… by Asif Haroon Raja, Pakistan
[ Editor’s Note: Although this is a scholarly read, which is always dense material, I suggest you read this and save it to a file. Raja is known as one of the top strategic writers in Pakistan, where intellectual competition is fierce. There is no flair and flash here, but information.
Some of it you will be familiar with, but the value of a piece like this is having so much of it in one article, and new material that you did not know. Another bonus is the additional context that can help you get a better handle on connecting the dots and seeing through the disinformation smokescreens that are continually blown in our faces.
Don’t be embarrassed by having to read it twice… or more. I always have to, as there is so much information in here you just can’t absorb it all in one pass unless you are Mr. photographic memory, like Gordon.
Because I have so much information coming at me all day long, and I cannot stop to fully digest longer-form material, I have a habit of copying and saving to a file, or just saving the link and coming back later to go over it when I have more time.
This building up of our general background database brain power gives us “defense in depth”, which helps us pick up on all the ring around the rosy games being played on us now, even in Alt media, which has been heavily infiltrated because it was necessary and inexpensive to do, where people can be bought for pennies on the dollar vs. the think tank and corporate media route, which takes tons of cash.
Raja is the real deal and has always been our “go to” guy for his expertise areas. People like this are what has make VT what it is today — the long term relationships, our staying power and track record of not getting sucked into being a pipeline for bogus stories, which is an industrial-scale business today… Jim W. Dean ]
End of Bi-Polar World.
During the Cold War, proxy wars were common because the two superpowers didn’t dare to fight each other directly due to nuclear deterrence. The US-led West demonized the USSR and scared the world to keep away from the monster of communism.
The US projected itself as the champion of democracy and human rights and guardian of the free world. The CIA was used covertly, and NATO overtly, to spread the US’ area of influence. The KGB, assisted by the Warsaw Pact military alliance of seven Eastern European States, did the same.
The arms race between the two superpowers impacted the economy of USSR. Its economy was further battered in the Afghan war.
With its military and nuclear power intact, the huge Soviet Empire fragmented from within on December 15, 1991, and broke into 15 smaller States, and the USSR shrank to the Russian Federation. The US emerged as the sole superpower, putting an end to a bi-polar world and giving way to a uni-polar world.
Islam Projected as Chief Threat
The neoCons in the US and the American Jewish lobby mulled over how to make the 21st century the ‘American Century’ and to rule the world for the next hundred years. For the achievement of this goal, a convincing motive had to be manufactured. The New World Order (NWO), conceived by George W. Bush senior in 1989, was modified and the Red Army threat was replaced with a green flag threat. Islam was hyped and projected as the chief threat to US-dominated capitalism and international order.
Within the Muslim world, radical States such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Sudan, Lebanon, Somalia and Iran were marked as ‘dangerous’. This was confirmed by Patrick Buchman in 2003. Samuel Huntington gave credence to this theme in 1990s by writing in his book ‘Clash of Civilizations’ that, in the future, wars would no longer take place between countries but between cultures, and that the best candidate for the upcoming divide would be between Islam and the West.
Brzezinski’s Concept of Eurasia
One of the major reasons of projecting Islam as the major threat to US hegemony was the concept of US uni-polarism propounded by Brzezinski in 1970s. For the achievement of this ambitious objective, he like the earlier strategists held Eurasia as the key region, the capture of which would ensure control over Africa and facilitate world domination.
Eurasia is the largest continent where lay treasures of the world. For effective control of Eurasia, he had recommended establishment of a western front in Europe and southern front in Asia complementing each other. He was categorical in his assessment that whosoever controlled Eurasia dominated the world.
NATO made Relevant
NATO had lost its relevance to exist after the end of Cold War and dismantlement of Warsaw Pact for which it had been created. Some way had to be found to keep it operational. NATO was tasked to expand eastward and integrate as many East European, Baltic and Caucasus States. It got heavily involved in Balkans.
Once its membership jumped from 16 to 28 States, it was made into a global task force. The western front was thus maintained and not dissolved. Paradoxically, the western front was reinforced after dismantling the southern front in Afghanistan in 1989.
