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Trump and Tillerson: bomb the Taliban to the negotiating table

The latest US plan for Afghanistan: increase the violence in order to end it

Alexander Mercouris

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Following the lengthy discussions in Camp David which I discussed in my previous article, US President Trump and Secretary of State Tillerson published on Monday separate statements about the war in Afghanistan.

The focus of attention, understandably enough, has been on President Trump’s statement, though it is Secretary of State Tillerson’s statement and his subsequent answers to the media which is actually more interesting.

Firstly, there is a clear difference between Trump and Tillerson.  Though after lengthy discussions a consensus has clearly been reached, there is no disguising the difference in their views both about the course of the war and about the role of the Taliban in a future Afghanistan.

Trump’s emphasis is heavily on military measures, and though contrary to expectations he did not announce a specific increase in troop numbers, he spoke clearly in terms of achieving victory

First, our nation must seek an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the tremendous sacrifices that have been made, especially the sacrifices of lives.  The men and women who serve our nation in combat deserve a plan for victory.  They deserve the tools they need, and the trust they have earned, to fight and to win……

Our troops will fight to win.  We will fight to win.  From now on, victory will have a clear definition:  attacking our enemies, obliterating ISIS, crushing al Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan, and stopping mass terror attacks against America before they emerge……

Many of those who have fought and died in Afghanistan enlisted in the months after September 11th, 2001.  They volunteered for a simple reason:  They loved America, and they were determined to protect her.

Now we must secure the cause for which they gave their lives.  We must unite to defend America from its enemies abroad.  We must restore the bonds of loyalty among our citizens at home, and we must achieve an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the enormous price that so many have paid.

Our actions, and in the months to come, all of them will honor the sacrifice of every fallen hero, every family who lost a loved one, and every wounded warrior who shed their blood in defense of our great nation.  With our resolve, we will ensure that your service and that your families will bring about the defeat of our enemies and the arrival of peace.

We will push onward to victory with power in our hearts, courage in our souls, and everlasting pride in each and every one of you.

(bold italics added)

In contrast to all this fighting talk from Trump, Tillerson frankly admits that military victory is unachievable

I think the President was clear this entire effort is intended to put pressure on the Taliban to have the Taliban understand: You will not win a battlefield victory. We may not win one, but neither will you.

(bold italics added)

Both Trump and Tillerson say they favour a political solution to the Afghan war, but there is a clear difference in how they expect to achieve it.

Tillerson’s idea is that peace will come through a peace settlement negotiated with the Taliban after the Taliban have been convinced that they cannot win

I think the President was clear this entire effort is intended to put pressure on the Taliban to have the Taliban understand: You will not win a battlefield victory. We may not win one, but neither will you. And so at some point we have to come to the negotiating table and find a way to bring this to an end……

When we say no preconditions on the talks, I think what we are saying is, look, the Government of Afghanistan and the Taliban representatives need to sit down and sort this out. It’s not for the U.S. to tell them it must be this particular model, it must be under these conditions, and I think that’s what the President means when he says we’re no longer nation building. We’re – look, we’ve tried taking certain principles and forms around the world and sometimes it works; in a lot of places, it doesn’t work.

We don’t know what’s going to emerge here. We’re going to be there, obviously, to encourage others. But it’s going to be up to the Afghan Government and the representatives of the Taliban to work through a reconciliation process of what will serve their needs and achieve the American people’s objectives, which is security – no safe haven for terrorists to operate anywhere in Afghanistan now or in the future.

(bold italics added)

Trump by contrast sees the war ending differently, with Afghanistan regenerating itself and achieving peace and stability under US protection

In this struggle, the heaviest burden will continue to be borne by the good people of Afghanistan and their courageous armed forces.  As the prime minister of Afghanistan has promised, we are going to participate in economic development to help defray the cost of this war to us.

Afghanistan is fighting to defend and secure their country against the same enemies who threaten us.  The stronger the Afghan security forces become, the less we will have to do.  Afghans will secure and build their own nation and define their own future.  We want them to succeed…..

Military power alone will not bring peace to Afghanistan or stop the terrorist threat arising in that country.  But strategically applied force aims to create the conditions for a political process to achieve a lasting peace.

