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Pakistan’s PM Nawaz Sharif resigns in blow for Russia and China relations

Nawaz Sharif was not a perfect leader, but his recent foreign policy moves have been incredibly beneficial to Pakistan’s growing multi-polar, geo-political and commercial strengths. While some who decried Pakistan’s growing relations with China and Pakistan’s new friendship with Russia will be celebrating today, this celebration may prove to be short lived.

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Pakistan’s long serving Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has resigned after the Supreme Court in Islamabad ruled to disqualify him from public office over alleged corruption relating to a Panamanian tax shelter.

Sharif has long been a household name in Pakistan holding the powerful office of Prime Minister between 1990-1993, then again between 1997-1999 and most recent between 2013 up to his present resignation in the summer of 2017.

Sharif lived in exile in Saudi Arabia between 2000 and 2007 after being ousted by strongman President Pervez Musharraf, before returning to Pakistan where he re-assumed his role as leader of the opposition party PML-N (Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz).

His close relationship with Saudi Arabia had always been a matter of both intrigue and consternation to many,  but his final (at this time) term as Prime Minister witnessed some peculiar developments that showed a shift in Sharif’s previously predictably Saudi friendly policies.

The most important development of Sharif’s last term in power and undoubtedly the most important achievement for Pakistan as a whole in that time was the creation of the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The CPEC is a project integral to China’s One Belt–One Road project which seeks to modernise Pakistan’s trade and logistics infrastructure in order to make the movement of goods across the China/Pakistan border more efficient as well as expanding the capacity of goods which will flow across the border. Furthermore, Pakistan continues to develop ever closer military ties with China.  This has all happened during the most recent term of Sharif’s time in power.

As India continues to prove somewhat reluctant under Prime Minister Modi to engage in transparent cooperation with China on the One Belt–One Road project, the importance of the CPEC has if anything been greatly magnified.

Pakistan along with India both joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) this year, in a move which has drawn Islamabad closer to its traditional Chinese partner as well as being emblematic of Islamabad–Moscow relations being at an all time high.

Whilst during the Cold War, India was Russia’s undisputed number one South Asian ally, while India and Russia retain historic ties, Russia’s modern multi-polar foreign policy has seen relations with Pakistan accelerate at a healthy pace. This has all happened during what one could call Nawaz Sharif’s ‘Indian summer’ if one would pardon the term which is ironic in the context of Pakistan.

Throughout this period Sharif tried his best to mend fences with India over the long running Kashmir dispute. The fact that relations with New Delhi ended up deteriorating over this issue can largely be attributed to India’s position in this specific context.

Throughout all of this period, Pakistan retained its good relations with Saudi Arabia while relations with Iran appeared to improve. Pakistan–Iran cooperation is crucially a key component of the One Belt–One Road initiative, whilst the same cannot be said for Pakistan–Saudi cooperation.

And herein lies the rub. Saudi Arabia has grown increasingly displeased with its traditionally close ally because Sharif has opened Pakistan up to fully-fledged multi-polarity. At this point it is fair to say that while strengthening traditional bonds with China, opening up new opportunities to China’s biggest ally Russia, improving relations with Iran while retaining other old alliances in the Arab and western world, Pakistan’s foreign policy multi-polarity, something which could also be called increasing foreign policy independence, has deeply frightened Saudi Arabia whose exclusive position in Sharif’s political world has not so much been threatened as it has been distracted by lucrative future opportunities.

Things got worse in respect of Saudi-Pakistan relations over the last several years when Sharif declined to send Pakistani troops to aid Saudi in its aggressive position in Yemen and furthermore, Pakistan has refused to sever ties with Qatar as Saudi wanted Islamabad to do.

While the Saudis see this as a ‘pro-Iran betrayal’, the reality is that Sharif wanted to keep Pakistan’s options open and this displeased Saudi which at a cultural level is known to look down upon South Asians.