Establishment of Two Fronts
Having consolidated and expanded NATO in the 1990s, the US hawks then waited for an opportunity or an excuse to establish southern front in Asia for which Afghanistan and Iraq had been earmarked as target countries in the modified draft of NWO in 1997. 9/11, whether real or engineered, provided the excuse the US was eagerly looking for to occupy Afghanistan and Iraq.
Demolition of Afghanistan in November 2001 and Iraq in 2003 undertaken by George W Bush junior led neo-cons (Dick Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz) were aimed at establishing a secure southern front to complement the western front that was established by merging Eastern Europe into European Union in early 1990s. The underlying idea behind the establishment of two fronts was to disrupt and occupy Central Asia, capture all its energy resources and thus gain control over whole of Eurasian continent as propounded by Brzezinski.
Russia under Boris Yeltsin
Russia under drunkard Boris Yeltsin remained economically dependent upon the US and Western Europe to survive. Yeltsin’s lackadaisical approach allowed NATO and CIA to extend their outreach into Eastern Europe and re-integrate it into Western Europe.
CIA was actively involved in fomenting color revolutions in Eastern Europe, Baltic, Caucasus and Central Asia. Biggest breakthroughs were fall of Berlin wall and reunification of Germany, breakup of Yugoslavia into six independent States and disintegration of Czechoslovakia.
NATO’s eastward drive towards the heartland of Russia and the US insistence to deploy Missile Defense Shield were hostile steps and in violation of the US-Russia treaty signed in 1990 that the US will not threaten Russia’s security interests.
Russia under Vladimir Putin
In the new millennium, the situation began to change when Russia came under Putin in 1999. Since then, he has remained in power at a stretch and held both the appointments of President and PM. He resolved to rebuild weakened Russia and regain part if not all the glory of demolished Soviet Empire.
He started to reassert Russia’s authority in global politics as well as over its breakaway Republics by making good use of its oil and gas resources. EU became dependent upon Gazprom for gas. Six Central Asian Republics are the soft belly of Russia, on which the US has its eyes since long and which Russia can ill-afford to lose. Both Russia and China are keeping this vital region in their loop with the help of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).
In order to keep resurgent Russia under control, Bush administration embarked upon a highly expensive and controversial Missile Defence Shield (MDS) program under the plea of safeguarding the US from rogue States like North Korea and Iran. Poland and Czech Republic were persuaded to deploy components of the MDS. Putin expressed his concerns asserting that the MDS was Russia focused and threatened to counter the threat. It strained US-Russia relations.
After the CIA inspired rose revolution in Georgia which brought down President Eduard Shevardnadze and brought in pro-Western President Mikheil Saakashvili to power in 2004, the first serious Russian encounter with the US took place in Georgia in August 2008 when Russian troops invaded Georgia on August 8, 2008 and by the 10th, occupied several Georgian cities and the bulk of breakaway South Ossetia, as well as Abkhazia. Since then, South Ossetia and Abkhazia are firmly in control of Moscow.
The next standoff between the two took place in Ukraine. When the government of pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych was overthrown in February 2014, he fled to Russia. Putin reacted by sending Russian troops and seizing Crimea in early March and amassing 40,000 troops along eastern border of Ukraine.
Sevastopol seaport in Crimea is an important Russian naval base which it cannot afford to lose. In a popular referendum held on March 16, Crimeans voted to join Russia. After ratification by the two houses of Russian Parliament, annexation of Crimea was formalized on March 21.
Ten cities of Eastern Ukraine are heavily populated by Russian speaking and pro-Russian people. Unrest is going on in several cities and militants urged Moscow to send in Russian troops. Although NATO showed restraint by desisting from moving towards Ukraine’s western border, situation is still tense.
While Putin is using gas as a weapon to tighten up Ukraine, EU which is itself heavily dependent upon Russian oil and gas, at the behest of the US, has imposed sanctions and threatened to apply further sanctions to force Russia to lay its hands off Ukraine. The US accused Russia for attacking Ukraine on trumped-up pretext and has hurled a warning, giving rise to fears that another Cold War is in the offing.