Unlike Tillerson, whilst Trump is prepared to countenance talks with the Taliban, he does so with no expectations and little conviction

Someday, after an effective military effort, perhaps it will be possible to have a political settlement that includes elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan, but nobody knows if or when that will ever happen.  America will continue its support for the Afghan government and the Afghan military as they confront the Taliban in the field.

(Bold italics added)

Note that this does no envisage a settlement with the Taliban as a whole – which is what Tillerson clearly wants and expects – but with ‘moderate’ elements which can be hived off from it.

On one point Trump and Tillerson both agree: huge extra pressure will be brought to bear on Pakistan to close down the Taliban’s base areas and supply lines.  Moreover in order to achieve this both Trump and Tillerson are willing to scare Pakistan by conjuring up the spectre of Indian intervention in Afghanistan in support of the US backed government there.

I think those who say that Trump and Tillerson are oblivious to Pakistani sensitivity about Indian intervention in Afghanistan are completely wrong.  This is clearly a carefully thought out strategy discussed at length at Camp David by the entire US leadership of pressuring Pakistan by using India to scare it.

However though the strategy is thought out it could not in my opinion be more wrong.

Anyone familiar with the present public mood in Pakistan knows that public opinion in this once staunchly pro-American country has been completely alienated over the last 40 years as a result of the way Pakistan’s interests have been repeatedly sacrificed as the US pursues its own constantly fluctuating objectives in Afghanistan at Pakistan’s expense.

US pressure on Pakistan to crack down on the Taliban in Pakistan is certain to encounter strong resistance, and if it leads to a crackdown it could easily spiral into violence.

That ought to be a major concern.  It is not so long ago that a US inspired crackdown in Pakistan during the period of the George W. Bush administration provoked so much resistance that Pakistan’s stability appeared to be threatened.  Given that Pakistan is a nuclear power avoiding that happening again ought to be a priority.  Trump and Tillerson and presumably the rest of the US leadership however seem either indifferent or oblivious to the danger.

As for using Pakistan’s fear of India to try to gain leverage over Pakistan, given the level of regional tension in the Indian subcontinent it is difficult to imagine anything more reckless.

Not only will Pakistan be made to feel that the US and India are ganging up against it – with the feeling of betrayal being especially acute given that Pakistan consistently sided with the US against the USSR and India often at considerable cost to itself during the Cold War – but the almost inevitable reaction within Pakistan will be to intensify opposition to a US policy in Afghanistan which favours India over Pakistan.

As for India, whilst no doubt for a while it will play along, Indian opinion – which is both well-informed and highly sophisticated – will have no difficulty seeing that India is being used, and will in time come to resent the fact.

The end result will be to increase regional tensions in the Indian subcontinent over and above their already dangerously high levels, something which given how India and Pakistan feel about each other and given that they are both nuclear powers, is extraordinarily unwise and absolutely not in the US’s best interests.

Perhaps the often spoken of fear of an Indian-Pakistani nuclear war breaking out is exaggerated, but in so tense a region the proper policy ought to be to try to calm regional tensions down, not to make them worse.  Making them worse however seems to be what the US has decided to do.

In truth the only sensible policy for the US to follow is to negotiate with the Taliban without preconditions, with the objective being to achieve an orderly transfer of power to a broad based government capable of peace to Afghanistan, which means one in which the Taliban has the predominant role.

That is the logic of Tillerson’s statement that the US is “unable to win” in Afghanistan.

Obviously the Taliban cannot defeat the US militarily.  However it does not have to.  Henry Kissinger made precisely this point about the conflict in Vietnam in the 1960s, and – following through the logic of Tillerson’s statement – it applies exactly to the war against the Taliban which is being fought in Afghanistan now

We fought a military war; our opponents fought a political one. We sought physical attrition; our opponents aimed for our psychological exhaustion. In the process we lost sight of one of the cardinal maxims of guerrilla war: the guerrilla wins if he does not lose. The conventional army loses if it does not win. The North Vietnamese used their armed forces the way a bull-fighter uses his cape — to keep us lunging in areas of marginal political importance

(bold italics added)

The military escalation President Trump has announced and which Secretary of State Tillerson endorses will not end the war in Afghanistan on US terms.  It will not ‘force’ the Taliban to accept US terms, and it will not force Pakistan to do what the US wants.

What it will do is escalate the war, just as US attempts in the 1960s to cut off North Vietnam’s supply lines through Laos and Cambodia by bombing and engineering coups in those countries ended up spreading the Vietnam war across Indochina.