In spite of his considerable foreign policy and commerce related achievements in his final term, Sharif was certainly a flawed politician, but increasingly, the Supreme Court ruling which has led to his resignation appears to be an act of vengeance for a politician who was if anything too successful. Certainly Sharif was omnipresent, something which was a source of consternation even to those who otherwise supported or benefited from his multi-polar foreign policy moves.

While it cannot be said that Saudi and its western allies had a direct hand in forcing Sharif’s resignation, there will be many people happy in Riyadh today, not least because his successor who is most likely to be pulled from the same Pakistan Muslim League party, may not have as ambitious foreign policy goals for Pakistan as Sharif ended up having.

That being said, as geo-political expert Andrew Korybko points out, the happiness in places like Saudi may be short lived. He states,

“In order to distract the masses from this politically unpopular fact, some of the Prime Minister’s proponents have taken the disingenuous approach of fear mongering that the Pakistani leader’s removal from office will somehow lead to the disruption of the game-changing CPEC project, pointing out how he symbolically presided over the state ever since the crucial time of this initiative’s announcement and thus speculating that this makes him some kind of irreplaceable figure whose political future is inextricably linked with that of CPEC’s. As their unsubstantiated and groundless “logic” goes, Sharif’s disqualification would therefore somehow also disqualify CPEC and negatively impact on its future prospects. Nothing could be further from the truth, since CPEC isn’t about one man, nor about one country, but about constructing the Zipper of Pan-Eurasian Integration and catalyzing the Convergence of Civilizations in order to build the emerging Multipolar World Order.

To suggest that Sharif is, or ever has been, the cornerstone of this globally transformative project is to either deliberately mislead the masses or display unthinkable ignorance about CPEC”.

While objectively it is true that in 2017 Pakistan’s internal and external politics are not dependent on the fate of one man (whoever big a figure this man is), the fact that Sharif was the captain of the ship that was clearly sailing towards multi-polarity which necessarily meant a less dependant relationship on Saudi money and US geo-political influence, many will still see the resignation as a worrying sign in respect of Pakistan’s foreign policy independence. It is now up to Pakistan to prove both internal and external detractors wrong. When the choice is between the open road, in this case the open Silk Road and an old stagnant relationship with Saudi, objectivity ought to outweigh both fear and cynicism.

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John Mason
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John Mason

Has the smell of US influence to get rid of the PM.

Guy
Member
Guy

Sure does John.They have their noses into everyone’s affairs and use their influence /bullying to get compliance . The story is getting old .

IanSeed
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IanSeed

Doesn’t he look a bit like Del Boy circa 1985 ?

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Russian Il-20 downed by Syrian missile. Russia blames Israel. Israel blames Syria (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 110.

Alex Christoforou

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The unthinkable has happened in Syria.

The world now teeters on the brink of all out war in Syria as a Russian Il-20 was downed by Syrian missile after Israeli F-16s used it as cover during attack, according to statements made by the Russian Ministry of Defense.

President Vladimir Putin, answering a reporter’s question during a press conference with Hungarian PM Viktor Orban, said the downing of the Russian Il-20 plane looks like “a chain of tragic circumstances.” 

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the tripwire triggered that has the potential to tip the fragile balance in Syria towards conflict between Russia, Iran and Israel.

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The Russian military says an Israeli raid on Syria triggered a chain of events that led to its Il-20 plane being shot down by a Syrian S-200 surface-to-air missile. Moscow reserves the right to respond accordingly.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said…

“Israel did not warn the command of the Russian troops in Syria about the planned operation. We received a notification via a hotline less than a minute before the strike, which did not allow the Russian aircraft to be directed to a safe zone.”

The statement by the Russian Defense Ministry said that four Israeli F-16 fighter jets attacked targets in Syria’s Latakia after approaching from the Mediterranean.

The Israeli warplanes approached at a low altitude and “created a dangerous situation for other aircraft and vessels in the region.”

The statement further said that 15 Russian military service members have died as a result…

“The Israeli pilots used the Russian plane as cover and set it up to be targeted by the Syrian air defense forces. As a consequence, the Il-20, which has radar cross-section much larger than the F-16, was shot down by an S-200 system missile.”

