAE, Jordan, Egypt and others should resist “the radical axis” of Iran and what he called its “proxies” in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, and Iraq.

Israel and Bahrain normalized relations in late 2020 as part of the so-called Abraham Accords, a US-backed drive to improve ties between the Jewish state and some Arab countries after decades of strife.

Bahrain is a small island nation of around 1.5 million. The majority of its population is Shia Muslims, but the country is being run by a Sunni monarchy. The rulers in Manama have been concerned by Tehran’s activities as Iran, which is located less than 800 kilometers (497 miles) away, often faces accusations from its rivals of supporting Shia groups in other countries.

February 15, 2022 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Militarism | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Is The TAPI Pipeline Finally Ready To Go?

Zero Hedge | January 19, 2022

Submitted by James Durso, Managing Director of Corsair LLC, a supply chain consultancy.

The Turkmenistan–Afghanistan–Pakistan–India (TAPI) natural gas pipeline has been long aborning, but its prospects recently got a shot in the arm.

The 1100-mile, $10 billion project has seen numerous delays since the pipeline consortium was announced in late 2014, though the project was first mooted in 1991. Construction started in early 2018 with a projected in-service date of 2021, but halted later that year after workers clearing the route were killed by unknown assailants. Also, the project’s $10 billion cost estimate is a decade old, and an update may cause further delay to the Asian Development Bank-funded effort that is now slated to resume work in September 2022. Turkmenistan will loan Afghanistan the funds for its share of the project, to be repaid from gas transit revenues.

Representatives of the government of Tajikistan recently met officials in Afghanistan, and the Taliban announcement that it will dedicate 30,000 troops to pipeline security may motivate the parties to start construction.

The completed pipeline will allow Turkmenistan to reduce its reliance on its biggest gas customer, China, which has recently taken most of Turkmenistan’s gas exports, though in 2021 the country doubled its gas exports to Russia, which used to be the biggest importer of Turkmen gas until it was displaced by China in 2010. The pipeline will generate additional income that Ashgabat can use to improve services to citizens, a priority after the recent unrest in neighboring Kazakhstan.

But there may be competing opportunities. For example, Iran, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan recently signed a trilateral gas swap deal for up to 2 billion cubic meters (bcm) per year. It’s not a large amount – Turkmenistan exports about 40bcm to China every year – but it’s another income stream that should be managed with an eye to future growth. Then there’s the possibility of a connection to the proposed Trans-Caspian Pipeline (TCP) to supply Europe via the Southern Gas Corridor (SGC). Connecting to the SGC would require a 200-mile subsea pipe between Baku and Türkmenba?y, but may face opposition from Iran and Russia on (probably spurious) environmental grounds. Once the politics are resolved, the project would likely be cheaper and carry less of a security burden than the overland TAPI route, and build on the January 2021 agreement between Baku and Ashgabat to jointly develop the Dostluq (“friendship”) oil and natural gas field in the Caspian Sea.

For Afghanistan, the project would provide transit fees of about $500 million per year, along with an annual share of 500 million cubic meters of gas for the first ten years, ultimately increasing to 1.5 bcm per year.

For the Taliban government, a successful project would: demonstrate it can be a reliable partner in a major infrastructure project, employ demobilized Taliban troops so they don’t defect to the Islamic State or Al-Qaeda, earn revenue to pay for electricity imports (the country relies on imports for 78% of its power), demonstrate to China it is safe to invest in Afghanistan, and be an opportunity for cooperation with Pakistan despite the dispute over their shared border.

Of course, Kabul will have to figure out what to do with that natural gas, in addition to its one trillion cubic feet of reserves. The U.S.-driven development plan for the country emphasized renewables, like solar and wind, and the U.S.-funded $335 million Tarakhil Power Plant near Kabul, which relied on expensive, imported diesel fuel, is now used as a back-up facility when hydropower and imported power aren’t available. An International Finance Corporation-sponsored 59-megawatt gas-to-power plant in Mazar-i-Sharif would have boosted the country’s current total domestic generation by up to 30 percent, but can it be revived under the Taliban?

And time is of the essence as Uzbekistan recently reduced its power exports by 60%, possibly due to increased domestic demand as winter sets in, possibly to nudge Kabul (or the UN) to start paying the $90 million owed to power suppliers in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Iran.

For Pakistan, the pipeline would help solve the country’s persistent energy shortfalls, such as the deficit between current gas production of 4 Billion Cubic Feet per Day (BCFD) against demand of 6 BCFD. By 2025, gas production is expected to fall to less 1 BCFD due to depletion of gas reserves while demand increases to 8 BCFD.