Already even the “moderate” and “realist” Tillerson is hinting at exactly this, saying things which quite openly point to US ‘special operations’ to ‘take out’ Taliban fighters anywhere in Pakistan.

…..the President has been clear that we are going to protect American troops and servicemen. We are going to attack terrorists wherever they live, and we have put people on notice that if you are harboring and providing safe haven to terrorists, be warned. Be forewarned. And we’re going to engage with those who are providing safe haven and ask them to change what they’re doing and help

It would be difficult to imagine anything more likely to inflame Pakistani opinion or spread the violence further than hit-and-run attacks across the length and breadth of Pakistani territory (not just the North West Frontier region), but that it seems is what we are going to get.

The US made a catastrophic error in 2001 when it conflated the Taliban with Al-Qaeda.  In reality these are two different and wholly separate organisations – the first exclusively Afghan, the second overwhelmingly Arab – the vast majority of whose members neither like nor cooperate with each other.

In 2001 the great majority of Taliban commanders, and the overwhelming majority of Afghanistan’s Muslim clergy, were appalled at the way Al-Qaeda deceived them and abused their hospitality by using Afghanistan without their knowledge or permission as a base from which to launch terrorist attacks against the US.

Afghanistan’s Muslim clergy – the ulema – asked Osama bin Laden to leave Afghanistan immediately, and there is no doubt that that was what most Taliban commanders also wanted.  Several of them actually contacted the US via Pakistan and told the US as much.

The Taliban’s leader – Mullah Mohammed Omar – was reluctant to hand Osama bin Laden over to the US,  Osama being Omar’s personal friend, and Omar being influenced by Osama’s personal assurances that he had not been involved in the 9/11 attacks.

However under intense pressure from his commanders and from Afghanistan’s Muslim clergy Omar eventually relented and made it known that he would accept the ‘guidance’ of the ulema, with the caveat that Osama should leave Afghanistan ‘voluntarily’ ‘of his own accord’ for trial before an Islamic court in some other Muslim country.

Given a little patience the deal that could have been done is plain to see.

Osama and his followers would have had no option but to leave Afghanistan ‘voluntarily’ if Omar and the Taliban had withdrawn their protection and told them it was their ‘wish’ to see them go.

As soon as Osama and his followers left Afghanistan they would have been arrested by the authorities of whatever Muslim country they had gone to.  In 2001 that would undoubtedly have been Pakistan.

Since Osama and his followers would in effect have been publicly expelled from Afghanistan there would have been no question of them going to ground or entering Pakistan in secret.  On the contrary their transfer from Afghanistan to Pakistan would undoubtedly have been negotiated by the Taliban and the Pakistani authorities.

Thereafter what would have followed would have been the Pakistanis handing Osama and his followers over to the US, possibly after some pro forma judgment had been obtained from some Islamic court authorising them to be sent there.

In 2001 there was no possibility of Pakistan acting otherwise, and it is a certainty that if Osama’s transfer from Afghanistan to Pakistan had been agreed between the Taliban and the Pakistani authorities, the Pakistani authorities would in time have handed him over to the US.

At that point, with Osama handed over to the US by the actions of two Muslim states (Pakistan and Afghanistan) Al-Qaeda and its toxic Jihadi ideology would have been visibly rejected by the world’s Muslims and would have promptly collapsed, Osama and his followers would have been put on trial in the US – resolving any remaining doubts about their precise role in 9/11 – and the whole catastrophic ‘War on Terror’ would have been avoided.

In return – after a decent interval – the US and the ‘international community’ would have recognised Afghanistan’s Taliban government, in which case Afghanistan might have become a peaceful country and a friend of the US.

There is nothing farfetched about this scenario.  On the contrary it was the outcome to which the diplomatic moves underway at the time were clearly leading towards.  All it needed was a little time and a little patience and it would have happened.

Instead, though not a single one of the 9/11 hijackers was an Afghan, and though no evidence has ever come to light that any commander or official of the Taliban had anything to do with 9/11, Afghanistan was attacked, Osama escaped, Al-Qaeda survived, the ‘War on Terror’ began, and the rest is history.

Nothing done today can undo the mistakes of the past.  However there is no reason or excuse to go on repeating those mistakes.  Doing so simply prolongs the war to no purpose, which is actually a crime.  That however is what Trump and Tillerson and the the rest of the US leadership have chosen to do.

