Category Archives: Pepe’s Corner

Do the Trans-Siberian shuffle, by Pepe Escobar

A specter haunts the elites of the Empire of Chaos; the new Russia-China strategic partnership. It’s manifesting itself in myriad ways – energy deals, investment deals, a closer political alliance inside the G-20, the BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a concerted effort to progressively bypass the petrodollar. I have described this long process as essential to the birth of the Eurasian century.

From a Washington/Wall Street point of view, it was so much easier in those long gone, unipolar, “end of history” days. China was still tiptoeing on the banks of the river of capital accumulation, and Russia was down if not out.

So allow me a flashback to the early 1990s. I had been on the road in Asia for months, from all points Southeast Asia to India, Nepal, the Himalayas and the eastern Chinese seaboard. Then I finally hit Beijing – waiting in the bitter winter of early 1992 to take the Trans-Siberian to Moscow. I was barely aware of the collapse of the Soviet Union – not exactly a news item in the Himalayas. I was also fortunate enough to be in southern China just a few days after Deng Xiaoping made his famous tour – whose key consequence was to catapult the dragon to dizzying development heights. A look back to those heady times may have the merit of illuminating our present.

All aboard the night train
It’s 8:32 pm in Beijing Railway Station, and the Trans-Manchurian Train 19 to Moscow is about to depart. It’s minus 9 degrees Celsius. A bunch of Romanian crazies are trying to load more than 20 huge, vaguely green bundles stuffed with Made-in-China gear into one of the carriages. The Russian comptroller spouts out a “Nyet”. Romanian chicks immerse in Transylvanic hysteria. Then a stash of George Washingtons changes hands at the final whistle, just in time for PLA soldiers and lady sweepers sporting the ubiquitous red armband with the words “Serve The People” to impassibly observe the happy ending.

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Kobani : An alternative to western neoliberalism

This is ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL READING to understand the people power/direct democracy experiment going on in Kobani. It’s Murray Bookchin adapted to Kurdistan. No wonder NO ONE – not to mention the hyper power – want this to succeed. And The Caliph just wants to kill them all.

Kobani – and Rojava as a whole – is pointing the way towards a REAL VIABLE ALTERNATIVE to the current valley of tears: financialization/turbo-capitalism supported by neoliberal ideology.

Scroll down to the “face-to-face democracy” section; that’s approximately what’s goin’ on in Kobani and Rojava as a whole.

Capture

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Re-elected Dilma wins in a Brazil broken in two,by Pepe Escobar

_rousseff.si
Re-elected Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff waves following her win, in Brasilia on October 26, 2014. (AFP Photo / Evaristo Sa)

President Dilma Rousseff of the ruling Worker’s Party (PT) was re-elected this Sunday in a tight run-off against opposition candidate Aecio Neves of the Social Democracy Party of Brazil (PSDB).

Sun, sex, samba, carnival and at least until the recent World Cup hammering by Germany, the “land of football.” And don’t forget “vibrant democracy.” Even as it enjoys one of the highest soft power quotients around the world, Brazil remains submerged by clichés.

“Vibrant democracy” certainly lived up to its billing in this hard-fought presidential election. Yet another cliché would rule this was the victory of “state-centric” policies against “structural reforms.” Or the victory of “high social spending” against a “pro-business” approach – which implies business as the privileged enemy of social equality.

Exit clichés. Enter a cherished national motto: ‘Brazil is not for beginners.’

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The Kobani riddle, by Pepe Escobar

femmes-kobane

The brave women of Kobani – where Syrian Kurds are desperately fighting ISIS/ISIL/Daesh – are about to be betrayed by the “international community”. These women warriors, apart from Caliph Ibrahim’s goons, are also fighting treacherous agendas by the US, Turkey and the administration of Iraqi Kurdistan. So what’s the real deal in Kobani?

Let’s start by talking about Rojava. The full meaning of Rojava – the three mostly Kurdish provinces of northern Syria – is conveyed in this editorial (in Turkish) published by jailed activist Kenan Kirkaya. He argues that Rojava is the home of a “revolutionary model” that no less than challenges “the hegemony of the capitalist, nation-state system” – way beyond its regional “meaning for Kurds, or for Syrians or Kurdistan.”

Ain al-Arab or Kobané is a city in northern Syria, the Syrian Kurdistan currently located on the Turkish border
Ain al-Arab or Kobané is a city in northern Syria, the Syrian Kurdistan currently located on the Turkish border

Kobani – an agricultural region – happens to be at the epicenter of this non-violent experiment in democracy, made possible by an arrangement early on during the Syrian tragedy between Damascus and Rojava (you don’t go for regime change against us, we leave you alone). Here, for instance, it’s argued that “even if only a single aspect of true socialism were able to survive there, millions of discontented people would be drawn to Kobani.”

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A Caliph in a wilderness of mirrors, by Pepe Escobar

I’m aiming at you, lover
Cause killing you is killing myself

Orson Welles (director), The Lady from Shanghai,1947

The Lady from Shanghai: Rita Hayworth (Elsa 'Rosalie' Bannister) and Everett Sloane (Arthur Bannister) in the final scene in the mirror maze, where they shoot at each other (screenshot of the edition 2014 Blu-Ray)
The Lady from Shanghai: Rita Hayworth (Elsa ‘Rosalie’ Bannister) and Everett Sloane (Arthur Bannister) in the final scene in the mirror maze, where they shoot at each other (screenshot of the edition 2014 Blu-Ray)

He’s invincible. He beheads. He smuggles. He conquers. He’s the ultimate jack-of-all-trades. No Tomahawk or Hellfire can touch him. He always gets what he wants; in Kobani; in Anbar province; with the House of Saud (which he wants to replace) trying to make Putin (who he wants to behead) suffer because of low oil prices.