According to reports from RT, the Russian military said that the French Navy’s frigate ‘Auvergne,’ as well as a Russian Il-20 plane were in the area during the Israeli operation.

Map of the incident on September 17 in Syria provided by the Russian defense ministry.

The Russian ministry said the Israelis must have known that the Russian plane was present in the area, but this did not stop them from executing “the provocation.” Israel also failed to warn Russia about the planned operation in advance. The warning came just a minute before the attack started, which “did not leave time to move the Russian plane to a safe area,”the statement said.

The statement gives a larger death toll than earlier reports by the Russian military, which said there were 14 crew members on board the missing Il-20. It said a search and rescue operation for the shot-down plane is underway.

A later update said debris from the downed plane was found some 27km off the Latakia coast. The search party collected some body parts, personal possessions of the crew, and fragments of the plane.

Meanwhile Israel has come out to blame the Syrian government for the downing of the military plane, according to an IDF statement.

Israel said that it “expresses sorrow for the death of the aircrew members” of the Russian plane. However, it stated that the government of Bashar Assad “whose military shot down the Russian plane,” is “fully responsible” for the incident.

Israel further blamed Iran and Hezbollah for the incident.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) explained that its jets were targeting a Syrian facility “from which systems to manufacture accurate and lethal weapons were about to be transferred on behalf of Iran to Hezbollah in Lebanon.”

Israel claimed that the weapons were “meant to attack Israel.”

Via RT

The IDF assumed that the Syrian anti-air batteries “fired indiscriminately” and didn’t “bother to ensure that no Russian planes were in the air.” The Israelis said that when the Syrian military launched the missiles which hit the Russian plane, its own jets were already within Israeli airspace. “During the strike against the target in Latakia, the Russian plane that was then hit was not within the area of the operation.”

According to the Israeli military, both IDF and Russia have “a deconfliction system,” which was agreed upon by the leadership of both states, and “has proven itself many times over recent years.” The system was in use when the incident happened, the IDF stated. The IDF promised to share “all the relevant information” with Russia “to review the incident and to confirm the facts in this inquiry.”

The military presented a four-point initial inquiry into events in Latakia. It insisted that “extensive and inaccurate” Syrian anti-aircraft fire caused the Russian jet “to be hit and downed.”

The Russian Il-20 aircraft, with 15 crew on board, went off radar during an attack by four Israeli jets on Syria’s Latakia province late Monday. Later on Tuesday the Russian Defense Ministry said that an Israeli raid on Syria triggered a chain of events that led to its plane being shot down by a Syrian S-200 surface-to-air missile.

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Trump Orders Immediate Release Of All Text Messages, Carter Page FISA Application From Russia Investigation

Trump has ordered the DOJ to release all text messages related to the Russia investigation with no redactions.

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Via Zerohedge

President Trump has ordered the Department of Justice to release all text messages related to the Russia investigation with no redactions, of former FBI Director James Comey, his deputy Andrew McCabe, now-fired special agent Peter Strzok, former FBI attorney Lisa Page and twice-demoted DOJ official Bruce Ohr.

Also released will be specific pages from the FBI’s FISA surveillance warrant application on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page, as well as interviews with Ohr.

The statement reads in full:

“At the request of a number of committees of Congress, and for reasons of transparency, the President has directed the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Justice (including the FBI) to provide for the immediate declassification of the following materials: (1) pages 10-12 and 17-34 of the June 2017 application to the FISA court in the matter of Carter W. Page; (2) all FBI reports of interviews with Bruce G. Ohr prepared in connection with the Russia investigation; and (3) all FBI reports of interviews prepared in connection with all Carter Page FISA applications.