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Daisy Adler
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Daisy Adler

“Trump and Tillerson: bomb the Taliban to the negotiating table”

The definition of diplomacy, American style. Bomb and kill first, think what to do next. Dead people don’t contradict the US.

Constantine
Guest
Constantine

Alexander did leave, but some of his people stayed. The Greek presence in the region was quite long and successful. The settlers who remained (or came later) did not plunder the region or engage in wholesale destruction of the natives. That’s why Alexander enjoys a fairly good reputation in Afghanistan today (and to a certain extent so do the modern Greeks, courtesy of their ancestors).

For the record, other ”foreign visitors” came to Afghanistan and conquered it, but all were Asians. Alexander was the only European who succeeded to play ball there.

Daisy Adler
Guest
Daisy Adler

Correct. Alexander started the Golden Age of Hellenism, in Persia, Bactria and the Middle East, by spreading the Greek culture. Greek Pharaohs reigned in Egypt for 300 years. Te last of them was Cleopatra.

mikhas
Guest
mikhas

There’s another problem omitted in this article and is that the US has inserted one of its favourite proxy mercenaries to the Afghan theatre, ISIS.

According to Russia, “unknown” helicopters has been air-dropping munitions and weapons to the area occupied by them and this in a country who’s airspace is totally controlled by NATO. the strategy is clearly twofold, beside fighting the Taliban, ISIS would threaten Russia and eventually, China.

S.M. De Kuyper
Guest
S.M. De Kuyper

mikhas 150% correct.

seby
Guest
seby

It is not because the truth is too difficult to see that we make mistakes… we make mistakes because the easiest and most comfortable course for us is to seek insight where it accords with our emotions, especially selfish ones.
– Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. – Unknown

S.M. De Kuyper
Guest
S.M. De Kuyper

Neither are necessarily true, sorry!

seby
Guest
seby

War is just a racket…it is conducted for the benefit of the very
few and the expense of the masses…the flag follows the dollar and the soldiers follow the flag – General Smedley Butler 1935

S.M. De Kuyper
Guest
S.M. De Kuyper

Prolonging the US wars is everything to the the US military, nothing else. Stealing any and all wealths of US vassal states is normalised US Democratic behaviour to ‘pay” US for invading them.This includes any European countries obeying US orders.

Shue
Guest
Shue

Negotiate what? The Taliban control nearly 80% of the Country. That lying weak POTUS has now officially become the NeoCon mouth piece for war. I bet he can’t even point out where Afghanistan is on the map let alone know anything about the place other than what he’s fed.

XRGRSF
Guest
XRGRSF

We tried to bomb North Vietnam to the negotiating table, and………… The North Vietnamese never won a battlefield victory, and……………… The US finally declared victory, and withdrew.

Guy
Member
Guy

Fighting for peace is an oxymoron .

Vera Gottlieb
Guest
Vera Gottlieb

And the more you bomb, the more enemies you create and the more the chances (well deserved) to experience serious blowback. You reap what you sow…

Brad Golding
Guest
Brad Golding

Yeah!!! It worked in Vietnam, didn’t it!

stevek9
Guest
stevek9

That we could have had a deal with the Taliban to turn over Bin Laden, was obvious to an ordinary citizen like myself … at the time. A bunch of Arabs had abused their hospitality to launch an attack on the US unbeknownst to them, as described in this article.

Melotte 22
Guest
Melotte 22

16 years later and apart from thriving opium business, US has achieved nothing. Makes you wonder, was that their primary goal.

Daisy Adler
Guest
Daisy Adler

“US has achieved nothing”
On the contrary. It filled up the deep pockets of American weapons and aircraft contractors and the Pentagon with hundreds of billions dollars.

Latest

The ‘Gilets Jaunes’ Are Unstoppable: “Now, The Elites Are Afraid”

Now the elites are afraid. For the first time, there is a movement which cannot be controlled through the normal political mechanisms.

The Duran

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Authored by Christophe Guilluy via Spiked-Online.com:


The gilets jaunes (yellow vest) movement has rattled the French establishment. For several months, crowds ranging from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands have been taking to the streets every weekend across the whole of France. They have had enormous success, extracting major concessions from the government. They continue to march.