Turbulent Middle East
The US controlled strategically important Middle East by propping up authoritarian regimes and establishing GCC comprising six Gulf States and making Iran under Reza Shah Pahlavi as the policeman of the Persian Gulf. In addition, Israel was created in 1948 at the cost of Palestinians. It was economically and militarily bolstered to bully the Arab States.
While the US succeeded in neutralizing Egypt through Camp David Accord in 1979, it lost Iran in March 1979 after Imam Khomeini took over power. Another emerging power Iraq, seen as an obstacle in the way of Israel to become unchallenged power of the region was weakened through 8-year war with Iran, First Gulf War in 1991 and imposition of harsh sanctions.
Invasion of Iraq
When these incapacitating acts failed to bring down Saddam, the US under George W Bush led neo-cons and Jews chalked out a grand plan to change the boundaries of the Middle East, replace radical rulers with compliant and secular rulers, harness oil resources and make Israel the superpower of Middle East.
The plan envisaged piecemeal annexation of Arab States. The first axe fell upon Iraq in March 2003 after pasting trumped up charges. Although occupation forces left Iraq in 2011, they have left behind embers of sectarianism. Hardly a day passes without suicide attack/bomb blast.
Regime Change in Libya
Taking advantage of the Arab Spring, insurgency was fomented by CIA in Libya in 2011 to bring down Qaddafi regime. Handfuls of Libyan rebels mostly living in exile were instigated by CIA to start an armed rebellion.
UK and France led the assault and within months Libya was destroyed, the regime toppled and Qaddafi brutally murdered. Chaos in Libya was premeditated because Libya was a stable African society in North Africa and Qaddafi had made it into a real welfare State.
He wanted to use the water, oil and financial resources of Libya and the intelligence of the Libyan people for the reconstruction of Africa. In order to solidify African Union, Qaddafi wanted to build an African Monetary Fund, an African Central Bank, and an African common currency.
Moreover, Qaddafi had moved to take over the Arab banking corporation in Bahrain, and the Libyan leadership had over $200 billion in foreign reserves. Common currency for Africa would have been a threat to Western Europe and North America and a real danger to Euro as well as to the US dollar.
Besides, Chinese had become the dominant force in infrastructure development within Libya. There were over 36,000 Chinese involved in railway, road, water, agriculture, and other forms. Libyan-Pakistan defence ties had grown manifold and Libya had placed a big order for purchasing defence equipment from Pakistan.
While Libya was playing ball with Russia and China, it was also very friendly with the West and cooperating with them since 2004 but still was viewed as unpredictable by Western oil and defence tycoons.
To save euro/dollar and to capture Libyan oil, Qaddafi had to be removed. Although Libyan oil is now being controlled by the US/Western companies, political and security situation is highly unstable.
Syrian crisis from March 2011 onwards saw Russia, Iran and Hezbollah standing behind Bashar al Assad and the US, EU, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Gulf States supporting Syrian Sunni rebels wanting to bring down Assad’s Alawite regime. When government forces gained an edge over the rebels in mid-2013, a chemical weapons attack on a Syrian town north of Damascus was engineered and drummed up.
Making it an excuse, the US ordered NATO to strike Syrian defence infrastructure with cruise missiles. However, at the 11th hour, Obama took a U-turn in the wake of Putin’s mediation, offering to dismantle Syrian chemical stockpiles. The US backtracking tensed US-Saudi relations. While the Western threat receded, Syria got engulfed in a new crisis in which the Islamic militias are fighting among each other as well as Assad forces, much to the delight of Israel.
Islamic State of Iraq & Levant (ISIL)
The ISIL initially linked with al-Qaeda is pitched against Free Syrian Army (Sunni Syrian rebels), Syrian Revolutionary Front, Army of Mujahideen, Islamic Front (supported by Saudi Arabia) and Jabhat al-Nusra (Nusra Front). Ghuraba al-Shams group is in clash with Nusra Front.
Jundul Aqsa and Jaish al Muhajireen are independent. ISIL has emerged as the strongest group and is in control of almost half of Syrian territory in northeast and one third of northwestern Iraqi territory and has formed a caliphate. While the US-NATO air power jumped into the fray of Iraq and Syria in August 2014 to defeat ISIL, Russian air force joined the war in Syria to prop up Assad regime from 30 September 2015 onwards and has enabled the Syrian Army to recover some ground in southwest.