In addition, President Donald J. Trump has directed the Department of Justice (including the FBI) to publicly release all text messages relating to the Russia investigation, without redaction, of James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, and Bruce Ohr

***

As we reported last Monday, Trump had been expected to release the documents any time – with specific attention to the Page documents and the “investigative activities of Justice Department lawyer Bruce Ohr” – who was demoted twice for lying about his extensive relationship  with Christopher Steele – the former MI6 spy who assembled the sham “Steele Dossier” used by the FBI in a FISA surveillance application to spy on Page.

Republicans on the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees believe the declassification will permanently taint the Trump-Russia investigation by showing the investigation was illegitimate to begin with. Trump has been hammering the same theme for months.

  • They allege that Bruce Ohr played an improper intermediary role between the Justice Department, British spy Christopher Steele and Fusion GPS — the opposition research firm that produced the Trump-Russia dossier, funded by Democrats. (Ohr’s wife, Nellie, worked for Fusion GPS on Russia-related matters during the presidential election — a fact that Ohr did not disclose on federal forms.)
  • And they further allege that the Obama administration improperly spied on Carter Page — all to take down Trump. –Axios

Ohr, meanwhile, met with Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska in 2015 to discuss helping the FBI with organized crime investigations, according to The Hill‘s John Solomon. The meeting with the Putin ally was facilitated by Steele.

Last month Trump called Ohr a disgrace, while also tweeting: “Will Bruce Ohr, whose family received big money for helping to create the phony, dirty and discredited Dossier, ever be fired from the Jeff Sessions  “Justice” Department? A total joke!”

Trump’s threat came one day after two tweets about Ohr, noting a connection to former FBI agent Peter Strzok, as well as a text sent by Ohr after former FBI Director James Comey was fired in which Ohr says “afraid they will be exposed.”

According to emails turned over to Congressional investigators in August, Christopher Steele was much closer to Bruce Ohr and his wife Nellie than previously disclosed.

Steele and the Ohrs would have breakfast together on July 30, 2016 at the Mayflower Hotel in downtown Washington D.C., days after Steele turned in installments of his infamous “dossier” on July 19 and 26. The breakfast also occurred one day before the FBI formally launched operation “Crossfire Hurricane,” the agency’s counterintelligence operation into the Trump campaign.

“Great to see you and Nellie this morning Bruce,” Steele wrote shortly following their breakfast meeting. “Let’s keep in touch on the substantive issues/s (sic). Glenn is happy to speak to you on this if it would help.”

“After two years of investigations and accusations from both sides of the aisle about what documents indicate, it is past time for documents to be declassified and let the American people decide for themselves if DoJ and FBI acted properly,” Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows told Axios earlier Sunday.

In early August, journalist Paul Sperry tweeted that Trump may use his presidential authority to declassify “20 redacted pages of a June, 2017 FISA renewal, “and possibly” 63 pages of emails and notes between “Ohr & Steele,” and FD-302 summaries of 12 interviews.”

President Trump threatened to declassify documents two weeks ago – one day after the New York Times allegedly published an anonymous Op-Ed claiming to be from a White House official claiming to be part of an unelected “resistance” cabal within the Trump administration.

“The Deep State and the Left, and their vehicle, the Fake News Media, are going Crazy – & they don’t know what to do,” Trump tweeted earlier this month, adding: “The Economy is booming like never before, Jobs are at Historic Highs, soon TWO Supreme Court Justices & maybe Declassification to find Additional Corruption. Wow!”

Trump’s threat comes as calls by frustrated GOP legislators to release the documents have hit a fevered pitch. Spearheading the effort are Republican Reps. Meadows, Jim Jordan, Matt Gaetz and Lee Zeldin – who have repeatedly asked Trump to declassify more of the heavily redacted FISA surveillance warrant on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page in late 2016.

In June, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee asked President Trump to declassify key sections of Carter Page’s FISA warrant application, according to a letter obtained by Fox News.

Carter Page, the DOJ/FBI’s person of interest, weighed in on the matter in late August, tweeting: “The Corrupt DOJ, co-conspirators in the DNC and their high-priced consultants correctly believed they had American democracy and the FISA Court over a barrel in 2016.”