Back in 2014, geographer Christopher Guilluy’s study of la France périphérique (peripheral France) caused a media sensation. It drew attention to the economic, cultural and political exclusion of the working classes, most of whom now live outside the major cities. It highlighted the conditions that would later give rise to the yellow-vest phenomenon. Guilluy has developed on these themes in his recent books, No Society and The Twilight of the Elite: Prosperity, the Periphery and the Future of Francespiked caught up with Guilluy to get his view on the causes and consequences of the yellow-vest movement.

spiked: What exactly do you mean by ‘peripheral France’?

Christophe Guilluy: ‘Peripheral France’ is about the geographic distribution of the working classes across France. Fifteen years ago, I noticed that the majority of working-class people actually live very far away from the major globalised cities – far from Paris, Lyon and Toulouse, and also very far from London and New York.

Technically, our globalised economic model performs well. It produces a lot of wealth. But it doesn’t need the majority of the population to function. It has no real need for the manual workers, labourers and even small-business owners outside of the big cities. Paris creates enough wealth for the whole of France, and London does the same in Britain. But you cannot build a society around this. The gilets jaunes is a revolt of the working classes who live in these places.

They tend to be people in work, but who don’t earn very much, between 1000€ and 2000€ per month. Some of them are very poor if they are unemployed. Others were once middle-class. What they all have in common is that they live in areas where there is hardly any work left. They know that even if they have a job today, they could lose it tomorrow and they won’t find anything else.

spiked: What is the role of culture in the yellow-vest movement?

Guilluy: Not only does peripheral France fare badly in the modern economy, it is also culturally misunderstood by the elite. The yellow-vest movement is a truly 21st-century movement in that it is cultural as well as political. Cultural validation is extremely important in our era.

One illustration of this cultural divide is that most modern, progressive social movements and protests are quickly endorsed by celebrities, actors, the media and the intellectuals. But none of them approve of the gilets jaunes. Their emergence has caused a kind of psychological shock to the cultural establishment. It is exactly the same shock that the British elites experienced with the Brexit vote and that they are still experiencing now, three years later.

The Brexit vote had a lot to do with culture, too, I think. It was more than just the question of leaving the EU. Many voters wanted to remind the political class that they exist. That’s what French people are using the gilets jaunes for – to say we exist. We are seeing the same phenomenon in populist revolts across the world.

spiked: How have the working-classes come to be excluded?

Guilluy: All the growth and dynamism is in the major cities, but people cannot just move there. The cities are inaccessible, particularly thanks to mounting housing costs. The big cities today are like medieval citadels. It is like we are going back to the city-states of the Middle Ages. Funnily enough, Paris is going to start charging people for entry, just like the excise duties you used to have to pay to enter a town in the Middle Ages.

The cities themselves have become very unequal, too. The Parisian economy needs executives and qualified professionals. It also needs workers, predominantly immigrants, for the construction industry and catering et cetera. Business relies on this very specific demographic mix. The problem is that ‘the people’ outside of this still exist. In fact, ‘Peripheral France’ actually encompasses the majority of French people.

spiked: What role has the liberal metropolitan elite played in this?

Guilluy: We have a new bourgeoisie, but because they are very cool and progressive, it creates the impression that there is no class conflict anymore. It is really difficult to oppose the hipsters when they say they care about the poor and about minorities.

But actually, they are very much complicit in relegating the working classes to the sidelines. Not only do they benefit enormously from the globalised economy, but they have also produced a dominant cultural discourse which ostracises working-class people. Think of the ‘deplorables’ evoked by Hillary Clinton. There is a similar view of the working class in France and Britain. They are looked upon as if they are some kind of Amazonian tribe. The problem for the elites is that it is a very big tribe.

The middle-class reaction to the yellow vests has been telling. Immediately, the protesters were denounced as xenophobes, anti-Semites and homophobes. The elites present themselves as anti-fascist and anti-racist but this is merely a way of defending their class interests. It is the only argument they can muster to defend their status, but it is not working anymore.

Now the elites are afraid. For the first time, there is a movement which cannot be controlled through the normal political mechanisms. The gilets jaunes didn’t emerge from the trade unions or the political parties. It cannot be stopped. There is no ‘off’ button. Either the intelligentsia will be forced to properly acknowledge the existence of these people, or they will have to opt for a kind of soft totalitarianism.