The important city of Deraa has been taken over. After downing of Russian jet by Turkey, relations between the two countries have strained. However, more and more countries are getting aligned to defeat ISIL, known as Daesh, which is termed as a global threat.
Iran under Khomeini completed full cycle of Islamic revolution and became militarily stronger and a staunch opponent of US and Israel. Iran added to its military muscle by embarking upon nuclear program in 2002, which it maintained was meant for peaceful purposes.
Both Israel and the US backed by the EU alleged that Iran was developing a nuclear weapon and exerted extreme diplomatic pressure together with four rounds of sanctions and military threats to force Tehran to abandon its program. Covert war was initiated by CIA to affect a regime change.
Replacement of outspoken anti-US/Israel Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with moderate pro-Western Hassan Rouhani belonging to Reformist Party in June 2013 brought a change in US stance and it chose to befriend Iran after the latter signed interim nuclear deal in November 2013 pledging that it would roll back its nuclear program in return for easing of economic sanctions.
Thaw in Iran-US relations further strained Saudi-US relations since Riyadh has considered Iran as a threat to Sunni Arab regimes. Rift between Riyadh and Doha over latter’s refusal to refrain from supporting Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and elsewhere was another cause of concern for Saudi Kingdom.
Fears of Gulf States
Gulf Arab States want an interim government in Damascus and the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad. Gulf kingdoms also have serious concerns about Iran’s nuclear ambitions and its dangerous designs in the Middle East.
The Shia crescent formed by Syria, Hezbollah dominated Lebanon, Bahrain, eastern Saudi Arabia and southern Iraq is seen as a big threat to Sunni kingdoms in Middle East. Suspecting that Shia uprising in Bahrain in 2011 was Iran inspired, Saudi led Gulf Force was dashed to quash it.
They fear Iran’s potential nuclear weapons capability and deeply distrust the Americans for their overtures to Tehran and civilian nuclear deal which is likely to strengthen Iran. Saudi Arabia is also wary of Iran’s meddlesome role in Yemen where it is supporting Yemeni Houthi rebels and impelled Riyadh to form a joint Arab force of ten countries and launch air war against Houthis in March this year which is still continuing.
Saudi Arabia is also fearful of ISIS, which has threatened to capture Mecca and Medina, and has recently announced formation of 34-member alliance of Muslim countries, which excludes Shia ruled Muslim countries.
Turkey’s Phenomenal Economic Growth
Despite being the leader of seculars within the Muslim world since Kamal Ataturk days and member of NATO, Turkey has not been given membership of EU. In the 1990s, Turkey economy had become sick and it came under heavy debt of IMF. Its economy however began to progress dramatically when AKP led by Tayyip Erdogon took over in 2002 and made the country Islamic Republic.
While Turkish constitution is secular, in practice it is Islamist. Within less than a decade it solved political, judicial, financial and economic problems. By 2005 all loans of IMF were cleared and in 2007 Turkey was in a position to extend loan to IMF and EU countries.
Today it is 16th largest economy in the world and is in a position to lead the Muslim world. Its output has reached $820 billion and has $400 billion worth trade. It has 27 trade partners all over the world and in a decade it attracted $120 billion FSD. Stunning economic progress made by the incumbent government coupled with Erdogon’s tough stand taken against Israel after the incident of peace flotilla in the high seas in 2009 has become a cause of worry for the US led West.
It is suspected that a willful vicious propaganda has been launched by the US based cleric Gullen and his supporters in Turkey, secular and liberal forces and Western media to undermine and bring down the government. However, Erdogon has reasserted his authority as a result of last elections. Because of his tiff with Russia, he is mending fences with Israel to meet country’s gas needs.
Pakistan has emerged as the sole Muslim country with nuclear capability backed by robust armed forces with reasonably strong defence industrial and technical base and plenty of skilled labor force. Pakistan’s nuclear capability is an eyesore for the US, India and Israel. India is more vexed since nuclear parity has blunted its blackmailing tactics and imperialist designs.
