This is by far one of the most significant deals of our fledgling century, a world of possibilities lies ahead. The importance of what Pepe Escobar is covering here is eloquently put into frame by Tom’s excellent introduction to Pepe’s piece.
Pepe’s “Eurasian Big Bang” has all the potential to set things in motion that the very Masters of the Universe may not be able to stop. And that is what makes this the seed of actions to come for the next generations.
What Pepe is really telling us is that the vision China is showing the world is not only unparalleled (How can casino capitalism compete with vision?!) but so mesmerizing that all the beltway can do now is huff and puff as the caravan passes by.
“The purpose of meditation is to look at something deeply and see its roots”, (Thich Nhat Hanh)
Pepe does just that, sit back, make a cup of tea and enjoy this one.
The Eurasian Big Bang How China and Russia Are Running Rings Around Washington
By Pepe Escobar
Let’s start with the geopolitical Big Bang you know nothing about, the one that occurred just two weeks ago. Here are its results: from now on, any possible future attack on Iran threatened by the Pentagon (in conjunction with NATO) would essentially be an assault on the planning of an interlocking set of organizations — the BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization), the EEU (Eurasian Economic Union), the AIIB (the new Chinese-founded Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank), and the NDB (the BRICS’ New Development Bank) — whose acronyms you’re unlikely to recognize either. Still, they represent an emerging new order in Eurasia.
Tehran, Beijing, Moscow, Islamabad, and New Delhi have been actively establishing interlocking security guarantees. They have been simultaneously calling the Atlanticist bluff when it comes to the endless drumbeat of attention given to the flimsy meme of Iran’s “nuclear weapons program.” And a few days before the Vienna nuclear negotiations finally culminated in an agreement, all of this came together at a twin BRICS/SCO summit in Ufa, Russia — a place you’ve undoubtedly never heard of and a meeting that got next to no attention in the U.S. And yet sooner or later, these developments will ensure that the War Party in Washington and assorted neocons (as well as neoliberalcons) already breathing hard over the Iran deal will sweat bullets as their narratives about how the world works crumble.[Please click below to continue reading]
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action agreed to in Vienna by the P5+1 countries and Iran is clearly a landmark agreement, one which will significantly alter the political and economic balance of power in the Middle East, as well as the global strategic picture. However, amidst the chorus of celebration from many capitals around the world, and condemnations from Israel, some of the Gulf states, and certain segments in Iran, much of the geopolitical significance of the agreement has been overlooked.
From this perspective, the deal is more than simply a new chapter in Iran’s relations with the West and the world at large; it is the agreement by which Iran will transform itself from a potentially powerful, though politically and economically isolated country, to an emerging regional power that will become a linchpin of the strategies of both the western and non-western worlds. Of course, this potential benefit came at the cost of major concessions from Tehran, concessions which are in many ways difficult to justify, especially within the context of Iranian domestic politics where issues of national pride have a very real political currency and cannot necessarily be measured in rials, euros, and dollars.
However, an analysis of the impact of the deal cannot simply be relegated to what is in Iran’s immediate interests, nor those of the P5+1 countries, but rather must take into account the long-term strategic imperatives of each. Moreover, the emerging non-western alliance of BRICS, Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), New Silk Road, and Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) broadly speaking, factor significantly into this deal. So too does Turkey, both an important trading partner for Iran, but also a political adversary.
Seen in this way, the agreement reached in Vienna is a watershed in early 21st Century geopolitics and economic development, one which will have vast implications for years, and perhaps decades, to come.
For the week of July 6-10, the city of Ufa, Russia will have been at the center of the world, or more particularly the very center of the emerging multipolar world order.
Russia, with host and presidency duties of the annual heads of state’s summits of both BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) and the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization), has taken advantage of the opportunity to hold both summits in concert.
The occasion is also being used to hold a meeting of the heads of the newly formed EAEU (Eurasian Economic Union). This is no coincidence or mere convenience – this is a definitive statement about world order and international relations.
Ufa was surely chosen by Russia for two reasons beyond simply pumping needed infrastructure money into the city. First, Ufa, as the capital of the Islamic majority Bashkortostan Republic will highlight the summits’ – and Russia’s multi-confessional – character.
Second, Ufa’s location in central Russia on the verge of the Urals – also stresses Russia’ enormous size, bridging both the West and the East.
This is it. It is indeed historic. And diplomacy eventually wins. In terms of the New Great Game in Eurasia, and the ongoing tectonic shifts reorganizing Eurasia, this is huge: Iran — supported by Russia and China — has finally, successfully, called the long, winding 12-year-long Atlanticist bluff on its “nuclear weapons.”
And this only happened because the Obama administration needed 1) a lone foreign policy success, and 2) a go at trying to influence at least laterally the onset of the new Eurasia-centered geopolitical order.