A lot has been made of the fact that the yellow vests’ demands vary a great deal. But above all, it’s a demand for democracy. Fundamentally, they are democrats – they want to be taken seriously and they want to be integrated into the economic order.

spiked: How can we begin to address these demands?

Guilluy: First of all, the bourgeoisie needs a cultural revolution, particularly in universities and in the media. They need to stop insulting the working class, to stop thinking of all the gilets jaunes as imbeciles.

Cultural respect is fundamental: there will be no economic or political integration until there is cultural integration. Then, of course, we need to think differently about the economy. That means dispensing with neoliberal dogma. We need to think beyond Paris, London and New York.

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US Blunders Have Made Russia The Global Trade Pivot

Even if Europe is somehow taken out of the trade equation, greater synergy between the RIC (Russia, India and China) nations may be enough to pull their nations through anticipated global volatilities ahead

The Duran

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Authored by Mathew Maavak via ActivistPost.com:


The year 2019 had barely begun before news emerged that six Russian sailors were kidnapped by pirates off the coast of Benin. It was perhaps a foretaste of risks to come. As nations reel from deteriorating economic conditions, instances of piracy and other forms of supply chain disruptions are bound to increase.

According to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), 107 cases of piracy were noted during the first half of 2018 vis-à-vis 87 throughout 2017.  The 2018 tally included 32 cases in Southeast Asian waters and 48 along African shores – representing 75% of the total. To put this figure into perspective, Asian behemoths India and China – despite their vast shorelines – recorded only 2 cases of piracy each during the study period. Russia had none. In terms of hostages taken, the IMB tally read 102 in H1 2018 vs 63 in H1 2017.

Piracy adds to shipping and retail costs worldwide as security, insurance and salaries are hiked to match associated risks in maritime transport. Merchant vessels will also take longer and costlier routes to avoid piracy hotspots.

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report in 2016 sums up the perils ahead:

As over 90% of global trade is carried out by sea, the economic effects of maritime crime can be crippling. Maritime crime includes not only criminal activity directed at vessels or maritime structures, but also the use of the high seas to perpetrate transnational organized crimes such as smuggling of persons or illicit substances.  These forms of maritime crime can have devastating human consequences.

Indeed, cases of human trafficking, organ harvesting, and the smuggling of illicit substances and counterfeit goods are proliferating worldwide in tandem with rising systemic debt and suspect international agendas.

Australia offers a case in point. While it fantasizes over a Quad of allies in the Indo-Pacific – to “save Asians from China” – criminal elements from Hong Kong, Malaysia to squeaky-clean Singapore have been routinely trafficking drugs, tobacco and people right into Sydney harbour for years,  swelling the local organised crime economy to as much as $47.4 billion (Australian dollars presumably) between 2016 and 2017.

With criminal elements expected to thrive during a severe recession, they will likely enjoy a degree of prosecutorial shielding from state actors and local politicians. But this is not a Southeast Asian problem alone; any superpower wishing to disrupt Asia-Europe trade arteries – the main engine of global growth – will have targets of opportunity across oceans and lands.  The US-led war against Syria had not only cratered one potential trans-Eurasia energy and trade node, it served as a boon for child traffickingorgan harvesting and slavery as well. Yet, it is President Bashar al-Assad who is repeatedly labelled a “butcher” by the Anglo-American media.

Ultimately, industries in Asia and Europe will seek safer transit routes for their products. The inference here is inevitable: the greatest logistical undertaking in history – China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – will be highly dependent on Russian security umbrella, particularly in Central Asia. Russia also offers an alternative transit option via the Northern Sea Route, thereby avoiding any potential pan-Turkic ructions in Central Asia in the future.

Russo- and Sinophobia explained?

In retrospect, Washington’s reckless policies post-Sept 11 2001 seem aimed at disrupting growing synergies between Asia and Europe. This hypothesis helps explain the relentless US-led agitprops against Russia, China and Iran.

When the gilet jaunes (yellow vest) protests rocked France weeks ago, it was only a matter of time before some pundits blamed it on Russia. US President Donald J. Trump cheered on; just as “billionaire activist” George Soros celebrated the refugee invasion of Europe and the Arab Spring earlier.  If the yellow vest contagion spreads to the Western half of Europe, its economies will flounder. Cui bono? A Russia that can reap benefits from the two-way BRI or Arctic trade routes or a moribund United States that can no longer rule roost in an increasingly multipolar world?