The US is concerned about Sino-Pakistan conviviality since the future role assigned to India cannot be accomplished without breaking up Pakistan or making it a compliant State of India. It is vying to wean away Central Asian Republics (CARs) brimming with natural resources from Sino-Russo influence and for piping out oil and gas for Western markets through Port Gawadar.
Indo-US-Israeli nexus has been striving hard since 1980s to denuclearize Pakistan and make it a Satellite State of India. Their efforts were stepped up after 2001 and they nearly succeeded in declaring Pakistan a failing and ungovernable State when the PPP regime was in power. Besides several articles written by Americans including Lt Col Ralph Peters article “Blood Borders” indicating balkanized Pakistan, revelation made by Carlotta Gall that Pakistan and not Afghanistan was the real target lent strength to the assertions that the US cannot be relied upon.
Consequent to change of government in Pakistan in May 2013 and changing alignments in Middle East, Riyadh, Bahrain and other Gulf States have begun to lean more heavily upon Pakistan. Pak-Turk cooperation also keyed up. South Korea offered to make investments in Pakistan.
While Russia has come closer, China has invested $46 billion for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is a game changer for Pakistan. Iran has agreed to resume stalled Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project. Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project has been approved.
Notwithstanding positive developments, what is worrying for Pakistan is not so friendly behavior of Afghanistan and Iran and growing strategic partnership of Iran and Afghanistan with India. Development of North-South Corridor connecting Mumbai with Bandar Abbas Port in Iran, fast track development of Chahbahar Port in Iran by India and linking it with Afghanistan and Central Asia through road-rail network are aimed at undermining Gawadar Port, encircling Pakistan and gaining access to CARs markets.
India under extremist Narendra Modi, known for his anti-Muslim/Pakistan stance and not so friendly Afghanistan under Ashraf Ghani and pro-India Dr. Abdullah does not auger well for Pakistan. Although of late Modi is giving friendly signals, his change of heart is certainly not out of sincerity of purpose but owing to changed geopolitical environment. Sooner than later he is likely to revert to his belligerent policy.
The US has helped in easing tensions between India and Pakistan as well as between Afghanistan and Pakistan. India agreed to abandon its belligerent policy because of fast improving internal socio-politico-economic-security conditions of Pakistan and its success in combating terrorism.
Kabul has softened its stance owing to resurgence of Taliban and having realised that only Pakistan can help in bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table. All have agreed to resume dialogue and cooperate with each other in fighting terrorism and in solving Afghan tangle through negotiations and in improving socio-economic conditions of South Asia.
Russo-China-US Altering Relationship
During the Cold War, USSR and China, the two largest Communist States fell apart in 1960 owing to political, cultural and ideological differences. Sino-US détente in 1972 further distanced USSR from China. Gorbachev mended fences with China in 1989 and today the two neighbors have become close allies. China has emerged as the chief rival of the US with all the trappings of future superpower.
The US leans upon India to help it in encircling and containing phenomenal rise of China. The US in league with India is trying hard to win over as many littoral States around the Indian Ocean to check China’s ingress into the Indian Ocean laced with critical choke points and Sea Lanes of Communication (SLOC).
It is building coalitions with regional allies like Australia, Japan and the Philippines, and partners like Vietnam and India to bring Indian Ocean under full control to ensure uninterrupted flow of oil. Washington is currently promoting an ‘Indo-Pacific’ concept, which connects the Indian and Pacific Oceans as part of its approach towards Indian Ocean.
Haunted by the threat to its corporate capitalism because of China’s economic model which has lifted 300 million Chinese out of poverty; American writers are accusing China of endangering global stability.
Although China’s strategic focus continues to be on the Pacific, China’s priority will always be on protecting its energy security interests by way of securing the SLOC, spreading from the Gulf to the South China Sea. China is hectically building artificial islands in South China Sea to militarily check its backyard while the US is keen to increase its influence over SLOC in this Sea.
Both are resorting to shadow boxing. China is keen to develop Gawadar seaport so that its navy could checkmate Indo-US dominance of Indian Ocean and protect the SLOC, vital for the country’s energy imports. China has made deep inroads in the Middle East and Africa which include many Littoral States.