And Pakistan won’t have to wait to 2025 for an economic impact: Between 2008 and 2012, 40 percent of Pakistan’s textile sector moved to Bangladesh, one reason being the uneven supply of gas and electricity.

Then there’s Pakistan’s view of its regional interests and its endless search for “strategic depth.” The pipeline would be an independent source of revenue for Afghanistan, just when Pakistan feels the Taliban government should be beholden to it. And India would be able to increase the share of gas in its energy mix from 6.5% to 15%, possibly encouraging more trade between Kabul and New Delhi. To Islamabad, it will add to an already bad outcome: the ungrateful Taliban still aren’t helping Pakistan isolate the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, while India is expected to be the world’s fastest growing economy in 2022, according to the World Bank.

They say “all politics is local” and that may be the case here. One Pakistani observer, Hina Mahar Nadeem, noted the country’s gas shortfalls have a silver lining – for the interests that control the import of expensive liquefied natural gas (LNG). Accordingly, TAPI and the much-delayed (mostly by U.S. sanctions on Iran) Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline are a threat to their economic and political power.

In late 2020, Pakistan and Russia signed a deal to complete the 700-mile Pakistan Stream Gas Pipeline, to move LNG from Port Qasim (Karachi) to Kasur, in the Punjab. Pakistan may be treating with Russia to balance against China, or maybe the deal was decided on strictly dollars-and-cents terms. Regardless, this project may crowd out attention and funding for Pakistan’s phase of TAPI.

A richer energy mix and pipeline transit revenues would strengthen Pakistan as it negotiates new efforts with China under the umbrella of the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor. Pakistan’s leaders will need to strengthen their position vis-à-vis China while demonstrating to Beijing they are a reliable partner that will develop energy resources that can accommodate China’s projects. But first, those leaders must take on entrenched business and national security interests to successfully support TAPI, despite the economic benefits to its neighbors. But this assumes the country’s leaders aren’t captive (willing or otherwise) to their business confederates  and the securicrats.

For India, TAPI would add to the country’s energy mix, propelling its impressive economic growth. India is the world’s third-largest energy consuming country, and has doubled energy use since 2000, with 80% of demand still being met by coal, oil and solid biomass. TAPI gas would allow India to use less coal, helping it meet its COP26 carbon emission goal, and satisfy increased energy demand by 2030 of 25% to 35% according to the International Energy Agency.

India has built a connection for TAPI at Fazilka at the Indo-Pakistan border in the Punjab region, a location on the border with Pakistan that may be subject to cross-border attacks by Pakistan-affiliated groups. Will Pakistan or its proxies be able to resist attacking such a key piece of infrastructure if India-Pakistan relations fail to improve?

For India, the best approach may be “wait and see” if the U.S. threatens sanctions against TAPI partners, whether the Taliban can prove they know how to govern and secure the country against the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda, and how serious is the announced Russia-Pakistan pipeline deal.

Where does this leave Turkmenistan?

It, too, should take it slow. It is no longer 2014, and it now has opportunities for increased swaps with Iran and Azerbaijan, and further opportunities with Iran may blossom if Tehran and Washington can secure a nuclear deal. The opportunity to connect to Europe via the TCP/SGC may present more revenue with fewer security concerns, or iffy partners like Pakistan and Afghanistan. Also, Washington needs to clear the way regarding sanctioned officials in Kabul, though the acting minister of defense, Mullah Muhammad Yaqub, who declared “I am directly responsible for and overseeing the security of the TAPI project” hasn’t been sanctioned by Washington… yet.

Washington might get behind TAPI in the wake of the recent deployment of Collective Security Treaty Organization peacekeeping troops to Kazakhstan, which has increased Russia’s clout in Central Asia. Increased revenue for Ashgabat that can be directed to services for its citizens may prevent the public unrest that gave Moscow an opening to intervene, and Turkmen leader Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow may not need much convincing in this regard.

But it may serve Ashgabat well to ask Washington for a blanket sanctions exemption for all project principals and suppliers, and any government officials in the mix, to make it clear who bears responsibility if the project again fails to launch. If this happens, it will be a shabby way to treat ally India, and in Pakistan it will be interpreted as U.S. revenge against the country for supporting the Taliban.

The “push” of increased regional influence for Moscow and the “pull” of clean energy for ally India will hopefully make Washington green-light (or get out of the way of) the long-delayed project.

January 19, 2022 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , | Leave a comment