If this was a remake of Orson Welles’s noir classic The Lady from Shanghai, in the mirror sequence the lawyer (American?) and the femme fatale (Shi’ite?) would also get killed; but The Caliph of Islamic State would survive as a larger than life Welles, free to roam, plunder and “give my love to the sunrise” – as in a Brave Caliphate World shining in “Syraq” over the ashes of the Sykes-Picot agreement.

He’s winning big in Iraq’s Anbar province. The Caliph’s goons are now closing in on – of all places – Abu Ghraib; Dubya, Dick and Rummy’s former Torture Central. They are at a mere 12 kilometers away from Baghdad International. A shoulder-launched surface-to-air missile (or MANPAD) away from downing a passenger jet. Certainly not an Emirates flight – after all these are trusted sponsors.

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THE ROAD GOES ON FOREVER.

pilgrim

While I was in the “realm of hungry ghosts” – a.k.a. NATOstan – and then on a Tehrani magic carpet ride, my great friend Arthur was on the road to enlightenment.

This is his pic of a Tibetan pilgrim doing a kora – sacred pilgrimage/circuambulation/prostration – around holy Mt. Kailash, in the Western Tibetan plateau. It’s 52 km. Walking, you can do it in two and a half days. For this pilgrim, it will take several weeks.

I’ve been to Tibet twice – but never made it to a kora. Arthur just performed his second, and since this is the Year of the Wooden Horse, it amounts to 12. Adding the previous one, he’s now on 13; that is, according to Hinduism, he’s been face to face with the lingam of Shiva.

Mt. Kailash is as sacred to Buddhism as to Hinduism. Arthur, a blessed soul (he took his eldest son to the kora) gave me a stone from Kailash (arguably 45 million years old); the best Tibetan incense; THE definitive guide (it had to be German) for the inner and outer Kailash pilgrimage; and made me drink the pure water of sacred Lake Manasarovar.

This means now I’m stronger than a million Tomahawks – ready to take on The Caliph and his goons and exterminate them all in a flash. Just need a magic carpet to take me to Syraq.

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Nobel

I’ll have Fredrik Heffermehl, author of The Nobel Peace Prize: What Nobel Really Wanted, have the last word, straight from Oslo:

“Malala Yousafzai is a courageous, bright and impressive person, education for girls is important and child labor a horrible problem. Worthy causes, but the committee once again makes a false pretense of loyalty to Nobel and confuses and conceals the plan for world peace that Nobel intended to support. If they had wished to be loyal to Nobel they would have stressed that Malala often has spoken out against weapons and military with a fine understanding of how ordinary people suffer from militarism. Young people see this clearer than the grown ups. She even, when she met U.S. President Obama, gave him a stern warning against drone warfare and said it only served to increase hatred and the number of terrorists.

“I do hope that Malala will stick to her early concerns of the problem of militarism. There are signs that her helpers and advisors have turned her away from the delicate issues of militarism and over to the safer issue of education. By moving her away from the Nobel idea of global disarmament she has become more palatable to the Nobel committee.

“Once again the Norwegian awarders have got it wrong. They have a person-focus not an idea-focus. Nobel’s intention was not a prize for nice people doing fine things, but for persons promoting a specific approach to world peace.”

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THE SULTAN CHANNELS LAWRENCE OF ARABIA

Lawrence

Sultan Erdogan pulled a spectacular Lawrence of Arabia yesterday in Istanbul, at Marmara University:

“Lawrence was an English spy in an Arab land. But currently, the spies are springing out from our own countries in the shape of a journalist, writer or even a terrorist. You can witness the new ‘Lawrences’ trying to set the region on fire.”

Fascinating; virtually a century after perfidious Albion spawned the 1916-18 Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire, the New Sultan is now once again denouncing the West a well as Arabs.

The Sultan also stressed the “artificially made” borders drawn by colonial Britain and France post-World War 1 are “the real cause of long-term pain and crises.”

That’s even more fascinating; he’s as stridently decrying the Skykes-Picot agreement as his rival… The Caliph!

For The Sultan, “Turkey is the only country that can provide peace in the region. Turkey is the hope of the Middle Eastern people. Turkey can remove the barriers between Middle Eastern people not by changing physical borders, but by instilling hope and trust.”

As in “Assad must go; all power to the Muslim Brotherhood; preventing any possibility of Kurdish self-determination; and getting NATO to do the dirty work.

But all of this, of course, is off the record.

The Sultan has all the motives in the world to be uneasy. It’s true that a century later, Arabs are not revolting – again – against the New Sultan. But as much as they are also pro-“Assad must go”, their not-so-hidden agenda is fundamentally intolerant and sectarian: against Iran and Shi’ism in both Iraq and Syria.

Not to mention against the Muslim Brotherhood – which they see as a mortal threat to their dictatorships.

And not to mention these GCC petrodollar Arabs are not exactly jubilant with the notion of Turkey as the dominant regional power.

So many Lawrences on the loose. Such an enticing alliance on the horizon between The Sultan and The Caliph. Where’s Peter O’Toole when we need him?

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