Trump’s diplomatic downgrade of the European Union and his opposition to the Nord Stream 2gas pipeline matches this trade-disruption hypothesis, as do pressures applied on India and China to drop energy and trade ties with Iran.  Washington’s trade war with Beijing and recent charges against Huawei – arguably Asia’s most valuable company – seem to fit this grand strategy.

If China concedes to importing more US products, Europe will bear the consequences. Asians love European products ranging from German cars to Italian shoes and Europe remains the favourite vacation destination for its growing middle class. Eastern European products and institutions are also beginning to gain traction in Asia. However, these emerging economies will suffer if their leaders cave in to Washington’s bogeyman fetish.

Even if Europe is somehow taken out of the trade equation, greater synergy between the RIC (Russia, India and China) nations may be enough – at least theoretically – to pull their nations through anticipated global volatilities ahead.

In the meantime, as the US-led world crumbles, it looks like Russia is patiently biding its time to become the security guarantor and kingmaker of Asia-Europe trade.  A possible state of affairs wrought more by American inanity rather than Russian ingenuity…

Dr Mathew Maavak is a regular commentator on risk-related geostrategic issues.

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Historic Eastern Christianity: An Uncertain Future

The survival of historic Eastern Christianity, particularly in Syria, is critical for several reasons.

Strategic Culture Foundation

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Authored by Elias Samo via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


The survival of historic Eastern Christianity has never been as urgent as it is today. Christianity saw its beginning in Greater Syria which was subdivided by France and Britain after WWI into modern day Syria, Lebanon, Palestian/Israel and Jordan. The land that housed, nurtured and spread the teachings of Jesus Christ for over two millenniums, now threatens children of that faith. The survival of historic Eastern Christianity, particularly in Syria, is critical for several reasons:

  1. Greater Syria is the homeland of Jesus and Christianity. Abraham was from modern day Iraq, Moses from Egypt, and Muhammad from Mecca; Jesus was from Syria.
  1. Paul converted to Christianity and saw the light while walking through ‘The Street Called Straight’ in Damascus.
  1. Jesus’ followers were called Christians for the first time in Antioch, formerly part of Syria.
  1. One of the earliest churches, perhaps the earliest, is in Syria.

The potential demise of historic Eastern Christianity is reflected in the key question Christians ask: should we stay or emigrate? The urgent question – in the face of the ongoing regional turmoil – precipitated with the American invasion of Iraq in 2003 and escalated since the Arab uprisings in 2011. Historic Eastern Christians’ fears were further magnified when Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim of the Syriac Orthodox Church and Archbishop Paul Yazigi of the Greek Orthodox Church, both of metropolitan Aleppo, were kidnapped on April, 22, 2013; with no traces of their whereabouts, dead or alive, since. For many years, I was deputy, friend, and advisor to the Archbishop Ibrahim, which provided me an opportunity to meet many Christians. I have, over time, noticed the change in their sentiment, with more considering emigration after the uprising and the kidnapping of the two Archbishops. Historic Eastern Christians survived the Ottoman Genocide in 1915 and thereafter; they multiplied and thrived in the Fertile Crescent despite some atrocities until the start of the misnamed “Arab Spring” in early 2011. Prior to the “Arab Spring”, historic Eastern Christians were victims of violence on several occasions. In the mid-1930s, the historic Assyrian community in Iraq suffered violent onslaughts and were driven to Syria. In the 1970s and 1980s, during the Lebanese Civil War, Christians were victims of sectarian violence. During the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, Christians were victims of widespread sectarian violence which led to mass migration. The “Arab Spring” began with great hope for the right of the people to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. However, it was swiftly hijacked by Islamists and Salafists and turned into an “Islamic Spring, an Arab Fall and a Christian Winter”; bringing along with it a new massacre of Christians. Presently, Eastern Christianity is at the mercy of clear and identifiable domestic, regional, and international, historic and contemporary conflicts in the Fertile Crescent, namely:

  1. Jihad vs. Ijtihad: A long standing conflict amongst Muslims between the sword vs. the pen.
  2. Sunni vs. Shiite: A conflict which began following the death of the Prophet Muhammad.
  3. Arabism vs. Islamism: The former has territorial limitations, the later has no territorial limitations.
  4. Syria vs. Israel: It is an essential component of the Palestinian problem, not the presumed Arab- Israeli conflict.
  5. West vs. East: A throwback to the Cold War, or its revival.
  6. Historic Persian, Ottoman and Arab Empires animosities: Each seeking regional hegemony.