Ongoing construction of old Silk Route through CPEC from Kashgar to Gawadar and Karachi since March 2015 has the potential to make the region prosperous and self-reliant. It will however upset Indo-US game-plan of developing an alternative Silk Route in which the duo would be major beneficiaries.
Uni-polar World Gasping for Life
In 1992, the US emerged as the unchallenged sole superpower. In 2001 when George W. Bush triggered the Global War on Terror and the whole world fell in line, the US was economically, politically, diplomatically and militarily the strongest nation in the world. It was the largest aid-giver and leader of the First world.
It had a $15-trillion economy, and was looked at with awe and envy for being the “sole superpower.” In little over two decades, uni-polarism has begun to totter and it is speculated that the all-powerful US is fast running out of steam, and sooner than later uni-polarity will be replaced by multi-polarity.
Many say that the era of the US global hegemony is over. While Putin is looked at with respect for his deft handling of critical situations, American elite judge Obama as a weak president responsible for the loss of global clout which the US enjoyed.
Today the US is burdened with a national debt of $ 16.3 trillion and a total debt close to $ 59 trillion with very little chance of recovery in the foreseeable future despite the discovery of Shale gas. Apart from the debt which it has accumulated because of its craze for foreign adventures, the US leadership has also amassed tons of hate against America around the world, raging particularly in the Muslim world.
This is in spite of the US doling out aid/grants to the needy countries generously and making substantive contributions in terms of science and technology. Still, the US is presently one of the most hated nations on earth.
The US track record during and after the Cold War is that it has always attacked economically and militarily poor countries. Excepting Israel and India, the aid it lends to its allies is always attached with tough conditions and for self-serving purposes. Besides bloody wars, destabilization of elected governments or regime change through gruesome covert operations is another favorite hobby of American leaders. Pakistan has suffered the most at the hands of US and its ally India.
Among the major reasons of the US’s decline are its dual standards and discriminatory policy with regard to Palestinian and Kashmir issues and its subservience to Israel, aggressive policies of pre-emption and unilateralism, anti-Islam/Muslim policy, its grandiose plans to redraw the boundaries of the Middle East and to take control of oil resources, lust for untapped mineral resources of Central Asia, over indulgence in highly expensive war on terror and in covert wars to neo-colonize the Muslim world.
All its high-flying objectives have gone for a six after it got stuck in the quagmire of Afghanistan. Last but not least, the 2008 global recession has badly impacted the US and European economies. Rag-tag Afghan Mujahideen having humbled the Soviet Empire have now rolled the honor and prestige of the sole super/hyper power in dust.
The US sudden and rapid decline has made its self-created financial institutions like IMF and World Bank weary and defiant. They are not favoring the US suggestion to create alternative financial institutions to counter BRICS. While majority of Latin American States have moved out of the influence of North America, even Europe led by Germany and France is showing signs of non-cooperation.
Putin is cleverly playing upon the sensitivities of European countries to draw a wedge between Europe and the US. China has reduced American influence in Africa to insignificance and is raring to become an economic superpower by 2025. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States crave for US friendship no more.
New power centres have emerged and new alignments are shaping up. The invincible NATO is breaking up after its humiliation in Iraq and particularly in Afghanistan. Despite using excessive force, Islam couldn’t be undermined. Rather, it has gained ground and biggest conversion rate to Islam is in the US. Growing isolation of the US in the world has blurred the ‘American Century’ dream.
The US can recover ground if the leadership changes its posture from arrogance to affability; restrains the Pentagon from adventurism, the CIA from covert operations and media from their propaganda war; gets rid of the perverse influence of Israel, India and the UK; decentralizes power concentrated in the hands of 1% of American elites; formulates even-handed global policies to make the world peaceful; and last but not least, mends fences with the Muslim world.
The writer is a retired Brig, defence analyst, columnist, author of five books; member Executive Council Pakistan Ex-Servicemen Society; Director Measac Research Centre and Director Board of Governors Pakistan Thinkers Forum; who takes part in TV talk shows. [email protected]