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De-Dollarization Tops Agenda at Russia’s Eastern Economic Forum

The Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) was held in Vladivostok on Sept.11-13. Founded in 2015, the event has become a platform for planning and launching projects to strengthen business ties in the Asia-Pacific region.

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Via Strategic Culture

This year, the EEF brought together delegations from over 60 countries to discuss the topic “The Far East: Expanding the Range of Possibilities”. A total of 100 business events involving over 6,000 participants were held during the three days.

1,357 media personnel worked to cover the forum. Last year, the number of participants was 5,000 with 1,000 media persons involved in reporting and broadcasting. The EEF-18 gathered 340 foreign and 383 Russian CEOs. Nearly 80 start-ups from across South-East Asia joined the meeting.

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This year, a total of 175 agreements worth of 2.9 trillion rubles (some $4.3 billion) were signed. For comparison, the sum was 2.5 trillion rubles (roughly $3.7 billion) in 2017.

They included the development of the Baimsky ore deposits in Chukotka, the construction of a terminal for Novatek LNG at Bechevinskaya Bay in Kamchatka and the investment of Asian countries in Russia’s agricultural projects in the Far East.

Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), Mail.Ru Group, Megafon and Chinese Alibaba inked an agreement on establishing AliExpress trade joint venture. Rosneft and Chinese CNPC signed an oil exploration agreement.

The Chinese delegation was the largest (1,096 people), followed by the Japanese (570 members). The list of guests included the president of Mongolia and prime ministers of Japan and South Korea.

It was also the first time Chinese President Xi Jinping attended the event to meet his Russian counterpart. The issue of de-dollarization topped the agenda. Russia and China reaffirmed their interest in expanding the use of national currencies in bilateral deals.

During the forum, Kirill Dmitriev, the head of RDIF, said the fund intends to use only national currencies in its transactions with China starting from 2019. It will cooperate with the China Development Bank.

This “yuanification” is making visible progress with Shanghai crude futures increasing their share of oil markets up to 14 percent or even more. China has signed agreements with Canada and Qatar on national currencies exchange.

READ MORE: Eastern Economic Forum opens new chapter in US-Russia dialogue

De-dollarization is a trend that is picking up momentum across the world. A growing number of countries are interested in replacing the dollar. Russia is leading the race to protect itself from fluctuations, storms and US-waged trade wars and sanctions.

Moscow backs non-dollar trade with Ankara amid the ongoing lira crisis. Turkey is switching from the dollar to settlements in national currencies, including its trade with China and other countries. Ditching the US dollar is the issue topping the BRICS agenda. In April, Iran transferred all international payments to the euro.

The voices calling for de-dollarization are getting louder among America’s closest European allies. In August, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called for the creation of a new payments system independent of the US.

According to him, Europe should not allow the United States to act “over our heads and at our expense.” The official wants to strengthen European autonomy by establishing independent payment channels, creating a European Monetary Fund and building up an independent SWIFT system.

Presenting his annual program, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called on Sept. 12 for the European Union to promote the euro as a global currency to challenge the dollar.

According to him, “We must do more to allow our single currency to play its full role on the international scene.” Mr. Juncker believes “it is absurd that Europe pays for 80 percent of its energy import bill – worth 300 billion euros a year – in US dollars when only roughly 2 percent of our energy imports come from the United States.” He wants the raft of proposals made in his state of the union address to start being implemented before the European Parliament elections in May.

70% of all world trade transactions account for the dollar, while 20% are  settled in the euro, and the rest falls on the yuan and other Asian currencies. The dollar value is high to make the prices of consumer goods in the US artificially low. The demand for dollars allows refinancing the huge debt at low interest rates. The US policy of trade wars and sanctions has triggered the global process of de-dollarization.

Using punitive measures as a foreign policy tool is like shooting oneself in the foot. It prompts a backlash to undermine the dollar’s status as the world reserve currency – the basis of the US economic might. The aggressive policy undermines the US world standing to make it weaker, not stronger.

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