So here it is – the 159-page, as detailed as possible, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA); the actual P5+1/Iran nuclear deal. As Iranian diplomats have stressed, the JCPOA will be presented to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), which will then adopt a resolution within 7 to 10 days making it an official international document.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has described the deal — significantly — as a very Chinese “win-win” solution. But not perfect; “I believe this is a historic moment. We are reaching an agreement that is not perfect for anybody but is what we could accomplish. Today could have been the end of hope, but now we are starting a new chapter of hope.”
Zarif also had to stress — correctly — this was a long-sought solution for an “unnecessary crisis”; the politicization — essentially by the US — of a scientific, technical dossier.
Germany’s Foreign Minister Steinmeier, for his part, was euphoric; “A historic day! We leave 35 years of speechlessness + more than 12 years of a dangerous conflict behind us.”
Looking ahead, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani tweeted now there can be “a focus on shared challenges” – referring to the real fight that NATO, and Iran, should pursue together; against the fake Caliphate of ISIS/ISIL/Daesh, whose ideological matrix is intolerant Wahhabism and whose attacks are directed against both Shi’ites and westerners.
Right on cue, Russian President Vladimir Putin stressed the deal will contribute to fighting terrorism in the Middle East, not to mention “assisting in strengthening global and regional security, global nuclear non-proliferation” and — perhaps wishful thinking? — “the creation in the Middle East of a zone free from weapons of mass destruction.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stressed the deal “fully corresponds” with Russia’s negotiating points. The fact is no deal would have been possible without extensive Russian involvement — and the Obama administration knows it (but cannot admit it publicly).
The real problem started when Lavrov added that Moscow expects the cancellation of Washington’s missile defense plans, after the Iran deal proves that Tehran is not, and won’t be, a nuclear “threat.”
There’s the rub. The Pentagon simply won’t cancel an essential part of its Full Spectrum Dominance military doctrine simply because of mere “diplomacy.” Every security analyst not blinded by ideology knows that missile defense was never about Iran, but about Russia. The Pentagon’s new military review still states — not by accident — major Eurasian players Iran, China and Russia as “threats” to U.S. national security.
Now from the brighter side on Iran-Russia relations. Trade is bound to increase, especially in nanotechnology, machinery parts and agriculture. And on the all-pervasive energy front, Iran will indeed compete with Russia in major markets such as Turkey and soon Western Europe, but there’s plenty of leeway for Gazprom and the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) to coordinate their market share. NIOC executive Mohsen Qamsari advances that Iran will prioritize exporting to Asia, and will try to regain the at least 42% of the European market share that it had before sanctions.
Compared to so many uplifting perspectives, Washington’s reaction was quite pedestrian. US President Barack Obama preferred to stress — correctly — that every pathway to an Iranian nuclear weapon has been cut off. And he vowed to veto any legislation in the US Congress that blocks the deal. When I was in Vienna last week I had surefire confirmation — from a European source — that the Obama administration feels confident it has the votes it needs in Capitol Hill.
And what about all that oil?
Tariq Rauf, former Head of Verification and Security Policy at the IAEA and currently Director of the Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Program at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), hailed the deal as “the most significant multilateral nuclear agreement in two decades – the last such agreement was the 1996 nuclear test ban treaty.” Rauf even advanced that the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize should go to US Secretary of State Jon Kerry and Iran’s Foreign Minister Zarif.
Rebuilding trust between the US and Iran, though, will be a long and winding road.
Tehran agreed to a 15-year moratorium on enriching uranium beyond 3.67 percent; this means it has agreed to reduce its enrichment capacity by two-thirds. Only Natanz will conduct enrichment; and Fordo, additionally, won’t store fissile material.
Iran agreed to store no more than 300 kg of low-enriched uranium — a 96% reduction compared to current levels. The Arak reactor will be reconfigured, and won’t be used to produce plutonium. The spent fuel will be handled by an international team.
The IAEA and Iran signed a roadmap in Tehran also this Tuesday; that was already decided last week in Vienna. By December 15, all past and present outstanding issues — that amount to 12 items — should be clarified, and the IAEA will deliver a final assessment. IAEA access to the Parchin military site — always a very contentious issue — is part of a separate arrangement.
One of the major sticking points these last few days in Vienna was solved — with Tehran allowing UN inspectors to visit virtually any site. But it may object to a particular visit. A Joint Commission — the P5+1 + Iran — will be able to override any objections with a simple majority vote. After that Iran has three days to comply — in case it loses the vote. There won’t be American inspectors — shades of the run-up towards the war on Iraq; only from countries with diplomatic relations with Iran.
So implementation of the deal will take at least the next five months. Sanctions will be lifted only by early 2016.
What’s certain is that Iran will become a magnet for foreign investment. Major western and Asian multinationals are already positioned to start cracking this practically virgin market with over 70 million people, including a very well educated middle class. There will be a boom in sectors such as consumer electronics, the auto industry and hospitality and leisure.