One is reminded of the proverbial saying, “When the elephants fight, the grass suffers.” Certainly, Eastern Christianity is suffering and threatened with extinction.

Syria was a model of religious tolerance, common living and peaceful interaction amongst its religious, sectarian, cultural and ethnic components. Seven years of turmoil, in which various international and regional powers manipulated segments of Syrian society by supplying them with an abundance of weapons, money and sectarian ideologies, has heightened Eastern Christians’ fears. During the seven-year turmoil in Syria, the entire society has suffered; Sunnis, Shiites, Alawites, Yazidis, Kurds, Christians and others. Christians, being a weak and peaceful component of the society, have suffered immensely. Ma’aloula; a religious treasure for Christians globally, and the only city in the world where Aramaic – the language of Jesus Christ – is spoken, was attacked and besieged by ISIS. Numerous historic Churches were damaged, and many destroyed. Christians in Raqqa were forced by ISIS into one of three options: 1. Pay a penalty in pure gold – known as a ‘Jizya’ to keep their life and practice their faith – albeit in secret only; 2. Convert into Islam; or 3. Face immediate death. To top their pain, the kidnap of the two prominent Archbishops meant no Eastern Christian believer was safe.

Amidst all the doom and gloom, however, there remains hope. The survival of Christianity depends on the actions and reactions of three parties:

Eastern Christians: During the last hundred years, 1915-2015, since the Ottoman Genocide, Eastern Christians have been victims of a history of massacres, which meant that every Eastern Christian was a martyr, a potential martyr or a witness of martyrdom; if you fool me once, shame on you, if you fool me twice, shame on me. The ongoing regional turmoil has heightened their sense of insecurity. The answer to an age-old question Eastern Christians had on their mind: To flee Westwards or remain in their land, in the face of death, is increasingly becoming the former.

Eastern Muslims: There is a difference in perceptions between Eastern Christians and mainstream Muslims regarding the massacres committed against Christians. When certain violent groups or individuals kill Christians, while shouting a traditional Islamic profession: “No God but one God and Muhammad is God’s messenger”, it is reasonable for Christians to assume the killers are Muslims. However, for mainstream Muslims, the killers do not represent Islam; they are extremists, violating basic Islamic norms such as Muhammad’s sayings, “Whoever hurts a Thummy – Christian or Jew – has hurt me”, “no compulsion in religion” and other Islamic norms regarding just treatment of people of the Book; Christians and Jews. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the Muslim elites to impress upon their fellow Muslims that:

a. The three monotheistic religions believe in one God and all ‘faithfuls’ are equal in citizenship, rights and duties.

b. Christians participated in the rise of Arab Islamic civilization. They were pioneers in the modern Arab renaissance and they joined their Muslim brethren in resisting the Crusades, the Ottomans and Western colonialism.

c. Christians are natives of the land and they provide cultural, religious, educational, and economic, diversity.

d. Christians are a positive link between the Muslims and the Christian West, particularly in view of the rise of Islamophobia. Massacres of Christians and their migration provide a pretext for the further precipitation of Islamophobia.

e. Civilization is measured by the way it treats its minorities.

The Christian West: The Crusades, Western colonialism, creation and continued support of Israel, support of authoritarian Arab political systems, military interventions, regime change, and the destabilization of Arab states made Muslims view Eastern Christians ‘guilty by association’. The Christian West helped Jews come to Palestine to establish Israel. Shouldn’t the same Christian West also help Eastern Christians remain in their homeland, rather than facilitate their emigration? Western Christians, particularly Christian Zionists, believe that the existence of Israel is necessary for the return of Jesus to his homeland. However, it would be a great disappointment for Jesus to return to his homeland, Syria and not find any of his followers.

Prior to 2011, Eastern Christian religious leaders were encouraging Syrian Christians in the diaspora to return to Syria, their homeland, where life was safe and secure with great potential. Now, the same leaders are desperately trying to slow down Christian emigration. Eastern Christians’ loud cries for help to remain are blowing in the wind.

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