And then there’s, once again, oil. Iran has as much as a whopping 50 million barrels of oil stored at sea — and that’s about ready to hit the global market. The purchaser of choice will be, inevitably, China — as the West remains mired in recession. Iran’s first order of work is to regain lost market share to Persian Gulf producers. Yet the trend is for oil prices to go down – so Iran cannot count on much profit in the short to medium term.
Now for a real war on terror?
The conventional arms embargo on Iran essentially stays, for five years. That’s absurd, compared to Israel and the House of Saud arming themselves to their teeth.
Last May the US Congress approved a $1.9 billion arms sale to Israel. That includes 50 BLU-113 bunker-buster bombs — to do what? Bomb Natanz? — and 3,000 Hellfire missiles. As for Saudi Arabia, according to SIPRI, the House of Saud spent a whopping $80 billion on weapons last year; more than nuclear powers France or Britain. The House of Saud is waging an — illegal — war on Yemen.
Qatar is not far behind. It clinched an $11 billion deal to buy Apache helicopters and Javelin and Patriot air defense systems, and is bound to buy loads of F-15 fighters.
Trita Parsi, president of the National American-Iranian Council, went straight to the point; “Saudi Arabia spends 13 times more money on its defense than Iran does. But somehow Iran, and not Saudi Arabia, is seen by the US as the potential aggressor.”
So, whatever happens, expect tough days ahead. Two weeks ago, Foreign Minister Zarif told a small group of independent journalists in Vienna, including this correspondent, that the negotiations would be a success because the US and Iran had agreed on “no humiliation of one another.” He stressed he paid “a high domestic price for not blaming the Americans,” and he praised Kerry as “a reasonable man.” But he was wary of the US establishment, which to a great extent, according to his best information, was dead set against the lifting of sanctions.
Zarif also praised the Russian idea that after a deal, it will be time to form a real counter-terrorism coalition, featuring Americans, Iranians, Russians, Chinese and Europeans — even as Putin and Obama had agreed to work together on “regional issues.” And Iranian diplomacy was giving signs that the Obama administration had finally understood that the alternative to Assad in Syria was ISIS/ISIL/Daesh, not the “Free” Syrian Army.
That degree of collaboration, post-Wall of Mistrust, remains to be seen. Then it will be possible to clearly evaluate whether the Obama administration has made a major strategic decision, and whether “normalizing” its relation with Iran involves much more than meets the eye.
(Copyright 2015 Asia Times Holdings Limited, a duly registered Hong Kong company. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)
Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for Asia Times, an analyst for RT and Sputnik, and a Sputnik regular. His latest book is Empire of Chaos. Follow him on Facebook by clicking here.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Oceania Saker.
VIENNA – As the Iran-P5+1 negotiation hit the crucial stage on Monday night, and the technical teams pushed for a clean text to be released on Tuesday – albeit unsuccessfully – the top sticking point turned out to be the conventional arms embargo imposed on Iran by the UNSC, a senior European diplomat told Asia Times.
BRICS members Russia and China had a coordinated position; “yes” to the end of the embargo. The US and the UK voted “no.” And, crucially, France was wavering.
If this was a decision solely in the hands of French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, the vote would be “no.” But arguably if the final decision rests with President Francois Hollande, it would be a “yes.” There is nothing the French weapons industry would like better than to add Tehran to its still meager list of customers for Rafales and Mistrals.
Turning to the Big Picture, Iranian diplomats were stressing that, “all nuclear-related sanctions should be removed. That was agreed upon in Lausanne.” This means the conventional arms embargo – imposed by the UN in 2007, and tied up in the nuclear sanctions – should also go.
So what was reported by Asia Times early this week continued to apply; there are severe cracks within the P5+1 on several key issues — thus their need to spend more time negotiating amongst themselves than with Iran.
That’s the key reason for a new deadline extension — to Thursday, July 9. And even that may not be the end of the road.
VIENNA – The decision mechanism at the UN Security Council (UNSC) is the main sticking point preventing a nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 being reached this Tuesday, a top Iranian official told Asia Times.
This is directly related to “the credibility of the UNSC at stake,” after “so many imposed resolutions” considered as unjust and illegal by Tehran.
Iranian diplomats insist on a “fundamental shift” at the UNSC; “The Iranian file should not have been sent to the UNSC in the first place,” says another official. And here Iranian diplomats open a complex discussion on two fronts; the politicization of the IAEA, and the UNSC being used to arbitrate on an eminently technical dossier.
So it’s no wonder that for Iran, the removal of past UN resolutions is considered “only as a starting point.”
Iran has floated the idea of a UN resolution revoking all previous sanctions immediately after the announcement of a deal in Vienna. Iranian negotiator Abbas Araghchi had advanced on Iranian TV the idea that a deal — including the annexes — could be endorsed by the UNSC as early as this week.
That’s extremely unlikely; the US Senate would go ballistic — as in US sovereignty being seriously compromised. This does not prevent the fact that the extremely sensitive text of a UN resolution erasing all previous sanctions is being discussed at the negotiating table in Vienna.